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[Howto] Sweet Pickled Kamias

Coming back to my hometown in Iloilo around late October to early November is almost a yearly routine for me. When I visited last year, my mother told me that I have just missed the kamias (Averrhoa bilimbi, iba, cucumber tree, or tree sorrel) tree bearing a lot of fruits (they do not really use the fruit much here in my hometown and oftentimes are just left to drop on the ground - which is such a waste in my opinion). The effect of hearing the word "kamias" is almost instantaneous for me - my salivary glands would start working on overdrive and my lips would start to pucker imagining the intense sour flavor of the crunchy cucumber-shaped fruit just dipped in a bit of sea salt. I always had a weakness for sour things since I was young and memories of picking fruit from a neighbor's tree made me come out of the house to where our tree was and looked for stragglers that were still stubbornly clinging to the tree (the fruits develop on the trunk so it is not that difficult to get them). I did manage to get a handful of fruits and was happily munching away by the end of the afternoon. A few days later we visited a friend's house and lo and behold, their kamias tree was full of fruit. My mom (embarrassingly) told everyone how I stripped our tree clean the other day and so our gracious host (who by the way just so happen to be my godmother) gave me a big bag of these fruits (around 3 kilograms worth by my estimation). They don't really keep very well and there was no way that I could just eat them like I did with sea salt.  I needed a way to preserve them and I thought of making half into pickled kamias and the rest into candied fruit. Another way of preserving them is by drying /desiccating. Sun-dried kamias is a good ingredient for sinaing na tulingan and paksiw na isda.

Kamias when eaten as is or simply dipped in a little bit of sea salt (which I love doing despite the fact that eating too much might not be good for you), it can sometimes have a distinctive "mapakla" aftertaste. I can't really provide a direct translation to this word. Most translations would define it as acrid, astringent, or pungent, but it is more of that sensation of having a thick coating in your mouth and tongue when you eat a fruit that is not yet optimally ripe. Like the aftertaste of unripe bananas if that makes sense to you. Apparently, this is caused by tannins and calcium oxalates present in the unripe fruit.

This is how I make pickled kamias:

Kamias strips in some pickling liquid

1 Kilogram of kamias, washed and cut into 2 lengthwise
1 cup of sea salt
pickling liquid: 1 is to 1 of coconut vinegar (or red cane vinegar) and refined white sugar  


Freshly picked Kamias fruit

In a large bowl, mix the kamias with the sea salt. Let it stand for at least an hour. The fruit should release a lot of its liquid and you will end up with the fruit sitting on a briny liquid. This helps get rid of that "mapakla" sensation in your mouth. 

Kamias cut lengthwise and liberally salted to sweat out the juices
Heat the pickling liquid (a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and white sugar) in a saucepan and let it simmer for a few minutes making sure to dissolve all the sugar.

Drain the fruit from the brine liquid and arrange it however you want in clean heat safe jars with lids (you don't have to rinse the salt off, most of the salt should have dissolved into the resulting brine). Pour enough of the hot pickling liquid just enough to cover the fruits. Cover the jars and let the liquid cool down before storing them inside the refrigerator. Let it stand for at least overnight before tasting it to give the pickling juice to permeate inside. These would last for at least a week to a couple of weeks. Consume as a side dish for fried or grilled meat dishes (similar to atchara).

This version tends to be on the sweet side. Adjust the amount of sugar to your preference.

1 comment

Billy B said...

Thank you for sharing this