Thursday, July 9, 2009

fruits of our non labor

Even though my entire childhood and a good part of my adult life was spent in Florida, whenever I come back to visit, I'm always surprised—even a little shocked—by my former home's natural beauty. The fruit trees! The sunsets! The neon-green iguana running around my parents' backyard! Maybe my newfound appreciation for nature has something to do with living in New York, or maybe I always took my tropical surroundings for granted.

On a walk with my dad last week, we noticed dozens of bright red lychees scattered across the sidewalk. They weren't someone's spilled snack. Looking up, we were surprised to find a tree heavy with fruit. I was stunned. Lychees—who knew? Although most of them were split open and roasting in the sun, the jaded New Yorker in me did a mental calculation of how much lychees cost per pound in the grocery store. In Florida, they are a tropical feast for the ants.

And it's the same with avocados, bananas, starfruit, citrus, herbs—everything is overgrown from the constant rain. Coupled with the stupefying heat, Florida summers are lush and heady.

I've written before about the neverending bounty of mangoes in my parents' house, and this summer is no exception. I came home to find dozens ripening on the kitchen windowsill and in baskets, my parents clearly losing their taste for them by the day. You can only puree and freeze so many batches. But it feels wrong to waste mangoes, even though in almost every South Florida backyard there are piles of rotten fruit left by people who are overwhelmed by their overproductive trees.

Always enterprising, Mom Googled a recipe for mango ketchup after reading about it in a magazine. I had my doubts—it didn't contain tomatoes or tomato paste, so would it really taste like ketchup? But we had nothing but time and mangoes on our hands, so we tried it.

After adding some spices to mango puree and simmering the mixture until it cooked down, the sauce became sweet and fragrant, like a fruity barbecue sauce. Not quite a ketchup in my book, but a tasty condiment all the same. And because it was made in Florida, it was essentially free.

Mango ketchup
This sauce, adapted from Allen Susser from Chef Allen's restaurant, is sweet and spicy, much like a fruity barbecue sauce. You can serve it on burgers, like we did, but chicken, pork chops, and lamb would also work really well.
(Makes about 3 cups)

4 medium mangoes, pitted, peeled, and chopped
2 oz. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup white or rose wine
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or chipotle powder
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Puree the mangoes in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add all other ingredients and puree until combined. In a heavy saucepan over low heat, cook the mixture until reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat and cool. Strain the mixture through a sieve. Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to meld.


Anonymous said...

Maybe we could sell this stuff to
C. R. Chicks off the "Mango Truck"?

Megan and Butch! said...

The mango ketchup looks awesome. I bet it would be great on barbecued pork or shark steaks.
This post makes me want to go home and pick fruit, though my parents' orange trees are long gone (thanks, citrus canker!)
I don't know if you remember, but Faith McLean's backyard had lychees growing in it, along with mulberries, oranges, and limes. I just took it all for granted back then. I miss it now.

Lisa said...

Anony: Mango that's an idea.

M&B: I don't remember lychees in Faith's yard but I definitely remember how we climbed the mulberry tree and ate the berries. And all of the plants and overgrown stuff in her yard. Talk about a tropical paradise.

Daniel said...

C.R. Chicks! Shark steaks! Can we make these comments any more Florida-centric? How about gator kebabs? Or maybe mango sorbet with a light sprinkling of hanging chads?

Claudia said...

Mango ketchup! How perfect for summer. Lucky you to come from there. I came from NYC and although remain a diehard New Yorker - I always needed a break from cement! (Altho' not in NYC anymore). Anything with mangoes works for me.

Lisa said...

Daniel: Mmm...chads.

Claudia: A break from cement--you said it perfectly! Thanks for reading.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin