Lately I have been boasting about all the fascinating wild fruits that I have been able to harvest - But the thing with the majority of fruits here is that it is annual harvests - So once a year you get a ton of fruit, but the rest of the year NOTHING.
The trick really is to use as much of the fruit as fresh as possible, and then to preserve that which you wont be able to use straight away - and anyone that knows me by now will know that nothing on this farm goes to waste unless there is absolutely no other way.
Normally this time of year the marulas (and indigenous African fruit) are ready to be collect from under the trees, and whatever fruits we don't eat, I would normally work into divine fruit jelly, jams, concentrate and other preserves to use throughout the year. As per usual, I managed to collect a fair quota, but we also had a wonderful harvest of Dragon fruit this year... so I thought - why not marry the two flavours into a lovely fruit jelly.
Making Maroela, Dragonfruit & Lime jelly
It sounds quite exotic doesn't it? Even for me where these fruits are accessible it sounds like quite an interesting combination.
Initially I wanted to make a jam but because the dragon fruit has millions of tiny pips I decided to make a jelly in stead. But before I could start I would have to ready these lovely fresh fruits.
I started with the dragon fruit. Firstly the fruits were washed and then pealed. After that I simply chopped the fruit up into large chunks, then put them to one side.
Next up was the Marulas.
For this Jelly I decided to use green maroelas that has not ripened completely yet. This gives the jelly a nice tart flavour that goes great with the sugary sweetness that you would come to expect from a jelly.
These fruits were also washed at first, then I cut open the fruits on the stem side and made deep X incisions across the bottom of the fruits.
The reason for this, is that the Maroelas would be boiled skin and all as the skin contains a lot of pectin that would help the jam to set, and as the dragon fruit contains hardly any pectin, this would be necessary to get the desired end result, at the same time you also want to allow the flavour of the fruit itself to be released, so cutting into the fruit helps with that.
Now for those of you that might be wondering what maroelas are like, I have been asked numerous times to describe them to people that might not be familiar with the fruit, and let me tell you this is no easy task, as there is not really other fruits I know that I can compare it to.
The taste is a sweet and sour, citrussy, berry like flavour that simply explodes into your mouth when you eat the fruit. But that does not describe in any way the texture of these strange fruits.
Once the fruit is pealed, you pop the entire thing into your mouth and suck the fruit off the pip, the fruit is made up of tons of thin fibrous hairs attached to the pip, enveloping the divine nectar, much like eating the last mango off a fibre mango pip, but not as course. In fact it has quite a gelatinous feel to it.
I don't feel like that was the perfect description, but that is pretty much as close as I can get to describing the fruit.
Here is what the fruit looks like on the inside - if that is any help:
Back to the Jelly
Once the fruits were prepared I threw all of it into a large pot and covered it with water, and added a pinch of salt. L let this mixture boil until the dragon fruit were completely pulped and the maroelas were soft.
Then I strained the fruit pieces and pulp from the liquid.
All the pulp went straight into the pig food - as it is still quite nutrient rich and adds a bit of variety to their diet. The strained liquid was then left overnight.
The next morning, I squeezed the juice of two limes that I found in the garden into the mixture then I weighed the liquid, then measured the same wight in sugar, and added the two together 1:1
The mixture was brought to a boil stirring continuously until the sugar was dissolved, and from there on occasionally. As the mixture cooked the bubbles started forming a thick layer of white foam at the top, and this was continually scooped off as it build up so that the end product would be a clear jelly.
Gradually the mixture darkened and thickened.
It is important to constantly check the consistency of your jelly, because if you cook it too long you will end up with a hard toffee like candy mass, too short and you will have a syrup. And the tricky thing is that while the jelly is still hot it will appear runny and set only once it has cooled down.
So to test my jelly, I placed a small saucer in the freezer and let it cool, then I would drip a few drops of the boiling syrup onto the ice cold saucer to see what it would look like once it has cooled.
(I left a tiny amount of Dragon fruit seeds in the jelly for appearance sake)
Once the jelly has reached the desired consistency - I removed it from the heat and let it cool down completely. My jelly was now ready to be enjoyed - And wow!
Even if I have to say so myself the flavour was absolutely brilliant.
This was just a experimental recipe, but I was really impressed by the end result. This is definitely a jelly recipe that I will continue using for years to come!