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[Recipe] Minatamis na Saba (candied saba bananas)

The practice of preserving food for later consumption usually originates from the necessity of preparing for a lean period in which food sources may not be as plentiful. We see this in cultures with harsh winters for example and those with periods of alternating lean and plenty harvests. In the Philippines, we practice mostly sun drying, natural fermentation, curing in salt, and sugar (in the form of candied fruits and jams). We may not have harsh winters but there are also challenges that necessitate the practice of food preservation even with significantly less seasonal variations in the climate. Certain seasonal fruits are only available at certain times of the year and we preserve them in syrup (minatamis) so that we can enjoy them all year round. Fishermen may also face more challenging sea conditions during the typhoon season so it is necessary to sun-dry (tuyo) or salt fish (burong isda). In some cases, we do this simply to improve on the taste or in this particular case, minatamis na saba can be used in a number of other Filipino desserts such as halo-halo, guinataang bilo-bilo, and saba con yelo.

Minatamis na saba (candied saba bananas)

*Saba banana is a type of hybrid banana species commonly available in the Philippines that is more starchy than the normal table banana (not quite as starchy as plantains but saba is considered also as a cooking banana and can be fried, boiled, and candied).

Ingredients:
1 whole bunch of saba bananas, peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup of coconut sap sugar (refined white sugar will do)
1/2 Tablespoon of natural Calamansi juice concentrate with honey (to act as a sugar inverter)
Optional: Thinly sliced calamansi rind that you can make into a marmalade that will enhance the flavor of the candied saba. Also, you can add a piece of star anise if you like the scent of that spice.

Minatamis na saba (candied saba bananas)

Directions:
In a large saucepan, heat the sugar in low heat. Add the calamansi concentrate (this will prevent the sugar to crystallize and have that grainy texture). Mix in the cut up saba banana pieces. Let the sugar coat the saba pieces thoroughly. Add some water and let the syrup simmer (the amount will depend on the ripeness of the saba and the desired final consistency of the candied saba - I personally like it soft and slightly starting to disintegrate) stirring from time to time.

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