Monday, March 31, 2014

Loquats... Recipes, processing.

Well, it's that time of year. A friend dropped off four gallons of loquats, just a small part of the harvest from one tree... Loquats are delicious, I think: A sort of citrusy apricot with mango. The flesh is very tender and dense, like the best apricot flesh.

They're very perishable. I suggest immersing them in a lot of water immediately after harvesting, and letting them sit in that water for a few hours, adding ice if the water doesn't feel cold to the touch. This cold water bath stops them from perishing and cleans them. (One reason I suspect they are so perishable: The stem wound tends to ooze when they're picked, and the sugary juice hastens spoilage. So, the water bath solves that problem. It also seems to plump them up a bit... Makes them easier to handle.)

The work is processing them: They are small and have large seeds and a seedcoat that need to be removed. Some people skin them, too: I don't think it's necessary, but it's not difficult to do. With a little practice, you can process--skin seed, and clean--a gallon of loquats in around twenty minutes. Slice the stem and blossom ends off, cut the fruit open from pole to pole, shift the knife back into your palm, and use your finger to remove the seeds and the seedcoat in one motion. Drop the seeds and ends into one bowl, and the fruit in another. It's nice to have a sliced lemon in the fruit bowl---from time to time, toss the fruit with the lemon juice and reduce the browning.

You can make whatever you'd make with apricots, more or less following the recipe. Personally, I don't like my fruit over-sweetened, and I find loquats to be rather mild and sweet. They lack much acid for balance. So, I add less sugar than most recipes call for (recipes that call for loquats or for apricots), and I like to add some lemon juice and zest for balance. Taste and adjust the jam, jelly, filling, etc., starting with a lot less sugar. (A rough guide: Half the weight of the processed loquat seems like just the right balance for me.)

Anyway, I discovered the wonders of a pressure cooker when dealing with lots of fruit: Just a splash of water in the pot, fill it to the "fill" line, and 5 minutes on high pressure got the seeded loquats cooked perfectly. The skins fall off the cooked loquats, so if you want to seed them, and are going to cook them anyway, then wait until after you cook them. In the (fuzzy!) picture below, you see some loquat puree I'm going to dry.

Two jars of "varenie"--a Polish/Russian way of preserving fruit that's not quite a jam: Think whole fruit in a sugar syrup. I used half the weight of the fruit in sugar, let the processed fruits sit for a couple hours, drained off the (copious) liquid, and boiled it to just at the soft-ball stage (134° on the candy thermometer). The syrup caramelized a bit, but the resulting product was really tasty. Oh, I threw in a few pieces of dried Meyer lemon zest and half a vanilla bean. Tasty! Like apricot jam, only better.

The seeds can be made into a nut liqueur (haven't tried that yet, but will!). The seeds are very flavorful, but, like apricot seeds, contain a bit of cyanide-producing compounds... Like bitter apricot pits, they have a culinary use in moderation.

I'll make a small batch of jelly from the juice. (The juice you see in the pics came from the skins and trimmings. IT's very sweet and very tasty.)

I'll probably use the remaining cooked fruit in a pie...

Adding: A friend tells me that in southern Italy, where these fruits are considered a regional delicacy (nespoli), that they're commonly served, pitted and halved, in a bowl of ice water... so maybe I'm onto something here with the water bath.


Anonymous said...

Loquat is an underappreciated fruit. Perfect for Central Florida with abundant and delicious fruit. I have 5 grafted loquat trees, all are wonderful. Thanks for the recipes/tips!

stevo_61 said...

I have 1 loquat tree and would like a second. Any experience propagating with seeds or cuttings?