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JamBlogging…Episode 1 (Guava)

20 Nov

I’ve been a major supporter of home-canning since I first tasted my grandma’s homemade dill pickles about 20 years ago…I loved the mystique of putting something into a jar, hiding it away for a while, and then cracking open the bounty whenever I wanted it.  Recently I got into canning again because it’s just plain practical when you eat seasonally (unless you’re okay with only eating apricots three weeks out of the year…and I am most certainly NOT), it’s damn cost-effective, and it’s a way to have a pantry full of food without relying on anything containing chemical preservatives or other ingredients I cannot pronounce.

So far, our family canning efforts (and yes, canning is a team activity around here) have not extended past jam and pickles.  I did mean to can tomatoes over the summer, but I kept putting it off and then I missed the harvest.  I keep swearing I’ll do it next year, but we’ll see.  I love to make all sorts of plans and then not follow through.  It’s kind of my thing.

But jam is easy, and can be made all year, depending on what’s available.  We made a boatload of Blenheim apricot preserves in the early summer, which have been a major hit with our friends.  But I have been craving guava jam, since raw guavas are basically inedible (very sour and gritty), and I’ve been madly in love with the taste and scent of the fruit since my very early childhood in Hawaii.  It’s one of the most distinctive flavors I’ve had–no better way to describe it than as TOTALLY TROPICAL.  All caps are necessary.

On Wednesday I bought six pounds of local guavas, a few different Mexican varieties that grow in this part of the country.  Sadly the jubilant pink guavas of Hawaii and some parts of the Carribbean are hard to come by around here, but the yellow ones I purchased had the same heady scent.  Our entire house fairly REEKED of guava until I made the jam.  I loved it, but Daniel was less keen.  It’s kind of a potent smell.  Anyway, last night we sat down and peeled the entire lot, plopping them into our 7.25 qt dutch oven:

Raw, peeled guavas

At this point I was not entirely sure how to proceed.  When I made the apricot preserves, I had a time-tested recipe.  But guavas are far less common in this country, so recipes for guava ANYHING are a rarity.  I had to make do with a few different recipes I scrounged on the internet, which is always a risky proposition.  What follows is what I did, although next time I will tweak the process a bit.

First I poured enough filtered water over the fruit to almost cover.  I put the dutch oven over medium heat and simmered the fruit until it was soft and mashable:

Guavas cooking!

That took about 15 minutes.  When they were all soft, we put them through a food mill to extract the many many seeds guavas contain:

I must say, the scent of the fruit was pretty damn overwhelming at this point.  I felt like I was living inside a froufy cocktail from the 1950s.

We ended up with 9.5 cups of rather watery puree.  I realized I added too much water to the fruit–next time I will add JUST enough to help the guavas cook.  Live and learn.  To the puree, I added 6 cups of sugar.  Yes, this sounds like an obscene amount, but old-fashioned jam MUST be this high in sugar in order to adequately preserve the fruit.  You can use less sugar and add pectin, but I prefer to just make jam the way they did 150 years ago.  Besides, sugar is delicious.  At any rate, all the internet recipes (mostly from Southeast Asia, incidentally, where guavas are common) told me to use 1 cup of sugar per 1 cup of puree.  That sounded obscene, hence my scaling back.  I now realize they were referring to a much thicker puree.  I probably only had 4 cups of puree and a ton of water, so I think I did add too much sugar.

The sweetened soup went back on the burner on medium-high to cook to the consistency of jam.  This took 45 minutes or so.  Unfortunately my heat was too high in the beginning and I scorched the bottom of the jam, infusing the whole pot with a caramel flavor.  Not bad, but not what I wanted.  Next time I will be more careful.  Anyway, here’s what it looked like, when it started cooking, and when it was done:

Before

After

All the while the jam was cooking, we had our GIANT boiling water canner at a simmer, ready to go at a moment’s notice.  We also sterilized 8 jam jars with their lids and kept them hot.  Once the jam was done (something I assessed by putting a little on a white plate, letting it cool, and then lifting up the plate to see how fast it slid down), we filled the jars with a funnel, tightened the lids, and processed them for 10 minutes.  Here’s the finished product!

Jammy!

Now, clearly the most important question is how does it TASTE.  Well.  It’s pretty good–it definitely has that distinctive guava flavor, and the texture is right.  But it is a bit too sweet, and I wish that the caramel flavor weren’t there.  Something to strive for next fall!  In the meantime, this batch is pretty delicious when you put a dab on a cracker spread with cream cheese or another mild, salty cheese.

Stay tuned for the next episode of JamBlogging…will it be apple butter, or tangerine marmelade?

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