“Essmen”

 “Essmen” is the second most important Moroccan pantry item. I don’t recall seeing anyone in my family prepare it when I was younger, but I have seen it used extensively in many dishes.

Here is the Traditional Recipe of Moroccan flavored aged butter, I vividly encourage you to try it, it’s very easy and fun to make. It also makes a great holiday gift!

When I visited my family in Morocco, in June of 2012, I asked my mother to explain exactly how she prepares “Essmen”. Expecting a complicated recipe, I was surprised when she answered: “It’s very easy, let’s make it right now”, while she stood-up and walked with a determined attitude toward the tiny kitchen of my sister’s apartment in Marrakech.

She generously poured half a bag of salt in a saucer, added water, and put it on the stove to boil, while we kept chatting. She didn’t measure anything, so I couldn’t really write the recipe down without reproducing it myself upon my return to the USA.

A few minutes later, she added two hands full of whole oregano leafs to the boiling water. Then she sat a “gasaa” – large, round terracotta tray – on the counter. She then threw in two large sticks of butter, started pouring the infusion of salted water and oregano on it, and asked me to whisk it with my fingers. I whisked as fast as I could until the butter turned creamy. Never, would I think that the butter could be mixed with water!

We poured the batter in a terracotta jar, covered it with the already boiled oregano leafs, and sealed the jar with a piece of paper and string. “Now what?” I asked. “Now you leave it alone for a couple of months” replied my mother, and she added “Essbar mezyane” – Patience is a virtue.

I was very surprised as to how easy the recipe was, knowing how much flavor “Essmen” adds to the food and how important it is in the preparation of many traditional dishes.

Ingredients:

50g Kosher salt + 1Tsp.

1 ½ Cup water

60 Whole oregano leaves

565g Unsalted butter

Preparation:

Leave the butter out, in room temperature for 30 minutes, until softened. Another option is to place each stick of butter (113g) in the Microwave on high for 13 seconds.

In a saucer, bring the water, salt and oregano leaves to a boil. Then let the infusion cool down for 5 minutes. Strain the infusion and keep both, the oregano leaves and the infusion.

Place the butter in a bowl, and slowly add the salt and oregano infusion, whisking continually until you have used all the infusion and the butter turns into a creamy batter. At first, the butter will separate from the infusion, don’t get discouraged, keep whisking.

Pour the batter into a sterilized container with an airtight lid, sprinkle the top with 1 Tsp. of salt. Then, place the boiled oregano leaves on the top. Close the container and leave it at room temperature for two months before using. It can be preserved for up to 24 months. The older ”Essmen” is, the more flavorful and valuable it is.