When my husband was little, his Granddad Pip made Marzipan Dates every Christmas. They became the stuff of memory, and every year my husband makes a big batch in honour of his Granddad and those days gone by.
Like my husband’s Granddad, these treats were Victorian in origin. They would have been referred to as ‘sweetmeats’ when he (Granddad) was growing up, and were often eaten at the end of a meal. Sweetmeats originally referred to offal, but from the Victorian era the word came to mean sweet, candied or glacé fruit.
Marzipan dates could not be easier to make, and packaged in pretty containers they make a lovely gift. Marzipan is available ready made, and is usually sold in small square blocks. You can buy dates already pitted, but it is more frugal to buy them with the pits still in, and it is not difficult to remove them. However if you are making these with children, remove the pits first as this task does require a sharp knife. Choose nice fat dried dates for this – Medjool dates work well.
If using dates with pits in them, slice them lengthwise and carefully prise the pit out. If the dates you are using have already had their pits removed, you will probably find they already have a slit in them, so simply prise the slit open. If not, cut a small lengthwise slit along the length of the date.
Cut a slice about a half inch wide off the block of marzipan. Then cut small pieces off the narrow end of the slice, using your fingers to roll them into cylindrical pieces slightly shorter than the length of the date.
Tuck a marzipan roll into the slice in each date. Use the end of a knife to help push it in all the way. Again, if making these with children, an adult should do the latter step, after the children have put the marzipan into the slices in the dates.
Be careful no one steals the dates as you put them into a container 🙂
Make sure you place the marzipan dates in an airtight container or cover them well so they stay nice and moist. Properly wrapped, they will keep well at room temperature or in the fridge for a week to ten days.