Spring is in the air and yet the guava season continues. Our trees have been prolific this year, but are considerately allowing their fruit to ripen a little at a time now, so that we can get through one basket before we fill the next and stagger back to the house weighed down with golden globes of perfumery.
Recently I’ve been working on finding new ways of processing and preserving guavas, so that they will last us year round. My attempt at guava jelly was an abject failure, or at least not the jewel-bright perfumed delicacy that I was hoping for. Plus I was horrified by the wastage involved in making jelly: all that tasty fruit pulp left behind in the jelly bag. So I moved swiftly on without bothering to perfect my jelly-making skills.
I found this suggestion for using guavas instead of the traditional quinces to make a paste, or rather a sweetmeat, in Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book: my absolutely favourite recipe book on fruit of all time, in fact I'd go so far as to say it's the bible of fruit recipes, so I'd hope they use this book in cooking schools online. Reminiscent of Safari dried fruit snacks, these guava squares have a much better texture and of course they are home made, so a whole lot cheaper…. unless you charge your time by the hour that is. The thing about this recipe is that someone needs to stir the pot constantly for about an hour and a half, as the mixture burps and splutters its way to the required thickness. So this is a weekend job, for when you have several willing helpers to take turns at stirring, or at least entertain you with scintillating conversation as you perch on the counter working on your stirring muscles.
The rewards are a house smelling wonderfully of guava jam and a few months’ supply of reasonable healthy sweeties, to sneak into your kids’ lunch boxes or package as loving gifts for home-sick family members overseas who haven’t smelt a ripe guava in ages.
This is only really worth doing when you have a couple of kilos of guavas to process so that you get a goodly stock of sweets from all your hard work stirring, but you can use any amount of fruit as the sugar is put in according to the weight of puree.
We’ve christened the result Guava Delight, as it is just a bit like Turkish Delight only much, much nicer.
Recipe for Guava Fruit Sweets
(adapted from Jane Grigson’s recipe for Quince Paste)
Guavas – about 2 kg/ 4lbs
Sugar – about 1.5kg
Rinse the guavas and cut into quarters. Put into a heavy based pan with ½ cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer covered until the fruit is tender, stirring a few times so that it doesn’t catch. Puree through a sieve or food mill/mouli. Rinse out the pan.
Weigh the resulting puree and return it to the pan, with 750g sugar for every 1kg of puree. (1 ½ lbs sugar per 2 lbs puree.) Cook over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved, then raise the heat to medium and cook stirring constantly until the mixture is very thick and is coming away from the sides of the pan. This usually takes us 1 ½ hours and we could probably carry on longer to get it really thick, but we have usually had enough by then! It will splutter and spit as it thickens, so have a glove on your stirring hand to avoid burns from the hot mixture.
Line a baking tray or two with baking parchment and pour the mixture into it to cool. It should be about 1 cm/1/2 inch deep. Smooth it out evenly. Now it needs to cool and dry out a bit in a warming drawer or over a radiator for a day or so. It is ready when it can be cut with a hot knife into squares that retain their shape.
Cut the paste into squares and dip them in sugar then pack into air-tight boxes in layers separated by baking paper. These should keep for months or years as long as they are kept dry.