For most locavores it’s coffee. For me, it’s fruit. And chocolate, but that’s another post for another day. And rum, but again; we’re getting off track.
Fruit. Sweet, glorious, exotic fruit. Mangoes and papayas and star fruit and ugly fruit and kiwis and pineapples, oh my! I am an equal opportunity lover, I’ve never met a fruit I didn’t care for. Of course, living in North America — and not just any part of North America but one of the more frigid and snowy sections — severely limits the amount of fruit I can source locally.
Our state grows stupendous strawberries, our own woods are filled with the most incredible wild black raspberries you’ll ever eat, and we’re fortunate that Michigan apples keep year-round — you know, because the kids take the whole ‘an apple a day business’ quite seriously.
Even cherries are grown here by the bushel, with the northwestern portion of the lower peninsula producing most of the country’s supply of tart cherries. But no matter how scrumptious they are, no matter how plentiful, I’ve never quite been able to completely wean myself off the pleasures of the world’s more tropical locales. I temper my guilt with the knowledge that most everything else comes not just from local sources, but much from our own backyard. And, to some extent, by buying them primarily in-season. As if that offsets the idea that twenty-some pounds of mangoes have to be shipped to me from guatemala in order to make a batch of preserves.
Preserves that I’ll spread on toast and mix with oatmeal. Preserves that will be added, a dollop at a time to bowls of cottage cheese and painted on pork chops before their date with a hot grill on a cool summer’s night. I think I like preserves most because they serve so many functions. They’re good for every meal, and even desert. They can be whipped into pie fillings for an extra zing and spooned over vanilla ice cream to make an ordinary bowl anything but mundane.
It’s in those moments, when I consider how far they’ll go, how versatile they are, that the adoration offsets the guilt and I’m convinced even for just a second that shipping them in isn’t so bad.
The recipe I used was inspired by Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen — whose post on mango preserves contains recipes for other tropical preserves that look absolutely scrumptious, too — and when I say “inspired” I mean it’s pretty much precisely her recipe, but I made it almost five times larger because I haven’t the patience for small batch preserving.
I can’t stand the thought of running my canner for a tiny load and I don’t work as efficiently when I have to make several different recipes to fill it up. Why make four half-pints when I can make ten pints in hardly anymore time at all? (Is precisely what I think before accidentally boil mango syrup all over my kitchen because I overfilled my largest pot by about four inches, but who’s keeping track?)
Large Batch Mango Preserves
10 pounds 2 ounces Diced Mango
13.5 Cups Sugar
Juice of 4.5 Lemons
Combine all ingredients. Let sit overnight.
Strain out fruit. Pour syrup into a large pot and bring to 218 degrees.
Add fruit to syrup and bring back to a boil for 15-20 minutes or until the syrup begins to sheet off a cold spoon.*
Ladle into pint jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Makes about 10 pints.
* I’ve found with large-batch preserves that the spoon test isn’t always accurate, but the preserves will set up once cooled, regardless.