I’ve mentioned this more than once: re-creating and documenting some of our traditional recipes is definitely a collaborative work. Nobody knows each and every one of our traditional dishes.
Also, there are so many versions (by regions, towns, even family versions) that it’s simply impossible to know them all.
I always make a point of mentioning and crediting my sources. While many of my recipes are my own home versions (as learned by my mom’s side), others have been passed on to me by family members, acquaintances, readers, friends, and total strangers.
Sure, I’ve tried most of them countless times but that doesn’t mean I’d made them at home before. As a matter of fact, I’m going out on a limb to say that nearly every Dominican will have tried far more dishes from our cuisine than she knows how to cook. This is especially true when it comes to most of our Dominican “dulces” (desserts), some of which have made certain regions of the country famous.
Enter this Dulce de Cajuil (Cashew Apple Jam).
This dulce in particular always reminds me of the northwestern region (La Linea), particularly the mountain towns of Dajabón province. It doesn’t mean that it can’t be found elsewhere, but this region is well-suited for the crop from which this dessert is made.
Anacardium occidentale: Cashew Apple (the edible seed is called cashew nut, despite not technically being a nut) is the fruit of a tree native to Brazil. The name derives from the Portuguese caju and borrowed into Spanish as cajuil. It grows in the Dominican Republic and there’s a cottage industry that produces roasted cashew nuts and cashew apple jam, sold at roadside stands all over the country.
And going back to the not-so-small matter of credit: This recipe for dulce de cajuil was passed on to me by my dear friend Sonia T., one of the best cooks I’ve ever met, and an extraordinary human being. I just transcribed her recipe almost verbatim and it worked perfectly the first time. A good thing because these cajuiles came all the way from Loma de Cabrera, in the other corner of the country (where I first tried dulce de cajuil as a child) so I had almost no margin for error.
I have no idea how easy (or difficult) it’ll be to find cashew apples elsewhere; they aren’t easy to find here, but I still wanted to have this recipe, because if you do get to try it, you’ll love it.
Dulce de Cajuil (Cashew Apple Jam): A beloved dessert treasured by Dominicans, and a must-bring-back item from road trips.
- 12 Apple cashews
- 1 gal water (may need more)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 sticks cinnamon
- 6 cloves
- 4 prunes halved (optional)
Peel cashew apples: Using a very sharp knife, peel the cashew apples. Discard the peels.
Blanch cashew apples: Place the peeled cashew apples in a large pot, pour in enough water to cover them plus two inches [5 cm]. Heat over low heat until the water breaks the boil. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Discard the water.
Repeat the previous process three more times.
Make candied cashew apples: Mix in the cashew apples, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and prunes. Heat over low heat until the liquid turns into a light syrup (about 30 minutes). Remove from the heat. Discard cinnamon and cloves.
Serve/store: Chill before serving. For storing, place in a lidded jar and refrigerate up to a week.