Thursday, August 30, 2012

sun-oven baked jujube butter

Jujube, or red date, also has a fabulous latin name: Ziziphus zizyphus. It is an Asian species, but is very hearty and tolerates the high desert climate wonderfully. Unlike apples, pears, and peaches which are far more commonly-grown here, insects do not seem to bother with jujubes...though we do have a family of foxes who like to come around late at night to snack (rather loudly, I might add...) on the ripe ones that fall to the ground. Occasionally a bird will peck through the fairly thick skin, but otherwise we get to keep as many fruits as we can harvest. From a small grove of trees, we've been picking between 5 and 10 lbs per day for a week or so during august - by now the crop has dwindled down to a pound or two per day. The trees are a bit thorny, so perhaps that is a deterrent to many creatures.

Jujube fruits are small, about the size of a date and with a date-like pit, but with flesh and flavor more like an apple. You can eat them right off the tree, but we like to cook them down into a butter. It's a bit of a process, but the result is sublime!

The wikipedia page contains a wealth of excellent info about this wonderful tree and its fruits - including its purported medicinal uses. In Asia jujubes are revered for their stress-relieving properties.

We make our jujube butter in the sun oven, but you can easily adapt the recipe for stove top:


Place 2 lbs jujubes in a black enamel pot covered in water along with a cinnamon stick, a few cloves, and a chunk of ginger. No sugar is necessary!!

Cook 2 - 3 hours at 350F.

Once the fruits are soft and cool enough to handle, the pits will pop out quite easily by hand (we find this method of pitting easier than using a cherry pitter in the raw phase).

Smash the pitted fruits using a food mill to remove skins. 

Place the sweet sludge back in the sun oven, and cook for another hour or two. 

Prepare canning jars (recipe will fill 2 jars). Fill with hot jujube butter. Follow your usual canning procedure (for us this means putting the jars in a water bath in the sun oven for several more hours). 

Much like a butterscotchy-flavored apple butter,  jujube butter can be paired with sweets or savory things. Excellent with cheese and bread, or a few tablespoons added to recipes for baked goods, such as scones. Also great in a smoothy, or on top of yogurt or ice-cream!

(please see also my SUN OVEN BLOG for more recipes!)

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