HELE MAI `AHA `AINA!
(Come Join the Feast!)
By Sonia Martinez
(April 13, 2004 - The Hawaii Tribune-Herald of Hilo)
THE FRUITING HEDGE
Surinam cherries (Eugenia uniflora) commonly grow almost everywhere I've ever lived and you see them mostly planted in rows along a fence line and trimmed to be used as a hedge.
They are also known as Pitanga cherries. The plant is known throughout the tropics and sub-tropics and I have encountered it as far north as the South Carolina Low Country where the temperatures do not reach freezing too often.
The attractive cherries it produces are mostly ignored, except for children who like to eat them right off the bush and the crops have never, to my knowledge been grown commercially.
The brightly colored berries or cherries are loaded with vitamin C and have a very distinctive taste and smell. The shape is almost like a little round Oriental lantern with vertical ridges on the little globes, and the seeds or pits, are large and round. When they start to ripen, the fruit starts turning a beautiful orange color, further resembling little lit lanterns.
Of the two varieties known, the most common is bright red when fully ripe and has a slight resinous taste. The second variety reaches a very dark red to almost purple-black when ripe and it is much sweeter.
We have two large shrubs in our yard of the latter, almost purple, sweeter variety. They have been trimmed in the past, but not as a uniform shaped hedge. At the moment they are about 10' tall and about the same size in span. They usually fruit about twice a year, in spring and fall, and have been covered in fruit for about three
weeks now. The birds don't seem to bother them and though in Florida they seem to attract fruit flies, I have not seen any pests around them here.
The taste is sweet with a slightly tart undertone. The bushes had been previously largely ignored, except to pick the occasional cherries off and eat them right then and there, but with the bumper crop this year I decided to see how I could use them and preserve them.
If the fall crop is as generous as this one, I will probably make some vinegar and jams for holiday gifts this year.
If there are any readers who have recipes using the cherries, I would love to hear from you.
SURINAM CHERRIES VINAIGRETTE
I like making flavored vinegar and I love collecting pretty glass bottles with the clamp type stoppers to use for my homemade vinegar. The vinegar from these cherries is a beautiful ruby red in color. Yields about 2 cups.
3 cups cherries, washed and hulled – not pitted
3/4 cup white distilled vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
Cook in a non-reactive saucepan until cherries are soft and mushy, about 20 minutes or so, stirring once in a while with a wooden or plastic utensil. Pass through a fine sieve, pushing as much of the pulp as you can through it.
Wonderful in mixed fresh green salads, with some crumbled goat cheese
feta and chopped toasted macadamia nuts.
Photo: Chicken, Papaya & Strawberry Salad with Toasted Macadamia Nuts & Surinam Cherry Vinaigrette (in bottle)
SURINAM CHERRY JAM
I decided to make syrup with the cherries to use with pancakes, waffles, over ice cream and also as a coulis with meats or fish. I guess the cherries have so much natural pectin in them that the result was more of a jam than syrup. Since I make small batches, to
be used within a couple of weeks, there is no need to use a water bath to preserve the jam for long storage. Yields about 3 cups.
4 cups cherries, washed and hulled – not pitted
3 cups sugar
Cook at medium-high heat in a large saucepan, stirring quite often in the beginning to prevent sugar from caramelizing in the bottom of the saucepan while it dissolves.
The cherries will release their juice as they soften. You won't have to stir so often after the fruit yields up most of the juices. Cook until very soft and mushy, about half an hour.
Pass through a fine sieve, pushing as much of the pulp as you can through it. Store in clean, open mouthed, glass preserve jars. Store in refrigerator and use within 2 weeks.
I think the jam would also be wonderful as a filling between layers of plain cake before icing.
Next time though, I will probably add some water to this batch and see if I get the syrup or coulis I was trying for this time around.
Photo: Surinam Cherry Jam - Delicious with Chévre (soft goat cheese)
EASY SURINAM CHERRY JAM TRIFLE
I love making trifles for dessert. They are so easy to make and very elegant and the combination of flavors and textures are pleasing to my taste.
1 Angel food cake – I used lemon-flavored – cubed
Surinam Cherry Jam
2 boxes of Vanilla pudding
Make the pudding according to package directions, but don't let it sit for long before using.
In a large glass bowl or trifle dish, start layering with 1/3 of the cubed pieces of cake. Drop little globs of the jam, dotting over the cubed cake pieces and let it dribble down into the open spaces.
Ladle 1/3 of the pudding over the cake and jam, letting it cover and dribble between the cubed cake pieces.
Repeat layering with the cake, jam and vanilla until you have three layers of each. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.