The gift of a small sack of guavas last weekend prompted a jam-making session. I was surprised and delighted at how much jam I got.
Jam-making at this time of year was a tradition in the first few years of our marriage: Our anniversary is tomorrow (Sept. 2) and we honeymooned in Hana on Maui. Driving out there, we couldn’t help stopping at every other turn to pick “a few” guavas. By the time we got there, we had dozens of guavas and waiawi rolling around the back seat.
Luckily, we were staying in a condo with a kitchen. I sent Husband to Hasegawa General Store for sugar and cheesecloth, but when he got there, they didn’t have any cheesecloth. “What do you want it for?,” they asked. And when he told them, they said “Oh, you don’t want cheesecloth, you want plastic window screening.” It worked beautifully. We made a few jars of jam and packed the rest of the screened pulp in plastic containers so we could have a jam-making session back at my mom’s house. That year, everyone on our Christmas list got Ua Kea Road jam.
The next year, it was Halfway to Hana jam (we stayed in Ka’anapali and only got as far as Nahiku on our guava-picking excursion).
The following year, no guavas because we didn’t go to Maui. So I made Purloined Pineapple Chutney (with pineapples swiped from Del Monte fields).
Another year, it was Aloha Apple Chutney.
But the last few years, I haven’t made jam and I was so happy to get back to it.
Guava jam is the easiest preserve to make because the fruit is so rich in pectin that the mixture never fails to gel. And both the technique and the proportions are simple. Here’s what you do:
Cut the guava in half and pile it into a soup pot. Add water to about halfway up the fruit — don’t drown it. Bring to a boil, turn down to medium-high and boil 30 minutes. Mash the pulp through a jam sieve (I’ve got my grandmother’s conical metal sieve with its beautiful hardwood pestle; my mom tried to make me get rid of it but it’s one of my most prized possessions).
Measure the pulp, place it in a heavy pot, measure an equal amount of sugar. Stir, bring to a boil, boil 30 minutes. It’s done when a spoonful placed on a saucer “sits up” and doesn’t release any liquid; draw a spoon or a finger through the puddle of jam — the pathway should remain clear.
Pour the hot jam into sterile jam jars with new, sterile lids. Cap. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. If you don’t have a canning kettle and jar tongs (I got rid of mine; they took up too much space), just place the jars in a soup pot, add water to cover by at least a half-inch. Bring to a boil, then start timing. After 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water until it’s cool enough for you to remove them. (Do NOT try to use ordinary tongs to pull the jars out; you’re sure to end up with a broken jar.)