Each fall I anxiously await the arrival of the Jujube. A small, date-like tasting Chinese tree fruit. Also known as a Red Date. See my recipe below for delicious Jujube Butter.
I love to smear this all over a piece of well toasted sprouted grain bread and mix it into my warm morning oatmeal– especially delicious served along side a caramelized, pan cooked bone in pork chop! Yum!
Lucky for me- I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cultural diversity is vast, and has enriched my life many times, via my palate. As a recipient, I feel fortunate- encompassed by a plethora of flavors and generations of cultural food stories.
Good tasting food seems to be a universal language. By listening intently to the language of global comfort food from those surrounding me; I took note that there are many similarities to bond though. No matter how distant our differences are, there is always a general common denominator. It seems too be how we all emotionally bond to a food ingredient; or a family tradition surrounding a special food. People seem to always feel warmth recalling that familiar comfortable meal, or that one special ingredient from their past. One of them, I will never forget.
The Jujube is actually a 4000 year old crop. And only eight years ago, our paths crossed. Unable to re-connect; I’ve been wondering about this exotic fruit since.
Peter was his name. He owned the nail salon in between, The UPS store and my culinary school for children; Kids Culinary Adventures. We shared a common wall. All of us small business owners became very good friends.
Occasionally, we would drop in on one another during slow periods – share meals, or snacks. Chat for a quick five – ten minutes here and there. We always shared the abundance of harvest and especially holiday times. I noticed right away each of us would always represent our cultural heritage though food. It’s how we communicated.
The day Peter approached me with a Jujube, I could tell immediately there was something special something about his share this time. I could see how proud he was to show his treasured delicacy . A food so very hard to find here in the United States. ( at the time) The type of food that when you do find it, you only share among the best of your friends and your family members.
It was a rainy day. The wind was blowing. Peter walked in my front door with a white plastic bag. It was filled with several little tiny pieces of unique looking fruits. They looked like miniature Bartlett pears, but the shape was all wrong. It really took me a minute to get my brain to catch up to my eyes. I had never seen anything like them before and I was very curious.
I remember my first bite. But what I remembered more- was how excited Peter was. Now I know why. He and I were good friends, but still shared somewhat of a slight language barrier. Curious, regarding this treasured food source, I questioned him. His sister also worked next door and sometimes acted as a translator when we were really stuck. Jujube – well, was a sticking point. Although, Peter couldn’t tell me much about it. I felt honored that he was sharing with me.
Still very vivid –the moment I looked at this fruit, I knew it was unique. I had never seen anything like it before.
When I touch the jujube, it fell firm. But from a distance the flesh looked soft. I asked again- the name of this fruit, and where can I get more? Peter didn’t know it’s name… he told me it was a, ” Vietnamese Apple”. Or maybe that’s what I understood him to say. I’ve seen Asian pears, but I’ve really never seen a tiny Vietnamese Apple. So for the next 8 years- I scoured the San Francisco Bay Area looking for tiny Vietnamese apples. You know the kind…. the ones that do not exist!
I spent a few years asking everyone if they ever seen, or heard of a Vietnamese Apple; with no luck. (Possible several laughs at my expense I’m sure! ) I wondered why I could never find this delicious fruit anywhere. I knew I didn’t have the name correct-and since then, Peter and I have both moved on from our once neighboring brick and mortar locations.
Lucky for me – a few years later, farmers have been permitted to grow Jujube orchards in the US. Today at my local Farmers market, I happened to walk by a large tray of fruit that caught the corner of my eye. It looked so familiar to me – so familiar that I stopped walking dead in my tracks. I slowly turned my head- looking over my shoulder at the tray of fruit. Bingo! Was it really what I thought it was? I slowly travel three large steps backwards. I stopped again, and just stared. Wow. Could it be? Was I dreaming? I touched, I smelled, and looked at the sign labeled, “Jujube”. Thinking to myself – very suspiciously…. have I been reunited?
Yes! Immediately, I felt a waft of the past recalling quickly by my brain–rushing up to remind me. All at once, my unexpected fond memories of Peter and his sister appeared. And the delicious essence of my beloved Jujubes came forward. What a warm, welcome surprise on a brisk Fall day. Who knew.
The farmer immediately identified my interest and choose a perfectly ripe piece for me. He shared with pride, just like Peter had. I touch and tasted. He educated me. We exchanged. Immediately, I knew this was the dance I had danced before. I just wasn’t sure if I really was dreaming, or I actually stumbled onto the fruit I have longed to devour once again.
Because I am deeply in love with the Jujube- my palate was completely seduced. The sweet subtle finish of a perfectly ripe pear and when you think you’ve had it all — a slight waft of date and honey floats fown the sides of your tongue and your throat. Leaving you speechless with questions.
Because I am texture eater- the Initial first crunch really captures me, then the subtle sweet floral perfume and rich flavor is so unexpected. It sorta holds you hostage. Moments later, you fall just a bit deeper. Just a taste of this beautiful fruit transcended me back to the day, the sounds, the smells of the very day my dear friend Peter introduced me to the jujube. I miss Peter. Who knows where he is today.
Only treasured in Asian markets. And me- the crazy lady searching all over for it. We can all be grateful for a a list of new farmers at the local outdoor markets selling this delicious, delicately perfumed little nugget of love.
The Jujube is finally getting it’s day, and gaining much popularity here in the U.S. The season is very short, so get out there and hunt your Jujube! Flavor your life. Below is my recipe for, Jujube Butter. I love to smear this all over a piece of well toasted sprouted grain bread or add it to my warm morning oatmeal. It is especially delicious served along side a caramelized, pan cooked bone in pork chop! Yum!
1 pound of fresh, ripe jujubes, pitted. Choose only the fruit where the skins are brown and wrinkly, they are ripe and ready for cooking.
¾ cup filtered water
1-2 Tablespoons sugar, or honey
1 tablespoon of good quality brandy ( optional)
Pinch of Kosher salt, additional to adjust seasoning
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of fresh nutmeg
½ of a vanilla bean, seeds scrape or ½ t vanilla extract)
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
In a small saucepan, add the pitted jujubes, water, sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
Bring to a boil, and quickly reduce to a simmer. Cover with a tightly fitted kid and continue to cook for 30-40 minutes or until jujubes are cooked through when poked with a fork.
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, and puree- scraping the sides as needed, process until smooth.
Return the puree to the saucepan. Add the bourbon, Ignite ( optional ) by shaking the pan and tilting towards the flame on your gas stove- cook alcohol off by waiting till flame extinguishes. Add vanilla bean pod and seeds. Stir. Allow to simmer on low until liquid reduces to reveal a thick and spreadable consistency about an additional 30-50 minutes remove from heat and allow to cool.
Taste. Adjust seasoning with salt and lemon juice to make a bit tart if your enjoy that taste..
Remove vanilla bean pod, disguard. Store jujube butter in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.
Makes 1 pint. Yum!
Chef Gigi is recognized nationally as an expert in culinary education. She specializes in families and adults to help increase nutritional awareness and help take some of the stress out of being a busy-aware adult. Chef has coached thousands of children and adults how to shop, prep, cook and eat better. She has developed signature techniques while teaching two decades of hands on classes, private events, public speaking, writing, professional culinary demonstrations, television and radio engagements.Gigi, also was the former Academic Director who wrote and implemented the famed French Culinary School- Le Cordon Bleu’s, Hospitality Management Program. Currently, Gigi works as a freelance food writer, learning and development coach– while continuing as an instructional designer. Chef co-authored, “Learning with Little Lulu Lemon” and has appeared in a variety of media outlets including, Radio Disney and Bay Area local television broadcast with Spencer Christian, on NBC’s “View from the Bay” and CBS, “Eye on the Bay”. Regularly contributed to a monthly column, ” The Family Kitchen” for Bay Area Parent Magazine; a subsidiary of Dominion Parenting Media is the nation’s largest publisher of regional parenting magazines.In 2015 Chef Gigi went on to study at the National Association of Sports Medicine to further understand the impact of movement and nutrition on our bodies.Chef Gigi keeps bees, chickens and grows her own food. Chef contributes monthly to Urban Gardeners Republic with amazing recipes for the garden. Be sure to follow her here.
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