Land of Fruits and Nuts – Preserving the Harvest – Day 5 – Loquats & Loquat Jelly

bigstock-Loquats-7718853It is May 6, 2013, and loquat trees hang heavy with fruit in Southern California. Driving home from picking up my kids from after school care, we pass 6 or 7 trees in our relatively short drive just covered with fruit – trees that are in the area between a house and the sidewalk. It would be wonderful if all that fruit could be picked and used.

However, I have found that loquats bruise very quickly and spoil – I’ve had loquats spoil overnight. And we’ve got at least 3 loquat trees at the Land of Fruits and Nuts so I really don’t need any more loquats. I hope the birds and other animals enjoy the loquats . . . .

What to do with loquats? They are wonderful eaten fresh, although the season is relatively short.  I like loquats. Ripe loquats are juicy and delicious. The taste is a bit like an apricot, with some citrus zing. We have two types of loquats – small ones, about the size of a large grape, and big ones, about the size of a small apricot. I’m not sure whether these are two different types of loquats or not.

But I could never eat 3 trees worth of loquats before the fruit goes bad.  So, I tried turning the loquats into jelly, having stumbled upon an approved recipe at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. I also understand that loquats are used for medicinal purposes, particularly in China. If I have time, I’m going to research making loquat cough drops or a syrup.

The loquat jelly recipe calls for 4 cups of loquat juice. To get the juice, you have to remove the seeds from the fruit and also the blossom end, then boil them in water and strain. Removing seeds from loquats is a time-consuming process. Cutting them is difficult, because there are usually 2 to 3 seeds inside, and you end up wasting a lot of flesh. I found the easiest thing to do was to stick my thumb in the process end and pull the seeds out, discarding the seeds and the blossom end. Then I put the remaining portion in a pot.

This takes forever, particularly with a large pile of fruit. I did it while I watched television, but I would recommend having a canning party and inviting some friends over. You will be covered with pieces of pale orange flesh, and the loquats will be jammed under your nails.

After de-seeding and removing the blossom end from the large pile of fruit I had picked, I covered the fruit with water and brought to a simmer on the stove to soften the pulp and flesh. This took about 30 minutes. I then strained, pressing the flesh to get all of the juice.

I found I had 12 cups of juice left. At this point, I was exhausted, this process having taken me almost 3 hours. So, instead of moving on to making the jelly, I refrigerated the juice and cleaned up before going to bed. Day 6 will be about making (and tasting) the loquat jelly.