Friday, June 1, 2007

Loquats and More on Polenta

A few months ago, I spotted little yellow fruit growing on the tree in my yard. Since I'm not from Louisiana I had assumed that all trees with big, shiny green leaves were magnolias. Whoops. My landlord told me that it was a Japanese plum tree and that the fruit was edible. But what was I going to do with all that fruit? Some of it disappeared all on its own. The birds got a lot of it. And the neighborhood kids got a big chunk, too. I would come home from a walk to the library and see kids piling fruit into their doubled up shirts. When they saw me, they started running. I tried yelling, "Please! Steal my fruit!" but for some reason, that didn't work. One Saturday morning, the Jehovah's Witnesses showed up, and I convinced them to take some fruit. I even brought some to a party, but they weren't a great hit. There are between one and five seeds in each small fruit so it's a lot of work to eat. After all this, I was still left with a lot of Japanese plums. So I did what I always do when I have a dilemma. I turned to Google.

I found out that my Japanese plums were actually loquats. And loquats aren't the same as kumquats. I wonder if there's other "quat" fruit out there? I could only find one recipe for loquats on all of the Internet. And so I made it. My mom says this is the best thing I've ever cooked. But she's a ginger addict. If I added ginger to saw dust, she might say the same thing.

Loquat Chutney
10 lbs loquats (about a gallon)
3 1/2 c brown sugar
2 c white vinegar
2 T grated citrus peel (I used the peel from my loquats. I wasn't entirely sure if it was edible, but I haven't died yet)
2 T minced ginger (I didn't bother to peel it)

Remove the skins and seeds from the loquats. This will take a very long time, about 3 CDs of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Throw everything together in a pot and boil until it thickens. The original recipe said to boil for 45 mins. I think I boiled longer because it never seemed to thicken. But after it cooled, it got really thick. Whoops. Instead of 10 cups of chutney, I ended up with 3-4 cups of jam. It still tastes great spread on a toasted English muffin or a crumpet.

In polenta news, I keep making that recipe over and over again. It's a great thing to make when there's nothing in the cupboard. I haven't tried to broil it yet because I keep eating it all when it's soft. Here's the recipe I use. It's from the Bittman book I keep complimenting. Really, you should buy it.

3 1/2-5 c water (more for soft polenta, less for thick)
1 cup cornmeal (I get mine at the farmers' market. I'm sure there are all kinds of snobby standards about what sort of cornmeal to use. I say ignore 'em.)
salt and pepper

As you can see, there aren't a lot of ingredients. Bring the water to boil over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the corn meal a little bit at a time. Once all the cornmeal is incorporated, turn the heat to low. Whisk every once in a while to keep lumps from forming. After about five minutes, switch to a wooden spoon. Stir almost constantly until the polenta is done which can be anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes depending on how thick you want it. Season to taste.

I usually use less water and cook for less time because I'm impatient. I like to add a little butter or olive oil along with my seasonings at the end, too.

Someday, I'll have to try cooling and slicing the polenta. If any of y'all ever get around to doing that, let me know how it goes.