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Got mangoes? Photo by Serge Penton.

Got mangoes? Photo by Serge Penton.

This time of year mangoes are everywhere. There’s plenty to be had from Art’s tree, and the fruit is on sale right now at his Upper Eastside and Southwest Farmers Markets. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to chance upon a roadside stand with people selling off their backyard excess. And sometimes friends bring me mangoes. Last week, my co-worker Serge had his car stuffed with sacks and buckets of mangoes, picked from his tree. “Take as many as you like,” he told me. I scurried off with a bag full of Zills — then came to my senses — I can’t eat all these!

So every summer, the challenge remains, what to do with all those mangoes?

This summer (mostly because it’s been so hot) I decided to make mango ice cream. Non-dairy, vegan ice cream. Don’t worry, I’m still am omnivore, more or less, but lately dairy has dwindled from my diet. Coconut everything is all the rage, so how about… mango-coconut sherbet?

A quick search online came up with a very simple recipe: mango, coconut milk, sugar, lime juice. Serge suggested adding cinnamon, and I also added some ginger. The online recipe called for toasted flaked coconut, used as a topping, but I didn’t have any.

Mango-Coconut Sherbet

Ingredients:

3 cups peeled, seeded, cut up mangoes
1 12 oz. can coconut milk
sugar, lime juice, ginger, cinnamon

Instructions:

In a blender, puree mangoes together with coconut milk. Add lime juice, cinnamon, ginger and sugar to taste. When you like the flavors, pour the mix into the ice cream maker, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Makes one quart.

Donvier ice cream maker, from the 1980s. Still works!

Donvier ice cream maker, from the 1980s. Still works!

My trusty, 20 year old Donvier ice cream maker was pulled out of the pantry and put into back into service. It is super simple to use. Freeze the large cylinder overnight, and chill all the ingredients. Then pour the mix into the cylinder, insert the paddle, put the lid on, and attach the turn handle. This is an all-manual operation.

Almost done.

Almost done.

The liquid will freeze in contact with the cold cylinder. Every three minutes, turn the handle, which turns the paddle, which scrapes the frozen mix off the inside wall of the cylinder. Make one turn, then wait three more minutes, then do it again. If you wander off and come back 10 minutes later, you’ll discover it’s impossible to turn the handle. That’s where a butter knife comes in handy, to break up the frozen mix. Don’t break the paddle! Keep turning every three minutes until everything is frozen. The ice cream (or sherbet) will be of soft serve consistency. Pack it into containers and freeze it for at least an hour to firm up.

If you can’t find a Donvier, take a look at the Cuisinart ice cream maker which goes for about $70-80 on sale. Like my all manual Donvier, it has a cylinder that needs to be frozen overnight. For the added price, you get a motor that turns the paddle for you. How easy can it get! Now, to mix up another batch of mango sherbet…

Mango-Coconut sherbet

Mango-Coconut sherbet

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Kattia documents the arrival of Redland mangoes.

A person can move away from Miami but their craving for flavors of the place will stay for a long time. Case in point, friends Kattia and Chris moved away about 10 years ago, and live in tropical fruit exile all the way up in Sanford. If they want a fresh mango, they have to go to the store and settle for fruit imported from Mexico. They complained those out-of-season offshore mangoes just don’t have the flavor, juiciness and aroma of a home grown mango from Miami. And why should they? Imported fruit is picked half-ripe, then dunked in hot water to kill pathogens, which also kills taste.

I told my friends about the bumper crop we had this summer, and they asked when I was coming up. Right away, I replied, and loaded up my car with sacks of plump red and golden Kent mangoes from Paradise Farm, and headed north on I-95. About four hours later, I pulled into their driveway, and Kattia and I lugged eight pounds of mangoes and a box full of empty canning jars to her kitchen. 

“When life hands you mangos, make jam!” said Kattia with delight. (If this sounds like a familiar adventure, she and I made lychee freezer jam two summers ago.) The canning process she followed wasn’t all that difficult, even for a novice like me. “The trick to making cooked jam is to have everything ready and waiting to go,” she said. 

First, we made sure that everything we needed to use was clean and ready. Jars, rings and other utensils were run through the dishwasher beforehand. (If you don’t have a dishwasher, sterilize everything in a big pot of boiling water to kill any dangerous bacteria that can spoil food and make you sick.) 

As the dishwasher hummed, we peeled, seeded and chopped mangoes. Six cups of fruit were destined for jam, and went into a big pot to cook. (The rest of the fruit was stuffed into the freezer.) Lemon juice was added “to wake up the taste of mangoes,” and pectin was stirred in. “Pectin is what makes the jam set,” Kattia explained. “Pectin and lemon help mangoes give off juice.” She also added a bit of butter to reduce foaming as the mixture cooked.

Mashing chopped mango as it cooks. Note 5 and a half cups of sugar, and rings in the background, ready to go.

Out came the potato masher, and the fruit was smashed into smaller pieces, to the texture of rough applesauce. Heat was raised to a rolling boil — when you stir, bubbles keep forming — and the fruit mixture was stirred constantly. Sugar was quickly added, and stirred until everything came back to a rolling boil for one more minute. (If you think five and a half cups is a horrifying amount of sugar, keep in mind that this is called a low-sugar recipe. A regular amount would be 10 cups.)

When the mango mixture got soupy and looked translucent, it was time to fill up jars. “It helps to lay out everything you need because assembly goes quickly,” Kattia said. She set a wide mouth funnel into a jar, and ladled mango mixture up to the very neck. Next, using a magnetic grabber, she fished a lid out from a small pot of simmering water, centered it on top of the jar, and screwed on a ring. The filled, sealed jar was then turned upside down on a towel on the counter.

“With the inversion method of canning, the fruit goes to the top of the jar, and the air goes to the bottom of the jar,” Kattia explained. “When you flip it over, the air goes to the top, and creates a vacuum, and it seals the jar.”

Jam cooling upside down. When a jar is flipped over, the air inside will rise to the top and create a vacuum.

The jars stayed upside down until they were cool to the touch. This took about an hour or so. Then we turned them right side up and tested the seal. A properly sealed jar lid was hard, without any give. Two jars had lids that popped or flexed a little, and they went back upside down for about 15 minutes longer. (If that still didn’t do the trick, the jam would have to be eaten right away — what a tragedy! — or processed in a pot of boiling water for long term keeping.) The whole process took about two hours, including prep and filling jars.

Voila! We had jam! It wasn’t that difficult to make. The hardest part, and it’s not really that hard, is to track down canning supplies. Kattia bought jars, lids and canning paraphernalia at a nearby Super Wal-Mart. If your local store doesn’t carry what you need, you can find canning kits and jars online. Labels would be helpful if you’re making a batch to give away. 

When we were done, pretty golden jars of mango jam were lined up on Kattia’s counter. The sweet tropical taste of Miami’s summer had been captured to savor for later. (It’s not the same as having fresh mangoes, but the stash in the freezer comes close.) I drove back home with several jars, some to keep and some to share. My jar is meant for for medicinal purposes, as it were, for later in the year. A bit of sunshiney mango jam spread on buttered toast will chase away any gray winter blahs!

Kattia’s Mango Jam

6 cups mangoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbps. low or no-sugar pectin
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 pat of butter

Peel, seed and chop mangoes. Put them into a large pot with lemon juice and mash with a potato masher. Stir in butter and pectin and keep stirring. Raise heat to a boil. Skim off any foam. Then quickly stir in the sugar a bit at a time until it dissolves. Keep stirring at a rolling boil for 1 minute longer. When the mixture looks transparent, it is ready to put into jars.

Ladle mango mixture into a jar up to its neck. Do not overfill, as you need an air space. Wipe off any spills and put on the lid and ring. Place jar upside down on towel to cool. Repeat with other jars until all your mixture is used up. Let jars cool to touch, then turn over and test seal. If the lid pops, flip it over to sit for a few more minutes, or refrigerate.

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Monstrous mango

Ginormous mango — look closely at the scale to see how much it weighs.

Nothing says summer in Miami like eating one or two (or three) mangoes a day. And with massive quantities of mangoes available everywhere, that’s easy to do. Home grown or roadside mangoes just don’t compare to half ripe, faintly flavored fruit coming in from Mexico. Just do yourself a favor and don’t even look at those when you are surrounded by local abundance.

Bet you can’t eat but one of these monstrous mangoes! It came from Possum Trot Tropical Fruit Nursery, where Robert Barnum must be feeding it some amazing compost to grow that big. Can its extreme size be attributed to global warming? Look closely at the dial on the scale. It weighs over four pounds! Bet you can’t eat two!

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Summer has just begun and it’s already a scorcher! We’ve had above normal temperatures since April 26, according to the National Weather Service. Highs have been 90 degrees or above since May 30 (except for a slight dip to 88 on June 1). The heat index has been 100+ degrees most days. Last June was even hotter. Record temperatures were set on June 22, 2009 in Miami with a high of 98. Fort Lauderdale had a high of 100, tying an all time record. This summer feels hotter because temps have consistently been at 90 or above for 59 days and counting, while last summer temps were mostly in the high 80s with a few spikes in the 90s.

The last picture I took before getting chased off by a hot and cranky bee.

This crazy heat has an effect on livestock at Bee Heaven Farm. Chickens stand with their beaks open, panting, and hold their wings out a bit to their sides to try to cool off. Bees don’t like heat and get cranky. I passed by the hives when beekeeeper Miguel Bode was working with them a few weekends ago. One bee took offense to where I was standing, buzzed around my head, and chased me for a good distance. Lucky for me, I didn’t get stung but it felt close! Even the worms in the vermiculture bin have been suffering mightily. Instinctively they’ve dived down to the bottom of the bin, seeking cooler soil, but hit bottom instead. The Worm Guy (that’s what Margie calls him) advised chilling them down with frozen water bottles buried in the bin. Wigglers on the rocks, anyone?

I asked Farmer Margie what grows well in this kind of heat. “Weeds!” she exclaimed. Those weeds completely took over vegetable beds after Gleaning Day. Margie mowed them down, and now that she’s had two days without rain, she’s out on her tractor tilling the soil, preparing to plant cover crops.

Some summer fruit is finally starting to get ready, but running a little behind schedule because of the freeze this winter. The extended period of super cold weather caused plants to go dormant for weeks. Lychees (Mauritus variety) are bearing late this year. Margie pointed out that last year, a bumper crop of lychees were harvested in late May. This year the harvest began in mid-June, and the quantity isn’t quite as much.

Mauritus lychees from last summer.

Another casualty of the cold are mango trees which were in bloom in January when the freeze hit. The long stretch of freezing temperatures damaged blossoms. Some fruit set and grew, but then aborted and fell off. I’ve seen trees that don’t have as much fruit, and if they do, they’re not as plentiful and not as big or developed.

Half-grown Donnie avocado.

Avocado trees seemed to escape significant damage from the freeze in January. Branches are loaded with fruit several inches long, about the size of Haas avocados in the groceries. If you’re not familiar with Florida avocados, and you have a tree in your yard, don’t get confused and pick early! The varieties that grow here, especially the Donnies that Margie raises, get much much, much bigger than the Haas variety from California or Mexico. Last summer many Donnie avocados weighed in at 3 pounds apiece, and one giant weighed 4 pounds. Avocado picking will start in mid-July, also several weeks later than last summer.

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