Marzipan is a favorite Passover sweet, and this recipe is from the Jewish community of Volos, in Greece. The Greeks seem to add lemon juice to nearly everything, and they also don’t discard the peels, instead saving them for confections, as this recipe illustrates. The origins of marzipan have long been debated, but the most widely accepted theory is that it was brought to Spain by the Arabs. Yet, marzipan also has been associated with Saint Mark’s bread, the panis martis, or March bread, of Roman antiquity that was a standard offering during the rites of spring and was later adopted by the Catholic church. Marzipan is still a popular confection in Spain and Portugal (a tradition kept alive today by the convents) and certainly would have been carried to Greece and Turkey by Jews from Sicily, an island where the marzipan tradition was entrenched.
Put the lemon peels in a bowl with water to cover. Let soak for 2 days, changing the water every 3 to 4 hours during the day and evening. On the third day, rinse the peels and put them in a large saucepan with water to cover. Place over low heat, bring to a simmer, and cook until the peels are very soft, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the heat and mash to a pulp or pulse in a food processor. You should have about
For every cup of lemon pulp, you need
to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour the mixture onto a marble slab or chilled platter. Let cool.
When the mixture is cool, spread the confectioners’ sugar on a plate. Knead the mixture a bit, then pinch off pieces the size of hazelnuts, roll them into balls, and then roll each ball in the confectioners’ sugar. Put the balls on a large platter and dust them with confectioners’ sugar one more time. Let the marzipan rest in a cool place for 24 hours before serving.
© 2000 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.