Friday, 2 October 2009
three burners, three pots, three jams . . . oh my!
Today was a jam day. A lovely, bubbling, boiling, sugary, syrupy, fruity day. With a massage at the end (thanks Maria!).
I have a three burner gas stove in the kitchen. I love this stove, it has a black glass top, automatic ignition and there's space around the burners for all sorts of spoons, spatulas, jar lids and measuring/pouring devices. It's wonderfully easy to clean and looks good.
Today, as most days, it was busy. I had jam orders to fill and just about enough fruit to do it. We have a client who wants to sell our products in a health food store in San Jose, she wants a sample jar of every jam we make. I've explained to her a couple of times that our jams are seasonal - I use what's on the trees until there's no more left, and then I use what's coming into fruit next, and on it goes. She understands what I say, but the gap between understanding and understanding can be large at times - especially when we live in a world where everything is always available (so it seems even for those in Costa Rica). Seasonal is an empty word for most of us.
But that's the beauty of my work - I can never get bored of making the same thing - two months or less and that fruit I thought I'd always have is gone and something new has to be created for what's up next.
Having said that, there are fruits which have seasons throughout the year - and these were the ones I concentrated on today. Taking the beagle, I set off looking for nutmegs. The main harvest comes in the spring, but most of the time one can find 2 or 3 or 5 or 6 ready and open. Today I found 5 - just enough for 2 pots of jam.
Next we headed to the araza - a tiny gathering of 12 fruit, enough for about 4 pots. We had more luck with the cas, but the season is winding down after 2 glorious months.
By the kitchen I picked up half a box of mangosteen, and a couple of limes. The mangosteen has maybe another 3 weeks to go, I'll be sorry to see it go, for a whole year too.
Back in the kitchen I peeled, chopped and simmered the nutmegs while I opened the mangosteen and slipped the seedless segments into the blender. The seeded segments have to be squeezed - the seeds add too strong a flavour to the jam. I blended the mangosteen pulp and began to cook it down in a pot while I pureed the nutmegs. The araza had to be washed, halved and the seeds and goop scooped (think overripe pumpkin), then chopped, put in a pot and cooked down also. Then came the adding of sugar - white cane sugar for the mangosteen and araza, and raw brown cane sugar for the nutmeg. Grate some more nutmeg and sprinkle some cinnamon into the nutmeg butter, add lime juice to the mangosteen, and try to stir three pots simultaneously while telling the beagle he had better not chew my baskets for the market. Think about coffee and wish the farmer would appear and make some.
The nutmeg has a tendency to sputter and spit, but today no, thankfully. The mangosteen came out a beautiful pink, and has the best flavour so far (2 limes to 1/2 a box of mangosteen, about 3 handfuls of sugar). The araza behaved impeccably as usual and set up first. And the cas? Well that was scooped, strained and is sitting in the fridge waiting to become fruit leather tomorrow. After all I had my massage to go to.