When I smell wood smoke from the neighborhood chimneys and the rain clouds open to finally release the much needed rain, I know it’s time to get to work with the summer’s bounty. This means many a Portuguese cozinha will become a haven for Portuguese doces such as jams, jellies, marmelada!
The sticky, sweet, gem colored jars are usually just called doces, a word that means sweets, but is a catchall term for fruit turned sugar laden preserves – easy to take home if you’re needing a gift from Portugal. They can also be found under compota, geleia, conservas (though this is used mostly for canned fish such as sardines), and preservas. The original preserve is rooted in the thick, autumn colored paste that is marmelada. While sounding very similar to the citrus heavy orange marmalade, this jam is actually made from quinces, or marmelos, which is where it acquired its name.
Marmelada was prepared as a way to preserve ripe marmelos for the rest of the year by cooking them down along with an abundance of honey or sugar into a dark reddish-orange substance, and then stored. Later this technique was applied to other fruits to make a variety of jams and jellies based on what was harvested so that the flavor of that particular season year round could be saved for later in the year.
Traipsing about the Portuguese country side, you may be inclined to buy some sweet homemade preserves. A variety of produce can be found throughout the country, but some places are well known for one or two in particular. In Fundão, in the Castelo Branco area, they are known for everything vibrant cherry. The Algarve has their seed speckled doce de figo (fig jam), while sandy textured pêra rocha (rocha pears) are celebrated in all forms, including jam, at the Feira Nacional da Pêra Rocha in Bombarral.