Monday, June 16, 2008

Maanga jam in the Kerala monsoons

The onset of the monsoon in Kerala is magical. Perpetual rains lash across the region making the entire place lush green and feel closer to nature, almost like nature has firmly embraced you.
The monsoons also bring to an end the mango (maanga) and jackfruit (chakka) harvest. So before the mangos are spoiled on the tree and the jackfruit soaks up rain water and loses its sweetness, its time to preserve the fruit.
My father-in-law treats ripe mangoes really well. They deserve to be, unlike when in the city; I spot a bruise on one and immediately think of discarding it. He first cleans them well- because birds would have tried to have their share of the fruit on the tree. Then the skin and stone is separated from the flesh gently and any juice from this severance is collected in a bowl below, so none of it goes waste. Once all the pulp is collected (I am talking 50-60 mangoes, at least), it is blended well in a mixer. Blending serves two purposes—the pulp becomes of a uniform consistency, so does the flavour.

After this process,
The blended pulp is strained to separate the fibre
The blend after removing the fibre is mixed with sugar-use your discretion here as we don’t want the jam to be extremely sweet, killing the mango flavour.
Put this blended pulp and sugar on the stove on a low flame and continuously stir it.
It must bubble gently and form a skin on the surface, which can be discarded
Keep stirring until the mixture gets thicker and reduces in quantity- the mango is losing is moisture.
Once it reaches a pasty consistency, switch off the flame.
Allow this mixture to cool and store it in airtight jars-in the refrigerator.

My in-laws use this as jam on their bread, but I can think of a dozen and more things we could do with it: ice cream topping, cheese cake filling, as a blend in fruit salads…..why even some tangy vegetable salads as well. The golden yellow, gooey jam is beautiful and damn easy to make.

Try it…