Since our first year of marriage, the idea of becoming homesteaders has been a pleasant dream of ours. We often would think of the small things that we would do: raise goats and chickens, plant an orchard and a garden, and overall do our best to be self-sufficient.
Unfortunately, the Navy does not lend itself well to the large scale homesteading (nor for that matter does our wanderlust), but over the years we’ve picked up skills and learned how to make the most out of what we have. At first this looked like freezing and blanching extra produce in our apartment in Arizona. Then we tried our hand at gardening in South Carolina, and started one here in Hawaii as well. This year, we’ve had quite the crash course in processing fruit – specifically Mangoes.
When we were house hunting in Hawaii, we thought it would be cool to have an existing fruit tree, but it wasn’t on our “must-have” list since it was hard enough to find a place within our budget. After we moved into our house, we were overjoyed to learn from our neighbors that the giant tree in our yard produced the best, juiciest mangoes!
Last year, the tree started off with so many blossoms and tiny mangoes, but a big storm in April blew most of them off. We ended up with a measly 2-3 dozen mangoes, which we either ate, put in smoothies, or froze for later. This year started out the same with many blossoms in the spring, but we were hesitant to get excited knowing that one storm could knock them all out. However, no storm came, and our tree has outdone itself and produced 200+ mangoes! Not to be dissuaded, and with Curtis’ work schedule conveniently lighter for the summer, we were up to the challenge of making the most of this year’s bounty.
For those not as intimately familiar with mangoes there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of different mango cultivars. We have…a something or other. Maybe an Alampur? Regardless, all mangos have a thin resinous rind surrounding the edible flesh with a large flattened ovaloid pit in the center. Our mangoes will become full size fairly early on in the season (late May here) but will remain green and hard until late June through July when they ripen rather quickly. As they ripen, the flesh goes from a pale green through yellow and to a deep orange. The rind remains green until the very end when it might get a bit yellow. Our mangoes also ripen from the inside out, sometimes leaving a goopy mess in the middle of an otherwise normal exterior.
Curtis’ basic everday process of ripe mangoes consists of peeling the rind with a potato peeler, paring off any bad bits, slicing the two hemispheres from the pit, and then cutting the remaining flesh around the circumference of the pit. Firm yellow fruit has an acidic taste and is best for salsa, firm orange fruit is best for drying, and the juicy is blended, juiced or frozen.
Here’s what we’ve been doing with the mangoes:
Pickled Mango: The first few mangoes that fell weren’t quite ripe yet, but we knew that they were right for pickling. This is a food more popular in the Pacific countries and Latin America and is often sold by roadside vendors here in Hawaii. Essentially a sweet brine for unripe green mangoes. This wasn’t our favorite way to enjoy mangoes so we’re glad we only ended up with a few jars.
Mango Jam: A great use for the over-ripe mangoes and the mangoes that have fallen 20 feet onto the yard. Curtis uses all the parts of the mango that he can’t dry or make salsa with. He blends the mass in the Vitamix with lemon juice and added pectin. While the mangoes are probably acidic enough not to require the lemon juice, he defaults on the safe side by adding it. Same with the pectin, the jam would probably be fine without it, but mangoes are supposedly low in natural pectin. We’ll occasionally make spiced jam by adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric.
Mango Salsa: I won’t lie, after a few days of making mango jam I was starting to get tired of the smell. I thought there was no way that I would still like mangoes after this summer. But then, we started making mango salsa…and I’m pretty sure I could eat every jar we’ve made without growing tired of it! Our ‘recipe’ is nothing fancy, we use the firmer mangoes with tomato, onion, and jalapenos.
Dried Mango: This is the easiest method for processing mangoes, though it can be hard to get the perfect chewy consistency. We just cut up the mango into strips and put in the dehydrator for about 8 hours. We haven’t experimented any further than plain mangoes because honestly at this point we just need a quick and easy way to preserve the fruit!
Mango Bread: We have only made one loaf of this, but it was delicious and we’d make it again if only it weren’t too hot to turn on the oven. We used this recipe.
Mango Frozen Yogurt: Thanks to a very well-timed issue of Midwest Living, I found a recipe for mango frozen yogurt that was an instant hit. I wouldn’t have thought to add these spices, but they compliment the mango taste very well and that led us to adding spices to some of the jam as well. Think pumpkin spice, but with a taste of summer instead of fall. If you’re interested in trying it, you don’t need a tree full of mangoes, just 3 cups of frozen mangoes. Here’s the recipe I have been using, from the July/August 2019 issue of Midwest Living:
Mango Lassi Frozen Yogurt
3 cups frozen mango chunks, partially thawed
1 ½ cups half-and-half or heavy cream
¾ cups sugar
½ cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 ½ teaspoons ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
Place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until mostly smooth, with just a few small chunks of mango remaining. Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a 6-cup container and cover tightly; freeze until firm. Store up to 3 months. Let sit at room temperature 15 minutes before serving. Makes 8 servings.
My alterations: I don’t have an ice cream maker, so I just pour the mixture into a container and freeze — the consistency might be off, but without trying their recipe I wouldn’t know the difference. 😉
Mango Wine (Curtis): I’ve wanted to try my hand at wine making for a while, and so I invested in some caboys and airlocks and got to work. The first batch (3 Gallons) used a 1/3 part mixture of mango to water for the must, which I thought seemed thin so the subsequent batch used a 1/2. I’ve used a Cote de Blanc yeast cultivar (normally used in white wines or something) which seems to work…by which I mean it made alcohol. I am by no means a wine snob and I like my fruit wines sweet and tasting like the fruit they came from. It’s been a learning experience and I should probably be a bit less haphazard with my processes, but I have successfully avoided making either vinegar or nail polish and the first batch is almost ready for bottling and doesn’t taste half bad, although it looks like orange juice…
Mango Juice: An idea I had after thinking of all the things my dad made with apples. Unfortunately, apples and mangoes have very different consistencies and the ‘juice’ is more of a….thin paste? It definitely oozes more than it pours. But at least it tastes good!
Here’s the talley so far:
Eaten raw: 6
Given away: 35+
…Which adds up to over 200 mangoes. They’re also still falling every day and we’re running out of time to process them, so the rest will probably go to our neighbors or other people who are interested. It’s been a fun experience, and now we shall forever remember July 2019 as being The Month of The Mango.