Posted by hsimpsongrossman on April 4, 2014
I am not sure what I love more about loquat– the name or the fruit.
Actually, there was one thing we, Simpson kids, loved even more about that fruit. We loved shooing away those scoundrels who tried, on their way back from school, to pick loquats from OUR tree (OK, OK. The Simpson boys were too young and well behaved to participate in those attacks. It was only my tom-boy sister and I who behaved like hooligans way back then).
It’s not as if we were allowed (God forbid) to pick the fruits, bring them home and make good use out of them (objects found on the street were out of limit for us, as we grew up believing that as such, they were inevitably touched by countless leopards, spat on by numerous pest-stricken passers-by and pissed on endlessly by God knows what). Those attacks were a classic example of “It shall be neither mine nor yours—divide it” – if we can’t pick them, no one will!
I suspect those kids enjoyed our bullying just as much as we did. My sister and I were up there, on the third floor, shouting out obscenities in three or four languages at boys double our age and size. They knew as much as we did, that there is no way we were allowed to go downstairs and mingle with the likes of them. Besides, even if we were, they would have escaped long before we finished running down those 62 stairs. But, hey, there was only one channel available on television those days, not to mention the lack of Facebook and Play Stations. Those encounters were by far the most exciting part of both sides’ day!
Anyhow, a couple weeks ago, I was walking home with His Royal Highness. The kid, who has a gift for noticing those little miracles in life such as lizards basking in the sun, mushrooms (“Wooshrums”, as he calls them) growing at the base of a tree in the middle of the street and shapes formed by clouds (“Moms! I see a dragon!”), was pointing at some oh so familiar little green oval fruits on a tree, asking for their name. “OH” I said, “these are loquats, but we need to wait a few more weeks until they ripen and turn orange”.
Unfortunately for my kids, I do my best to practice what I preach. When the loquat fruits where finally bright orange, I had to break the news to him that we can’t pick them off the tree as it’s not ours. After waiting a while for “the man” to come out and give us permission to pick a few, I suggested that we buy some at the fruits and vegetable store. I don’t remember ever paying so much for a tiny plastic box of fruit. It was also the first time I have used such expensive fruit for making jam. I just couldn’t resist the urge, supported by that serge of childhood memories.
It took me about half an hour to peel and pit two pounds of loquat, but except for that, making the jam was a piece of cake.
I wasn’t sure how high the natural pectin level in loquat is and as I don’t like adding pectin to my jams (one of my unexplained fears. Goes well with my gelatin phobia), I added a few pits to the simmering pot, as well as lemon juice. The jam was set within about 35 minutes, though I don’t know whether to attribute it to the fruit itself, the lemon or the pits.
I like my jam nice and chunky, but you could chop the fruit to small pieces or strain/process the jam prior to canning it.
This jam is sweet (duh!), in a gentle, mild, innocent way. It doesn’t kick like citrus jams nor does it have the heavy syrupy sweetness of fig jam. It took Princess one lick to pin point the flavor -it tasted like fruity hard candies, the kind my father used to keep in our car when we were kids (nostalgia again). And it has a hypnotizing deep, amber color.
When in season, one can find loquat everywhere in Israel – in stores, private gardens and at road sides. Fortunately, I could also get them during our NY period, as we lived within walking distance from the best fruits and vegetables store in Forest Hills. I was quite surprised when I spotted loquat there for the first time, as the fruit, originally from China, requires mild temperatures, and I didn’t think it could survive in the East Coast. Loquat trees can, however, be found in the Southern and Southern – Eastern states of the U.S. as well as in Hawaii, and I assume that’s where we got them from.
Loquat Jam on the Spot: Peel, halve and pit fruit. Mix with lemon juice and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Test for setting. Transfer to sterilized jars and seal. Voilà!
2.2 Lbs. (1 kilogram) loquats
1 Lb. (450 grams) sugar
Juice from half a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
You will also need glass canning jars & lids (I used 3 7 oz. jars for this recipe)
Wash the fruits and peel them. I used a knife to sever part of the skin and then pulled the rest of using my fingers.
Halve each loquat and take out the pits as well as the fibers surrounding them. Reserve three or four of the pits. I used mostly my fingers for the pitting process as well. I didn’t cut them any smaller, as I love chunks of fruit in my jam. You could cut them further but be forewarned that as they cook they soften and the pieces seem to get much smaller.
Weigh the peeled, pitted and cut up fruit. I ended up with a bit over a pound of fruit, 1.2 Lbs. (520 grams), to be precise. Since the amount of sugar you will need depends on the amount of fruit you have, you might want to write down the exact figure, unless you have a phenomenal memory.
The fruit-to-sugar ratio which I go by is 100 (fruit):80 (sugar), so assuming you were left with 1.2 Lbs. (540 grams) of “clean” fruit, you will need 15 oz. (440 grams) of sugar (a bit over 80%). If you end up with more or less clean fruit, adjust the amount of sugar proportionately.
Place the fruit in a heavy pot, large enough to contain the fruit and sugar plus some extra space to prevent boiling over. Add the lemon juice and sugar and gently massage the sugar into the fruit. Add the reserved pits to the mixture (since I don’t add pectin to my jams I add pits of the fruit I am jamming or an apple core (both contain high pectin levels) to help the jam set).
Let the fruit mixture stand for 10-15 minutes (juice will start forming in the pot).
Place a plate and a few teaspoons in the freezer.
Bring the fruit mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat so it continues to simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Give it a stir every now and then.
During this time you can prep the jars:
Heat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius).
Open the jars and wash the jars and lids with detergent and water.
Place the jars and lids in a big pot and cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil and continue boiling for about 15 minutes.
Carefully transfer the jars and lids to the warm oven to dry up, and keep them there until you are ready to fill them. It is, by the way, possible to sterilize jars using the microwave or dishwasher. I have never tried neither method so can’t provide you with tried advice.
Back to the jam:
After 25 minutes of the jam simmering, add the vanilla essence.
5 minutes later (30 minutes into the jam simmering), start checking for setting: take the plate out of the freezer and pour a table spoon of the hot jam on it. Return the plate (with the blob of jam on it) to the freezer for two minutes. Take it out along with one of the spoons and run the spoon across the jam blob. A clean line of bare plate should form between in the middle of the jam blob. If 30 seconds later that line keeps clean of jam and the two parted blob halves don’t slide back and reunite, the jam is set and ready. If the jam is still runny, continue simmering and check again after five minutes and so on, every five minutes.
My jam was ready the second time I checked, after about 35 minutes of simmering.
I hope it goes without saying that if you double the quantities of the original recipe cooking time will lengthen as well.
Try not to overcook as you will get a sticky dark cluster rather than amber-colored, nicely spreadable jam. This is not the end of the world, and can be fixed by adding some water and simmering again until it sets.
Once the jam has reached its setting point, ladle it quickly into the sterilized jars (the hot jam will help insure no bacteria sneak in before sealing the jars). If you have a funnel, this is the time to use it as this will help keep the jam from getting to the outside of the jars. If, however, like Yours Truly, you bought a funnel especially for this purpose and can’t find it now that you actually need it, spooning it carefully will also work. If you get some jam on the outside of the jars, clean it off with a piece of cloth and some warm water.
Seal the lids tightly on and let the jam cool completely, jars turned upside down, so that the hot jam is in direct contact with the lid. This should further prevent any bacteria from finding its way in.
The jam should keep well for a year (many say more than a year, but I never gave it a try), kept in a dark cool place, refrigerated once opened, though I tend to keep mine in the fridge from day one, just in case.
Filed under In the Pantry (Jams, Liqueurs, Pickles and such)