Well wasn't I just complaining that the araza season was over and the carambolas were at least a month away? Wrong, wrong, wrong. I was out picking cas and lovi-lovi yesterday and saw several carambolas lying on the ground - on the ground no less! Clearly those at the top of the tree are ripening faster than those I can see on the lower branches. I had only moments before been lamenting the fact that I really needed a few early carambolas to try out recipes before the main harvest began. And once again I got exactly what I asked for.
Carambolas are rather beautiful and strange. Native to Sri Lanka and the Moluccas they have spread all over Asia and now all tropical and subtropical regions. Starfruit in English because the fruit has 5 raised ridges running along its length (rarely 4 or 6 ridges), and when sliced the ridges and the seeds make a nice double 5 pointed star. The fruit tends to be sour, with a fairly detectable oxalic acid content. Sweet carambola do exist, but they're not really so sweet. The fruit is pale to rich yellow when ripe, has a crisp texture and gives a good amount of juice. People tend to use the fruit as a decoration, or juice it, it doesn't have much of a strong character by itself. But it makes a great salsa and can be used for relish and jam.
It's tricky getting carambola jam to set up. There is little if any natural pectin in the fruit and so it must be mixed with something else, hence my need to try out different ideas. I've made two types today, both very different and I think both good, though one certainly wins in presentation.
The jar on the left is a Carambola Butter with Lime and Black Pepper, the one on the right is a Carambola Lovi-Lovi Marmalade.
The butter was made by pureeing the fruit first then cooking up with sugar and the juice and flesh of a couple of limes (I boiled the rinds until tender then added to the cooking butter), I added a good teaspoon of our freshly ground black pepper as it was simmering. The butter has the fresh smell of carambola and the lime comes through strongly in the flavour; the pepper gives it a nice warm glow and spicy aftertaste.
4 cups pureed carambola (I compost the hardest part of the raised ridges and the ends, everything else goes into the blender)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
juice, flesh and rind of 2 limes
big teaspoon ground black pepper
Prepare the rind of the limes by chopping finely and boiling in water for a good 10 minutes. Meanwhile combine other ingredients, bring to quick boil and simmer. Add in rinds and continue simmering for another 10 minutes or so until it thickens and a teaspoon of mix gels (see araza pictures, the butter won't set as well having a different consistency). Can in hot water bath.
The marmalade was much simpler, just a combination of chopped carambola and lovi-lovi in about a 3:1 ratio cooked with sugar, and a little squeeze of lime to bring out the flavours. It has a sweet tangy flavour and the texture and presentation are great.
1 1/2 lbs chopped carambola
1/2 lb lovi-lovi
between 1/2 and 3/4 lb brown sugar to taste
juice of 1/2 lime
mix ingredients, bring to boil and simmer until juice thickens. Test on spoon. This one takes a little longer to set up. Can appropriately!