Thursday, August 05, 2010

Guava Delight

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.

At one stage I really did think I was going to get sick of guavas before the end of the winter, but they keep luring me back with their fresh fragrance and unique flavour. Hard to remember the time when I first came to South Africa and found the scent overwhelmingly pungent, in my less charitable moments likening it to cats’ pee.

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.


  1. Wow, Kit! You are really a domestic goddess! And here I was getting excited because I put down a few floor tiles.

    Making candy is something I've never had the cojones to tackle - kudos to you for conquering the mighty guava.

    Not sure I've ever had a guava, come to think of it - the inside, when fresh, kinda looks like watermelon in your pictures.

    Thanks for sharing your recipes and pics - and I love the way you write.

    My best friend (who happens to live in S.A.) is moving to a town called Montagu. Ever heard of it? She was originally in Durban, but I think Montagu is over on the west side kinda near CapeTown.

    Hugs, M

  2. Well I'm in awe of the floor tiles. I'd rather be cooking than DIYing!

    I'd never had a guava either before I came to SA, but they are part of the national culinary identity here, taste good and they're full of Vitamin C, so can't really go wrong with them.

    Yes, I know Montagu. It's a pretty little town a couple of hours from here - mountains and winelands and very hot in summer.

  3. Kit -

    I have a weird question to ask you, and I hope you are not offended.

    As someone who only sees S.A. on the news, I was wondering: Are there just "areas" where it's dangerous to be (looting, violent crimes, etc.) or is it widespread?

    It's just that I see your blog, and your lovely kids and family, and you seem to have a really peaceful life, and I just wondered if the unrest and black/white tensions cause you any sort of worry, or if you are living in a safe place where you don't have to think about it on a regular basis.

    My friend used to live in Durban, and they had to have barbed wire strung at the tops of the walls around their yards because of all the break-ins.

    What is your experience there?

    Thanks for forgiving my ignorance

    - M

  4. Hi Marcheline,
    Complex question and No, not offended at all!

    Part of it is the difference between what you see on the news and the reality of daily life, where you hardly ever come across the axe murderers, serial killers and crazies that make the headlines all over the world.

    Our farm is very peaceful, we have a good vibe, fierce/manic border collies and a good relationship with the people who work for us and the local community.

    But there is a huge rich/poor disparity here, so there are a lot of petty crimes and burglaries, often more within the poorest communities than the middle class ones. Our gardener has had teenage kids burgling his house several times and we haven't ever, fingers crossed. Burglaries on the farms around us often turn out to have been committed by ex-employees with a grudge or friends of theirs.

    Many people in the cities do live behind burglar bars and wires as a security measure, but certainly in Cape Town there is not really any feeling of fear in every day life among the people we know. It's mostly a matter of being sensible and aware and not flashing expensive stuff around if you are in a dodgy area, same as when we were living in London or I'm sure in the big American cities.

    I have no experience of Jo'burg or Durban though, so you'd need to ask someone else about how things are there.

    We are very lucky with where we live and the freedom our kids have to run between the houses and visit their aunts and we do count it a blessing.

  5. Hello!

    I have been reading your blog since I searched for a recipe for crunchies (they were great!)

    I have done the opposite to you, I am a South African who has been living in London for the past 12 years and boy do I miss guavas! I don't think I've had a fresh one in all the time that I have lived in the UK because I always visit SA in the summer months

    Regarding crime, I am from Johannesburg and when I tell people I can see the look of horror on their faces, I am sure that they think it is much like Afghanistan. It's nothing of the sort! As Kit mentioned, most crime I hear of is committed by disgruntled domestic staff and in the poorer areas like the townships and ghetto parts of the Central Business District of Johannesburg (just like in New York and in London). My friends and family live very normal lives in the Johannesburg suburbs, they live behind high walls I agree, but I quite like the privacy they afford. I still find it odd that there is only a tiny knee high wall that divides my front garden from my neighbour's in London.

  6. Hi Hadedah,
    Thanks for visiting and sharing your perspective. It's always interesting to hear from those who've swapped places the other way round.
    You'll have to get some of your family to freeze you some guava puree for your visits, or make this recipe for you!
    Love your pen name - we have a pair of your name-sakes living on our farm and jolly noisy they are too - a very South African refrain!

  7. Dear Kit and Hadedah,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, and for taking my question in the way it was meant.

    I had two reasons for asking. One is that my best friend lives in S.A. and I would like to think that she will be living in a safe place (Montagu looks lovely).

    The second reason is that I was (half-jokingly) looking at properties in Montagu, and found a beautiful bed and breakfast for sale for less than the cost of my home here in America. I was daydreaming about selling and moving there, and my husband rolled his eyes and made some comments about how "unsafe" it was to live there. I had a feeling it was regional, just like you said, Kit - there are areas of NYC and London which you would not take your kids for a Sunday stroll - but he seemed to feel it was the country as a whole.

    I am obviously not uprooting my life and moving to S.A. (yet, anyway) but I like the freedom to dream about it.

    That's why I asked, anyway, and I am glad that you guys took the time to explain.


  8. i love guavas, i miss guavas, i hope i will find them over here!

  9. What a delightful idea! I have memories of collecting guavas that dropped off the tree in my parents' garden as a child, and being paid 1c for each one...

    Thanks for this, a lovely post.

  10. This looks super! Can you do this with other fruit too or does the guava have special thickening properties that allow it to set so beautifully?

  11. Kit, what an inspiring post, and what interesting comments! I so enjoyed reading both. As for the guavas: first, I'm deeply jealous that you have your own guava trees and second, what a great recipe. Perfect for lunch boxes, eh? x


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!