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November 2006


Guava Season!


Guava, Kuawa (Psidium guajava) is a native of tropical America that was brought to Hawai`i where it grows wild and is considered a pest in some places around the islands. But raw or cooked guavas contain iron, calcium and phosphorus and more vitamin C than found in oranges. The varieties distinguished by Hawaiians are: kuawa-lemi, lemon guava with sour, pink pulp; kuawa momona with bigger seeds, thicker skin and sweet pink pulp; and kuawa ke`oke`o, with whitish pulp. (from In Gardens of Hawaii by Marie C. Neal, Bishop Museum Press.)

When I remembered that it was now guava season in Hawai`i, I asked my friend Vinnie Shishido about her guava jelly. This was right after the 6.7 earthquake and I’m thinking that all the guavas must have fallen from the trees. Here’s Vinnie’s reply:


I was walking the dogs when the quake hit us in Hilo, and this was the first time I've ever experienced a quake outdoors. I could actually feel the ground beneath my feet jolt and rock me enough that I had to brace my stance.  The dogs were not afraid or barking but they did notice my moment of panic.  Now every time we pass Katsumi Nii's house they hesitate and I have to tug them along because that's where we were on our neighborhood walk when the quake hit.  Being outdoors I could hear the rumbling of the houses as they shook and I could see the telephone poles and electrical lines swaying in unison down the street.  I could also hear books falling off a make-shift shelf the student renters had made in the house next to the Nii's, and their bamboo chimes rattled off harmoniously from the second story balcony of their house.  I turned around and hurried home to see if our place was ok. Lucky we had no damage at all, the pool water was still sloshing back and forth when I checked out the back patio for any damage or cracks in the pool, and everything was A-ok.

Guava season this year is still on.  Lots of guava falling off trees, lilikoi coming along the same time too. Photo by Rod Wong I make guava jelly.  I usually prefer jam because I enjoy the fiber you get from the fruit pulp, but with guavas I prefer jelly.  To make jelly is a long talk story project.

The recipe is simple: 1c, sugar to each cup of strained pulp liquid.  The trick is not to cook more than 4 cups at a time till the liquid sets or jells.  That sounds easy but I've found out there are many tricks to making good guava jelly. For instance, when you pick the guavas, you gotta pick half-ripe guavas too.  At least half of the amount of guavas you pick must be half-ripe to soft-green stage, the rest can be fully ripe to rotting.  You see, the pectin comes from the half-ripe to soft-green fruit.  I don't pick more than 16 quarts of fruit at a time because that much fruit will yield me about 24 qts of cooked pulp.  From that I can get enough fruit liquid to make 2 cases of pint size mason jars and about a dozen Gerber junior size jars of jelly.  Any more than that and I'm too exhausted to continue cooking. 

So you see, I pick the fruit early in the morning, wash, trim, and slice the fruit and by mid- morning I like to get the fruit simmering and cooked to the pulp stage.  Most people just quarter the guavas and cook them like that.  But if you halve the guava and then proceed to slice each half in 1/4 " slices, the fruit will cook faster.  I have a large 24 qt. aluminum stock pot for cooking fruit.  Must be aluminum and not stainless steel.  Believe me it does make a difference.  

There is also a method how to cook the fruit: Put the half ripe fruit slices on the bottom of the pot first then fill the top half with the riper guava slices, then fill to 2" below the top of the fruit line with water, then cook the fruit.  You must boil the fruit till it gets really loose and soft, almost to the point where it is falling apart.  Let the fruit cook undisturbed for at least 1/2 hour before stirring the pot. The greener fruit takes longer to cook, so it must remain on the bottom of the pot for the first 1/2 hour. I usually cook the fruit for about hour and half.  Lots of water will be given up by the riper guavas and the flavor comes from the riper guavas. Do not mash the fruit or your liquid will be cloudy. 

After the fruit reaches the extra soft stage pour the whole mess into a large jelly bag.  I use a very clean 25 lb cotton rice bag that has been passed on to me by my late mother-in-law.  She told me to rinse it well after using and follow-up with a wash in mild detergent.  She said never be tempted to use bleach on it because it will weaken the fiber.  She had the jelly bag for over 25 years and it's still in excellent shape.  It has a draw string opening that she made herself.  After filling with the fruit pulp I cinch the opening and tie it to suspend over my largest Tupperware bowl to catch the fruit liquid as it drips.  The dripping process can take up to 3 hours.  I suspend the bag from the door knob of my overhead kitchen cabinet, while the Tupperware bowl sits on the counter top directly under the dripping bag. 

As the liquid drips I measure out 4c of liquid at a time and cook it with 4c sugar.  I use the large stock pot that I originally cooked the fruit in to make the jelly.  You must use a large pot even if you are only cooking 4c at a time.  It should also be made of aluminum.  Stainless steel heats at a higher temperature and your jelly will be darker in color.  My mother-in-law said good guava jelly should be light amber in color, almost like a light honey color. The large size of the pot helps the setting go faster. 

The longer you have to cook the fruit liquid, the darker the jelly becomes.  The timing of the jelling is usually about 10 to 14 minutes. You should start the timing when the liquid comes to a full rolling boil.  At ten minutes you should check to see if the liquid starts to sheet of the back of a wooden spoon.  If the fruit has released a lot of pectin the jelling should start at ten minutes; sometimes if you use too much ripe fruit, the liquid will take longer to start to jell. You must keep checking for the sheeting effect once you hit the 10 minutes of full boil. 

If you use a large pot, the liquid will not bubble over the rim.  If it does, your pot is not large enough, and the mess is a hassle to clean up after.  I always cook the jelly at high heat, never at medium or low.  If you have to cook the jelly past 18 minutes you have added too much water initially when you started to cook your fruit.  The longer you cook the jelly the darker it will become.  Also at about 10 to 12 minutes you should be able to hear a "plop plopping" sound as a sure sign that the jelling process has started.  It takes the ear of an experienced jelly maker to recognize that sound.  I can recognize it well enough now that I usually do not have to use a timer anymore.  

All I can say is that you learn more about jelly making the more you do it.  I have learned the hard way by finding out the next morning that the liquid did not set and remained in the syrupy stage, so I dumped it out.  But my sister-in-law Janet saves her syrupy jelly and uses it as pancake syrup or glaze for her ham or Spam. She is a very experienced jelly maker, but every now and then she'll make a lousy batch too. 

When the jell stage has been reached, you must take your pot off the stove and set in your sink tipped at a slight angle.  I usually set the pot in the groove of the drain, leaning the back of the pot on the rim of the sink.  Leave the jelly to rest for about 2 minutes.  At this time the bubbles will subside and whatever is left floating of the top will set slightly so that you can remove all of the excess floaters with a large soup spoon with one sweep of the surface, leaving you just clear liquid to pour off into your clean and sterilized jelly jars.  If you are careful at pouring, very few bubbles will appear on the surface of your jars. Again wait 3 to 4 minutes for the surface to set slightly then remove any bubbles with a clean teaspoon.  After decanting the jelly from the cooking pot, you do not have to wash out the pot - just clean off any external drips on the outside of the pot before starting the next batch. If you fail to do this the external drips will burn and stick to the burner on the stove. 

To sterilize my jars, I first wash them in soapy water and rinse in hot water the night before. When I’m waiting for my fruit to cook, I start to sterilize my jars by filling each jar with about 1/3 c. water and stacking about 5 pint size jars in my microwave oven and cooking them on high for 5 minutes. Usually the water will boil off by the time 5 minutes is up. If not, I carefully remove the extremely hot jars from the microwave and tilt the jars to spill off any excess liquid, then set them on a clean towel upright.  As the jars cool to room temperature, any excess droplets will evaporate.  I do not boil my jars anymore because this way is much easier and so far I have not had any jelly go bad on me. 

Back to the jelly filled jars... after sitting about 5 to 8 minutes, the surface has cooled enough to accept the hot wax for sealing.  Then that's it. I usually give the wax-sealed jelly 24 hrs to cool completely before I put the lids on. 

This year has been an excellent year for guava jelly making and now my shelves are full for holiday giveaways and family consumption.  I just missed the yellow waiwi season.  It was too short and lots of fruit ripened and dropped by the time I got inspired to make jelly again.  Maybe I'll catch the red waiwi season.  Lilikoi is a bit trickier because it lacks natural pectin so you must combine it with another fruit.  I use that juice for drinking or making chiffon pies.  That's my talk story contribution on guava jelly making.  -Vinnie

When I asked Vinnie to explain how she made guava jelly, I had no idea it was so complicated. Shows you how much I know about making guava jelly. But I think these activities are becoming a lost art, so I’m glad to know someone who’s not only keeping it alive, but can write it all down so it can be passed on. ~RdC


Since it’s hard for us to get fresh guava here in the Pacific Northwest, Sue Suenishi from Pāhoa, Hawai`i but now living in Selah, Washington, takes frozen guava concentrate and follows the directions on the box of pectin when she’s `ono for guava jelly in Eastern Washington. Below are some other recipes that use frozen guava concentrate.


Guava Chiffon Pie


1 Tb gelatin Red food coloring
1/3 c. water
4 egg whites
4 egg yolks
¼ tsp salt
3 Tbs. sugar
½ c. sugar
1/3 c. lemon juice
½ c. heavy cream
1/3 c. guava nectar (frozen)
a 9” baked pie shell

Add gelatin to water and set aside. Combine egg yolks, 3 Tbs. sugar and lemon juice. Cook over low flame until thick, stirring constantly. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Cool. Add guava nectar and food coloring (if desired). Beat egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks. Gradually add ½ c. sugar, beating until stiff peaks are formed. Gently fold in guava mixture and pour into cooled pie shell. Chill until set. Just before serving, whip cream and sweeten with 2 tsp sugar. Top pie with whipped cream.

From Hilo Gas Company, September 1955


Guava Eggnog

Combine in a shaker

2 cups frozen guava nectar, defrosted but still chilled
1 Tb confectioner’s sugar
1 ½ tsp lemon juice
1 egg
A few grains of salt
¼ c. cracked ice

Shake ingredients well. Serves four.

From The New Wiki Wiki Kau Kau, 1952


Guava Gelatin

3 pkgs gelatin
½ c. sugar
¾ c. water
2 c. boiling water
1 pkg. strawberry jello (3 oz)
1 can frozen guava nectar (6 oz)

Mix gelatin and cold water and set aside. Mix flavored gelatin, sugar and boiling water. Add cold water mixture to hot mixture. Add guava nectar and stir until dissolved. Pour into pan and refrigerate.

From Still Many More of Our Favorite Recipes – Island of Maui Maui Extension Homemakers’ Council 1972

Guava Kanten


2 sticks red kanten – shredded
1 c. sugar
3 c. water
1 can frozen guava nectar, thawed

Cook kanten in water until dissolved. Add sugar, cook 15 minutes. Add thawed guava nectar. Strain for clearer kanten. Pour into mold and refrigerate until firm.

From Church of the Holy Cross Cookbook – 1981  

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