Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Goyaves de Chine Jelly




My wife and I moved in our present abode in May. We liked the house when we first saw it and we still like it. It is the right size for us. One of the nice features is the backyard. The previous owners, who had built the house from scratch, put in a very nice backyard. My wife knows most of the plants in the backyard. I, on the other hand, have no clue. My main interest was in putting in a BBQ and making sure we had a small herb garden. I finally got a Weber E-420. It meets my needs with lots of cooking space, even temperature across the grill and the Weber guarantee. My wife took care of the herb garden and we have enough to save us buying lots of herbs.

A few weeks ago, as I was hanging out by the BBQ, I noticed that some of the fruits on one of the bushes looked familiar. Upon closer inspection, I found out that they were "Goyaves de Chine" or Strawberry Guavas in English. You can learn all about it at Wikipedia. Here's some pictures from our yard.






Goyaves de Chine bring back childhood memories to me. Mauritius is a tropical island. As I tell my American friends, it's like Hawaii except better! So many of the fruits you find in Mauritius are what you will find in many tropical islands.  The memories for me were of the trips we would make to pick guavas. My dad would pack us all in his Wolseley and off we went to Plaine Champagne. Plaine Champagne is in the middle of the island. For most tourists, it's on the way to Black River Gorge. It's a beautiful drive with lots to see. On the side of the road, you will find lots and lots of small (3 to 6 feet tall), dense bushes of goyaves de chine. We would wander into the bushes and gather as much fruit as we could take back. Of course, there was a lot of eating while we we gathering. They were easy to get off the trees. When ripe, they just fell off as you grabbed them. Most of the guavas were red but there were also some yellow ones. They were rare and always a great find.

Goyaves de Chine can be sweet but are usually rather tart. So you can't eat lots of them. We usually ate them with some salt and chile. But, what I remember most, is the guava jelly that my mom used to make. I decided this is what I was going to recreate. The only problem: I have never made jelly before. I've heard of candy thermometers and skin burning sugar. The first step, for me, was to find out more about it online. I did some research and found a lot of information. The one website that I liked a lot was that of David Lebovitz. He does a really good job of explaining things and the pictures help a lot. I used his recipe for Apricot Jam as a starting point. I was able from this get the basics for making jelly out of my guava. I then called my big sister in Mauritius. She knows exactly how to make any Mauritian dish and what I like about discussing it with her, she tells me ahead of time what mistakes to avoid. Strawberry guavas are rather tart so she told me to make sure I did not skimp on the sugar (Lebovitz says something similar in his Apricot Jam recipe). Also, she recommended that I make a jelly rather than a preserve. The reason is that the strawberry guava skin can be bitter and will spoil the taste of the preserve. So here's what I did.
Gather approximately 4 cups of the ripest guavas I could get.
Clean and cut the guavas. Remove the top and bottom and cut into 2 to 4 pieces.

Put in saucepan and cover with about 2 inches of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 20 minutes.

Drain and push the fruit through a sieve to make a puree. With the 4 cups of fruit that I started with, I ended up with approximately 1 cup.
The next step is to combine with sugar. Lebovitz, in his recipe, used 3/4 cup of sugar for a cup of puree. My sister told me that strawberry guavas are pretty tart and she recommended 1 cup of sugar per cup of puree. I decided to try about 1 and 1/4 cup of sugar to my 1 cup of puree.
I brought the mixture to a boil and cooked it at medium heat for around 20 minutes. I actually did 2 versions of the jelly. The first version used only guava puree. In the second version I added some strawberry fruit and adjusted the sugar accordingly. I had some beautiful strawberries and I wanted to see what a combined jam would be like.
To test when the jelly is done, I used Lebovitz's recommendation. I put a small plate in the freezer and when I thought it was ready, I put a small blob on the plate, put it back in the freezer and checked it after approximately 2 minutes. My third test had the right consistency.
The final step was to put in jars and seal. I followed the instructions that came with the Ball glass jars.
One thing I did not do was add lemon juice to my jelly. It still jelled pretty well. Maybe this is something I should try later. I have plenty of guavas in the yard to experiment.
The experiment with strawberries was not a good one. The strawberries overwhelmed the guava. I have seen a Hawaiian guava jelly where they added chili peppers to the jelly. I need to look into that. I love the combination of sweet and spicy.




2 comments:

  1. Can I by any chance by a plant of goyave de chine from you I am in Ca too.Send me an email at mwcb2002@hotmail.com

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  2. @mwcb you can get the plants at any nursery. Ask for a strawberry guava plant. Or go to a Farmer's Market. There is usually someone selling them you can plant the seeds but it will take a while.

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