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Guava Jam

Made another batch of #organic #guava #jam with my SIL yesterday.

There are two types of people: Those who love guavas with passion, and those who can't even stand being in the same room with it. With its strong aroma, it may not be too surprising that it is related to myrtle. I've been having hard time finding innovative recipes for it. But they're out there, and also inside my head. Adding guava juice, pulp or nectar to smoothies is a no brainer (try it with coconut milk, banana and mango; but avoid orange juice as it will make it taste like orange toothpaste! I sweat!), chutney, fresh salsa (that is so easy that doesn't even require a recipe!), and inside a curry. 

Recipes I've been dreaming of are guava sorbet and/or gelato, guava creme brûlée, guava cheesecake, to name a few. Guava jam is our family tradition each fall, because no matter how much we eat it, there are always some fruit that don't get snatched in time and taste too mushy or stale and can only be salvaged if turned into jam. 

Like quince, it will become pink-orange with cooking. It's quite astounding how much fall fruit have in common: strong personalities, strong aromas, interesting textures. And just like quince, it is easily candied into a jelly-like confection (look for it in Mexican stores, sometimes it comes in a roll). 

I like to make my jams on the less-sweet side, so ration of 1:2 sugar to fruit. i..e: One kilo of guavas to 500g of sugar. Squeeze some lemon juice over the fruit, add the sugar, and add a couple of cinnamon sticks and between 5-10 cardamom pods. Clove buds are also an option (I leave them out because they can overpower easily). Another seasoning direction which is entirely different is add a couple of small, dried chilli peppers to the jam. 
Cook over medium-high heat while stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves completely. This could take about 10-15 minutes. Don't rush it by increasing the heat as to avoid any unnecessary scorching.  
Once the sugar is completely dissolved, reduce the heat to low and cook while stirring frequently with a spoon, until a spoon that is dipped into the jam is covered and remains covered. This would take about an hour. 
Sterilize your jars and fill them while the jam is still hot. Use a hot-bath method if you're really serious about your jamming and are planning to sell or give away or made a big batch. Mine usually gets eaten pretty much right away so I'm not the most diligent sterilizer beyond rinsing them with boiling water and filling and covering right away, turning the jar upside down to create a vacuum-like seal. Which gets popped up within less than a week and eaten in about as fast... 

Homemade #guava #jam

Autumn Aromas & Fall Flavours - The Western Galilee Edition

Rocky and wild #betzetbeach #perfumeryonthemove

I'm emerging from what has been one of the most challenging months of my life (and this is pretty much what I've been experiencing with every month since May of last year). Three days ago, we moved into my mom's yurt (a sort of a not-so-temporary dwelling originating in Mongolia) and after one day of total hell (predictable with major change with anyone, but particularly for autistic people) my daughter is adjusting surprisingly well to the new arrangement. So to break the doom and gloom of silence that's been hovering over this blog, I've decided to assemble an illustrated collage of scents that I've been enjoying since arriving here in Israel. It's those little things that keep me going and bring comfort in the midst of total chaos and displacement.

And what better place to begin than the beach? It's the one and only constant in our lives since leaving Vancouver (besides basic activities such as brushing teeth and eating breakfast). The north coast of Israel is fascinating with wild life and the terrain is not as monotonously sandy as the south (although this has its charm as well). Lagoons, rocks and  ancient port cities and fishing villages lace the shores, as well as remains of an ancient factory for red dye from certain sea snails.  Beach culture here is also vibrant and goes year around, with diving and surfing bringing in people who would normally complain that the water is too cold in the winter.

Beach lily on the dunes
And as if the beach is not wonderful enough just for its warm, azure blue water - there are also some amazing wild plants growing near it. These wild beach lilies are almost as large as the madonna lilies, and just as fragrant. But their aroma is a little different - a sultry mix of salicilates (which are typical for lilies, as well as present in ylang ylang) and hyacinth's heady green. Add to that the fact warmth from the Mediterranean sun, which beats the dewiness out of it completely - and you get a scent of slightly-cooked bulb flowers.


Carissa macrocarpa
Carissa (AKA Natal Plum) is another beach phenomenon, but cultivated. It can be found as a hedge plant in many coastal cities here. This plant originates in South Africa, where its oblong, bright red fruit provides an important source of food (I personally find it too astringent). The flower is what I'm more fond of, as it has shape like frangipani or tiare, and a smell that is gardenia-like, but more subtle.

Anona #custardfruit #anona #beach #picnic
I've dedicated an entire post to guavas,  so I won't mention them again. But they are not the only remarkable fruit this season. Anona (AKA cherimoya, custard fruit or custard apple) are lovely-tasting fruit that look oddly like pine cones (especially after they get overripe and their peel hardens and completely blackens). The inside flesh has a flaky structure, similar to cooked fish, but melts in the mouth like custard. The aroma is very mild and appealing. This fruit is quite expensive, and always brings me fond memories of when my daughter was born, because my mom brought me many of them as a treat.

Quisqualis indica אלמון הודי. Smells like fragrant King Jade oolong.
Quisqualis indica (AKA Chinese Honeysuckle or Rangoon Creeper) greets you as you enter the veranda at my brother's house. Incidentally, this is a similar scenario to the entrance at his in-laws home. The scent is intoxicating, especially at night. Floral (vaguely jasmine-smabac-like) and heady but not overwhelmingly so, as it is balanced with green notes and overall smells like a good oolong tea, xing qin to be exact (also called King Jade).

#Jasmine
Jasmine blossoms are alive and well in this part of the world, and early morning is the best time to enjoy them. By night time most of their scent has evaporated in the sun. Sitting next to one of these bushes, with or without a cup of herbal tea (coming soon) is a most delightful way to start the day and remind me why I came here. I've been enjoying the ones near my brother's home (we've stayer with him for a month), and my own bush, planted 20 years ago, is still alive and well. There are also jasmine sambac bushes growing on my mom's property. What's fantastic is that they have no problem surviving the winters here, and can grow to be impressively large bushes with thick trunks, and they bloom many times throughout the year.

#Lemongrass #light
Fragrant herbs, especially lemon scented ones, are one of the things I missed the most about my home village. Nothing compares the taste of freshly brewed tisane from lemon verbena and lemon grass that you've just picked from the garden a few minutes ago. The flavour is so full of life and so refreshing. We like to open and close each day with this brew, sit down with family and relax; and also that's how we greet most visitors. For out of owners this is the epitome of luxury.

#tobacco #leaf #curing. #tarshiha
In one of my visits to the nearby town of Tarshiha, I spotted a tobacco curing joint on the roof of one of the houses. Tobacco leaves are usually harvested at the end of the summer, and can be left to cure outdoors in this climate, as the first rains won't begin till October (and sometimes even later). The scent of tobacco leaves wafted through the cobblestone lanes and many leaves that fell of the clusters on the roof could be found on the ground.
Syrian maple #fall #autumn
These are leaves of Syrian maple that I spotted in a creek nearby. They don't have any notable scent, but are significant in a symbolic way, because the season is called fall, after all. Likewise, the acorns pictured below are not particularly fragrant, but illustrious of the season's unique sights.

Acorns בלוטים
The acorns, I'm told, can be roasted and ground into a flour and used as a source of food. I'm going to try it this year... And serve acorn pudding from teeny tiny acorn cups. 

שיח אברהם/ירנך Abraham's bush (smells like #Indigo perfume( https://ayalamoriel.com/products/indigo
The flowers of Vitex agnus-castus AKA Abraham's Bush, Abraham's Balm or Yarnakh, appear in clusters like lilac, only that they are pointing upwards. They have a distinctive perfume that I can't describe. The best way to experience it outside the wild habitat is uncork a vial of my Indigo perfume.
Green mandarin #greenmandarin #autumnaromas #fallflavours
The first mandarins are ripe from the inside but still green on the outside. Nostalgic scent for me, as we'd pack them for the first days of school and they marked not only the beginning of the new school year, but also the many citrus fruit that will continue to ripen and provide us with vitamin C throughout the abrupt and rather stormy Israeli winter.

#מסיק #oliveharvest

The olive harvest season is now, and the rain wouldn't arrive to wash the dust off the olives. It was a very weak year for this crop, and many families including mine decided to not even bother picking them. My mom insisted and we helped her pluck enough olives to fill two sacks, which surprisingly yielded an entire can of oil (probably around 2 gallons). The experience was a tactile torture as there is nothing I hate more than chalky dust all over my fingers, toes and clothes. The first rain finally arrived in a short but violent outburst first thing in the morning of November 1st, so maybe now I will be more inclined to pick the remaining olives. I much prefer the smell of petrichor and olive foliage to that of dust accompanied by scorching sun.


Guavaroma

Guavas from my mom's tree

Autumn in Israel has a completely different feel to it, having very little to do with fallen leaves or spooky celebrations, and more to do with the sunlight mellowing and the days shortening. Being on the merging point of three continent, this is a season of migrating birds (southbound from Europe, mostly), striking white flowers that rise fro the dead hay of summer, and carob blossoms with their disturbingly sexual smell.

There's also an overwhelming abundance of fruit that are coming out now, literally falling to the ground daily. Guavas are one of the most symbolic aromas that dominate this season. A single fruit will suffice to impregnate the air of an entire home, and families are often divided based on their attitude to this fragrant fruit with grainy flesh and creamy seed-filled core.


Homemade #guava #jam

My mom's trees are bursting with fruit, and even though we try to eat as many as we can, we're running out of ideas for what to do with them. Either way, they make a great environmental scent (at least for those who like the fragrance) so no complaints for having a basketful in each home in my family's little "neighbourhood". We already made a parfait with them (it was supposed to be gelato but I put too much gelatine so it congealed well before getting a chance to be frozen). I think we will need to make something else with them to preserve their goodness - maybe a jam or confiture if I can find a good recipe. Guavas also make excellent candy - such as the popular Mexican "Rollo de Guayaba" - a rolled fruit leather of sorts, and guava pate, very similar to quince, but often packed in flat wide cans. Guavas are also used in cooked and fresh, Cuban-style salsa (the pink guavas, which are more watery and less fragrant, go particularly well with tomatoes and onion). Paired with soft cheese, guavas make a sweet filling for empanadas.

Fresh guava & papaya salsa for our breakfast quesedillas and beyond.

Guavas belong to the Myrtle family, which may sound surprising, but when you bite into a firm fruit, or one that is not all mushy and ripe yet, actually makes sense. There is a fragrant green herbal note to guava. And that is the stage I enjoy eating it the most - when the part that is close to the stem still resists the bite a little bit, and has that slightly acrid taste while the rest of the fruit yields to the teeth and melts in your mouth. When the fruit is completely ripe, it has less pleasant odour in my opinion, suggestive of stinky feet.

There is a chemical explanation to this complexity, of course: "in immature fruits and those in their intermediate stage of maturation, were predominantly the aldehydes such as (E)-2-hexenal and (Z)-3-hexenal. In mature fruits, esters like Z-3-hexenyl acetate and E-3-hexenyl acetate and sesquiterpenes caryophyllene, α-humulene and β-bisabollene are present."

To further explain: (E)-2-hexenal is an important component of strawberry's fragrance, and (E)-3-hexenal is a green-smelling aldehyde, reminiscent of fresh cut grass and tomato leaves. So that partially explains why the unripe fruit is so interestingly fragrant and why strawberries and guavas go so well together. The fruit esters that develop when the fruit ripens - Z-3-hexenyl acetate also appear in berries such as blueberries and strawberries, while E-3-hexenyl acetate is described as the green odour of unripe bananas and pears. α-humulene is an isomer of caryphyellene, and is also responsible for the characteristic smell of cannabis - which might explain the offensive odour of the ripe fruit. β-bisabollene has a sweet taste and a balsamic odour, and also acts as pheromone in fruit flies (which is why they probably like ripe guavas so much).

Guava's objectionable aroma prevents them from becoming popular as a perfume note. And when they do make an appearance, it seems to be in commercial-smelling fruity florals and tropical-themed fragrances that I don't usually even bother sniffing. If you can enlighten me on a good scent with guava note I'd be grateful.

Guava Odour

Guava vendor by Coshipi
Guava vendor, a photo by Coshipi on Flickr.
Few scents signify the scent of fall for me better than guavas. The lush, in-your-face ripeness of this sub-tropical fruit has always been a topic of controversy. You'd either love it, or hate it with a passion!

How can I describe it to someone who never smelled it?
Would it be of any help if I told you that 173 components were identified in guava GC, with (E)-beta-caryophyllene, alpha-terpineol, alpha-pinene, alpha-selinene, beta-selinene, delta-cadinene, 4,11-selinadiene, and alpha-copaene being the major ones. Aliphatic esters are the most important contributors to guava's flavour. I have a suspicion that guavas have some sulphur in them,

A single fruit is plenty to scent a room with an unmistakable odour that is simultaneously pungent, ripe, rude and opulent. As Flavors of Brazil blog points out, the scent is "strong aromatic, sometimes alarmingly so... very flower and heady".  It has green aspects, as well as spicy, herbal and even woodsy notes. But perhaps the disturbing or funky part is somewhat, just ever so slightly reminiscent of stinky socks (especially when the fruit is over ripe - which is very common in store-bought guavas).

Guavas are native to South America, and from there they have spread to different tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world. Their significance in the culture of the tropics is exemplified in the book title Fragrance of Guava, which is conversations with Nobel Prize Columbian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. They are even grown with much success and popularity in Israel, and there is no better way to break the Yom Kippur fast than eat a fruit freshly picked from the tree. My personal favourite variety is a cultivar called "Ben Dov" which is most fragrant and has a very firm yet creamy texture. The pink guavas, in my humble opinion, are watery and not nearly as fragrant - and this variety is what is used for most guava juices. The fruit is extremely rich in vitamin C - and, most unusual for any fruit - also in calcium.

Guavas are mostly prepared as fruit juice, candy, jam and the ever so popular South American guava fruit paste called goiabada which has an intriguing consistency and texture reminiscent of quince marmalade. It has such a distinct, stand-alone aroma that it usually takes centre stage in desserts such as sobretto or gelato, and stuffing dessert empanadas (usually with cream cheese or coconut); although it pairs really nicely with creamy bananas and even in refreshing, aromatic fresh fruit salsas, as in Cuban tomato and guava salsa.

Have you experienced fresh guavas? How would you describe their scent?
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