Meet the Neighbors: Jackfruit, the ‘vegetable meat’ of India.

Jackfruit is native to Asia and is difficult to get fresh here in the states.  It has been dubbed the ‘vegetable meat’ in India, because, in its unripe state, it has a stringy, chewy consistency that can replace meat in many dishes.  In honor of our supper club this evening, where I will be giving a demo, I’m putting this online for my subscribers.

Here in west Michigan, we only have access to canned versions.  But after reading this blog on the adventures of using a fresh jackfruit, I can live with the canned version for now.  Here is the kind that we buy.  I have seen it at Spice of India, Mediterranean Island, and Asian Delight Market, next to Horrock’s on 44th. Make sure to get the green ‘unripe’ version of the fruit.  The ripe version is sweet.

Okay, canned jackfruit is preserved in citric acid, so first thing you want to do is rinse it thoroughly in a strainer.

Following that you want to squeeze the water out of it.  You’ve probably had the experience of not squeezing enough water out of spinach and having a soupy dip–yuk!  The more you squeeze your little jackfruit pieces, the better.  They will readily absorb sauces this way.  I usually take two or three pieces in my hand at a time.  This is what it should look like:

Next, you want to separate the strands.  Now, this is where I get a little bored.  I don’t know all that much about jackfruit anatomy, but to my thinking, there are three parts to deal with: the lovely stringy stuff, the seedpods and the harder core pieces.

strings, seeds and pods, oh my!

You definitely want to use them all and various recipes have you separating the parts after cooking–very messy–or separating them by hand as you massage in the spices–very tedious. “There’s got to be a better way!”  Turns out, there is …

You could just take a couple of your squeezed handfuls and put them in your food processor. Pulse maybe 5, 6, 7 times.  Or you could do as I do and take five minutes to separate the stringy bits from the core and seeds and pulse the bejeebers out the core and seeds first.  Then add the stringy bit and pulse a time or two more.

This is perfect for pulled pork-alikes!  But, you can also get a gleeful and throw all the rest in and turn the processor on and end up with…well, something more like sloppy joes!

So, to try things out, once you’ve got your jackfruit ready, stir it up with your favorite barbeque sauce (last time I made this, I used two cans of jackfruit and about 3 cups of sauce.  Don’t fear soupiness, you can always drain it).  You can heat the two together in the microwave or simmer it for twenty minutes or put it in the slow cooker for a few hours.  You want to give the jackfruit time to absorb the sauce.  Here’s what the finished dish looks like…

vegan pulled pork with creamy cole slaw…have a fork handy!

 

Below find my favorite ‘no cook’ kinda healthy bbq sauce.  We have used jackfruit to make ‘crab cakes.’  These are amazing!  Roger, my cooking husband, recommends that you reduce the amount of lemon juice you use to offset the citric acid in the canned fruit.  I’ve used them to make jackfruit carnitas with, what else, avocado cream!!  They are so very delicious.  I will provide recipes for all these things in time, but at the moment, I must clean my house.

Sue’s Que Recipe

2 cups of sugar-free or reduced sugar ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
2 T reduced-sodium tamari
2 T tomato paste
1/4 cup date sugar*
1/4 100% jam preserves (I like cherry!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T smoked paprika
A few dashes of hot sauce (I like chipotle for this—it’s sweet and smoky)

*Date sugar is dried ground dates, so you get sweet but all the trace minerals, too. Look for them in health food stores

I recommend eating this Carolina style with a bunch of coleslaw on top. It’s a sweet bbq sauce, too, but you can adjust to your liking.

This is so easy, you don’t have to take my class, but it’s a lot of fun if you do!

Wyoming Park class 009
 

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Meet the Neighbors: Miso

Meet miso, a ubiquitous Japanese condiment that is a must-have for plant-based foodies.  I met miso and seaweed (and a lot of other traditional Japanese ingredients) when my husband, Roger, did a stint as a cook in the macrobiotic house in Tucson, Arizona, during our grad school days.  Here in Grand Rapids area, you can find these ingredients at Asian Delight, Harvest Health, and Saigon Market, to name a few spots.

Miso is a paste made from fermenting soybeans, salt and koji or various cultured grains like rice, barley or even chickpeas or more soybeans.  The taste changes depending on the ingredients used and the length of fermentation.  Generally, here in the U.S. you find white and red miso, the white, which is actually amber in color, is said to be sweeter and lighter; the red, more savory.  Miso takes up a fair amount of real estate in my refrigerator because I have to try all the different kinds.  It’s pricey, but it keeps for months.  Some of my go-to Japanese websites assure me that even if my miso is covered with a little white mold, I can just stir it back in.

Mellow White Miso is a Good Place to Begin

Miso really does add a rich taste to many dishes.  It’s most common use is in miso soup, the equivalent in Japanese culture to our chicken noodle soup.  Traditionally miso soup is made with miso, dried seaweed, fish flakes, chopped vegetables, tofu, and perhaps noodles.  Each household has its own special recipe.  Miso is an excellent vegetable source of vitamin B12, is a complete protein and contains a lot of wonderful digestive properties that I’d much rather refer you to a doctor to learn about.  I think this is why miso soup is compared to chicken noodle soup.  A steaming hot bowl is good for what ails you.  But don’t add miso to a boiling broth.  That might destroy some its protective isoflavones.

So the other day, when it looked like this out my window,

and I was feeling under the weather, Roger made me a bowl of miso soup.  It was quite simple.  He put 6 cups of water and three cups of chopped vegetables in water and brought it to a low boil. Then he threw in a strip of wakame and crumbled some toasted nori over the surface of the water.  After the vegetables were soft (about 6 minutes) he removed a cup of the broth and stirred in the miso.  It’s hard to say how much miso because tastes for it vary.  It’s a salty condiment, so start off with a little—say, two teaspoons per cup—and add more as you need to.  Taste test the one cup until you have the right proportion and then multiply.  After that, you’ll always know how much to add.  Use a whisk if you need to, but the goal is to make sure the miso is fully incorporated into the water.  Take the soup off the heat before you add your miso cup back in.

In Japan, miso is a quick and healthy breakfast.  If you add cubed tofu and soba noodles, it makes a hearty meal for anytime of the day.