Strawberry guavas. They sound so exotic, like something you’d only find in a tropical climate.
But this small red berry-like fruit grows on a shrub that’s perfectly happy in Melbourne gardens, reliably producing substantial crops in Autumn.
While they do have a distinctive and delicious strawberry flavour, you have to watch out for the pips, which are as tough as tiny stones. It’s OK to swallow them, but I’d be wary of trying to chew or bite them.
This lot of cooking kicked off when my friend Robyn dropped around a bag full from her garden. I happily ate quite a few, but the rest I grabbed today and turned into a soft jam, which
will double as a topping for ice-cream or yoghurt.
I deliberately kept the sugar-to-fruit proportions a lot lower than usual so it didn’t get really jammy-sweet, but it means it might not keep as well and I’ll have to make an effort to eat the contents of the jars over the next few months.
Given that I have to strain the pips out of this, I would usually make a jelly, but I decided against it. I have made a few jellies lately (recipe on my favourite – quince and apple – to come next time) and have also read it is a really temperamental fruit for getting the jelly set right (as I discovered with one of its relatives, feijoas, a couple of years ago. It wasn’t quite a complete disaster, but not far off).
Strawberry guava preserves
I started with about 1kg of strawberry guavas. Trim the blossom end off – getting rid of the small dark patch underneath with it – as well as any bad bits and any stems.
I added in two peeled, diced apples. I put in water almost to cover, and let it cook (cover off) until it was really mushy. It was about an hour, and I took to it with a masher part way through.
Push it all through a big metal sieve until all you have left is the seeds and any skins or stringy bits.
Measure the pulp. I had about 4 cups. I put that into a pot with about 2 cups (or a touch more) of sugar (I used raw).
Bring it to the boil and keep it on a high heat. You will need to stir constantly. It’s thick and will burn the second you take your eyes off it.
Let it reduce a bit until it has a thick, firm consistency. I ended up with about 4 cups of preserves, so I reduced it overall by about 1/3.
Pour into hot jars and seal.
Verdict: delicious and not too sweet.