Sunday, 14 June 2009
Making Jam! or Araza Frenzy!
It seems I'm making so much jam these days, that I thought I'd take some pictures of the process. Right now I'm making Araza or Araza and Guayabilla jam.
The stall yesterday seemed a tribute to Araza: we had fresh fruit for sale; jam; fruit leathers; fruit mixes; I used it as a wrapping for my new dried fruit experiment, and I had araza cookies too. This is what I want, to use what we have in season, in as many ways possible to reap as much as we can from the abundance offered. I'm making araza vinegar and today I'll start araza wine. Oh and I have araza sorbet in the freezer.
The Araza (Eugenia stipitata) is in the guava family. It's a short tree, no more than 10 foot high and is basically round with a tendency to sprawl. It's an Amazonian native and is a heavy producer. When the cacao harvest failed in this region (due to blight), araza was brought in as a replacement crop. However there is not so much of a market for the fruit: while it looks delightful and smells divine, it is very soft and damages easily (ripe fruit can often split falling from the tree), and it is incredibly acidic. The acid content of the fruit measures at a pH of 2.4, and the sugar content is a very low 1.4% (apples are 15%, limes are 1.1%). An araza has more than twice as much Vitamin C as an orange. An hectare (2.2 acres) of araza will produce 20 - 30 tonnes of fruit a year. We have a lot of Araza, maybe 80 trees. Hence the need for jam.
Clean fruit and remove inner flesh and seeds. Cut into smallish chunks, about 1 inch long by 1/2 inch wide. Measure by weight or by volume. Place in pot. Araza is a very juicy fruit and doesn't need water added. It does need sugar. I use 60% sugar by weight, for example I use 5 lbs of fruit and 3 lbs of sugar. Put on stove and heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a nice low boil.
Araza, and many other fruits, will produce a foamy froth in the initial stage of the cooking process. This froth will discolour the finished jam and I always remove it with a spoon. But keep it! It is excellent in cookies or for baking and one can make sorbet with it. Put the froth in a glass and when it cools a little some juice will settle to the bottom, pour this back into the jam.
At some point, perhaps 15 minutes after you begin, the froth will stop and the texture of the jam will change. The boil will not be so asctive as the mixture begins to thicken. The characteristic plop plip sound of bubbling jam will be heard. The colour will begin to deepen too. Turn the heat down, and stir more frequently. Certainly not a time to go out into the garden to water the tomatoes. After 7 minutes or so, begin to test the jam on a metal spoon. You are looking for a skin to form on the surface.
Keep testing. Soon - though this takes a little experience, you will see just the point of readiness: the jam is thicker and when you move the spoon or ladle slowly through it, the ladle will push the jam ahead of it out of the way rather than simply moving through the liquid. Or as you move the jam you will be able, for an instant, to see the bottom of the pot behind the ladle.
If the jam on the ladle is forming even the slightest of skins, turn off the heat and wait for a minute or two: a skin should form on the surface of the pot:
The jam is now ready and can be ladled into freshly boiled (for 10 minutes)jars. Fill to within a half inch of the top, carefully clean the rim and outside edge of the jar, screw on the freshly boiled jar lid and set aside.