In my yard in Guyana stands a beautiful,mature and very prolific carambola tree. In my memory it was the perfect tree. It was not too tall that the fruit were inaccessible, nor too flimsy that it could not bear the burden of the fruit it bore; it was just right. Its mature trunk was thick and large enough to support the weight of several children clambering on and around it without bowing. The large branches looked like the open graceful arms of an Indian Goddess. As a child, the carambola tree’s long outstretched branches beckoned me to climb and explore. I often dreamed of building a tree house in the large boughs. The one thing which made this impossible was the fact that hairy worms also loved this tree. The stings often were a reminder that although they were almost invisible to the eye, they were the masters of the tree!
The bounty of five finger fruit was abundant and it seemed to me like it bore all year around. Often below, lay many fallen fruit which had accumulated at the base during the height of the season. We did not do much with the fruit beyond eating it fresh and making juice. The five fingers were tangy and sweet, and were perfect for making chow. If you’ve read my previous posts, you will know that a chow is a delicious fruit mixture seasoned with salt, sugar, hot peppers, lime or vinegar. All of these elements are the perfect enhancement to many fruit such as green mangoes, golden apples, gooseberries and dunks. When sliced, this strange 5 edged fruit takes on a unique and beautiful star shaped appearance validating the name star fruit.
Carambola or star fruit
Carambola is not very common in Haïti and as such, most people here may not know of its existence. Many years ago, a friend brought me some and asked if I knew the fruit. I was quite excited to see these familiar shapes, but when I tasted them, they lacked the edgy vibrant tang and sweetness that I associated with the ones I had grown up eating in abundance. I recently found a great source of this fruit of my childhood at my sister in law. Her tree is still quite young and does not as yet resemble the tree in my parent’s yard. I was quite surprised to discover that despite the small size of the tree, the fruit is of a superior quality and growing in abundance. The taste was also very similar to those I had grown up eating in Guyana. I was so happy to have received them and even went over a few days later to replenish my stock.
As per usual, I started to think of new ways to use this fruit which I was rediscovering all over again. First I ate them just simply cut up and enjoyed the natural flavor. I also devoured them adding salt and hot pepper as a good Guyanese would, for old times sake and to the dismay of my children. They roll their eyes and simply do not understand the Chow addiction of needing to eat every conceivable fruit with salt, pepper and vinegar. It’s a Guyanese thing!! I also made juice by blending the carambola with water and straining the fruit, then adding a bit of sugar and a squeeze of lime. These were all refreshing and delicious; but I really wanted to try something new.
I decided to make a jam from the remainder of the batch in hand as they were beginning to ripen and I could not stand the thought of seeing them waste. I am very happy with the results and I know that it can be preserved in this way and eaten past the bearing season. This type of jam is great with soft cheeses and is a perfect accompaniment on a cheese and charcuterie platter. The jam, can be used in the way a fig jam can be served as a condiment to foie gras or prosciutto. It can also be enjoyed with firmer cheeses such as a good Australian or Irish cheddar or a Gouda. The flavor is subtle but tasty. Here is my recipe for Carambola jam. It’s a great way of using up some of those fruit which bear in abundance, for those lucky enough to have one bearing in their garden.
Carambola jam on artisanals crackers
8- 10 carambola (star fruit) 3- 4 cups
1 cup sugar
1 piece of cinnamon
3 whole cloves
2 red hibiscus tea bags
Salt, a pinch
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
Peel the edges of the fruit and slice the fruit in rounds and then in quarters.
In a medium saucepan pour 2 cups water and heat. Put 2 tea bags into the hot water and allow to steep for about 10 minutes. I chose to do this to add flavor and color to my fruit as they were ripening and sweet. Once the carambola cooks they become a more translucent color, so I wanted to add a bit more of a rosy tone. The red hibiscus or sorrel is tart and that adds a nice flavor profile.
Water infused with red hibiscus tea bags and some spice. This was the base for boiling the fruit.
Add the cut carambola and pour enough water to cover the fruit. Cook on medium high heat until fruit becomes translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Drain well over a bowl and reserve the liquid.
Carambola steeping in red hibiscus tea
In the same saucepan over medium heat, pour the sugar and allow to cook until the sugar begins to melt and brown slightly. Add 1/4 cup of reserved liquid and a pinch of salt. Add the carambola, the cinnamon stick and cloves. Combine everything together and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes stirring frequently. When the liquid has absorbed, and the fruit has cooked down, add the balsamic vinegar. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Carambola fruit cooking in sugar and spices
This carambola jam is the perfect accompaniment on a cheese and charcuterie platter. Serve with slices of baguette, crackers or toast. Wonderful with cream cheese or any other soft cheeses such as Brie or Saint André. Also works well with Manchego or Gouda and prosciutto, or Serrano ham.
a cheese platter which would go perfect with the carambola jam