31 Days of Life in my Hawaii Day 10:: Food: Strawberry Guava

Since this series is about life in my Hawaii, I might be including elements of island life that are kind of a big deal for me, but to which another islander might say, “Huh?”  One such thing in the food category is the strawberry guava, known here as waiawī.

This little fruit often gets a bum rap because it isn’t actually native to Hawaii, and in fact is considered an invasive species where it grows wild up in the rainforests.

We have four trees in our yard, one in the front and three in the back, and they are pretty productive most years. This year we had a bit of a bumper crop, so that meant a couple of things for The Coach and me: raking, and jelly.

Nice to have a “helper” when you’re raking

Our backyard trees. If you click on the image you’ll see there is a lot of fruit on the trees to be picked, and even more on the ground to be raked.

When we first moved into this house, we watched the trees blossom, then the little green fruits appear, then ripen, then finally fall to the ground. So every day we’d rake them up by the dozens of pounds and toss them; this went on for several years before it occurred to us that maybe we should actually do something with all that fruitiness. Thus began our adventures in strawberry guava jelly.

My mother-in-law had some experience in that department, but the first time we attempted to make jelly, she was away on a trip, so we had to kind of find our way on our own. The Coach’s aunt, her sister, was some help, but mostly we learned our jelly-making through trial and error.

The process goes something like this: you need five pounds of fruit to make a case of jelly. So first you pick the fruit — five pounds comes out to about a gallon container of guavas — then you make juice. The juice making involves mashing and boiling the guavas with some water and lemon juice, then straining it through fabric bags, so that you end up with about 7 cups of juice.

When the juice is cooked with sugar and pectin, it’s a beautiful deep pink

Now you’re ready to make the jelly, half a case at a time. This requires two boxes of pectin per case, to help it set up, and lots and lots of sugar. I’m not going to tell you how much, because it’s enough to send you into a diabetic coma just thinking about it. Anyway. You boil the juice with the pectin, then add the sugar and bring it back to a boil, which you let it do for about two minutes.

Then you pour it into jars and that’s about it. The first year we did this we made two or three cases, the next year, maybe five. Which seemed like a lot, until last year we set a record: twelve cases.

Friends have suggested we should sell our jelly at farmers markets and such, but we just don’t want to work that hard. So mostly what we do is give it away for Christmas gifts and as thank-yous. And, of course, enjoy it on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The year we made eight cases

This is the tenth post in my series, 31 Days of Life in my Hawaii. Click here to get the links to the other posts in the series.

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