Background Switcher (Hidden)

Paw Paw Processing

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A naturalist's table: freshly picked paw paws, a blooming Cattleytonia orchid, a couple of monarch chrysalides waiting to hatch. Yes, I will get to the chrysalis posts. But there are overripe paw paws in my blog pantry right now.
Consumed by paw paw fever, Phoebe and I went looking in our own woods where we had seen some paw paw saplings coming up a couple of years ago. Imagine how wonderful it would be to find them old enough to fruit, on our own land! We had a big bowl of fruit from Athens; now we'd look for some on our place. Our excitement built as we got ready for the paw paw safari. We wanted to wait for Daddy, but he wouldn't be home until after dark, so we set off by ourselves.

There were the trees--a veritable paw paw grove! And there, hanging above us, was the fruit.
Can you hear the heavenly chorus? Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh! Perfectly, splendidly, softly, fragrantly ripe. Here is the haul from our little grove:
We thought them much superior in looks and flavor to the Athens ones. Perhaps it's because they weren't hauled for miles in a backpack.

We tried to teach Chet Baker to find them once they'd fallen from the trees as we shook them, but he was no help. He found lots of sticks and pillbugs, but never got the point of our giving him a paw paw to smell, then saying, "Go find it, boy!"It was not for lack of interest. Chet Baker likes paw paws, as you will see. We just couldn't get the concept through his little melon head that he might look for them and find them for us.

All right. Now I had a whole mess o' paw paws. Time to process them. I'd learned from my previous big haul that they are a bit time-consuming to prepare. In short, the pulp can be separated from the huge and abundant seeds in only one way: by squishing the fruit through a colander.

I separated out the ripest fruit to work on first. You definitely want the fruit to be soft to the touch before you process it. It tastes best when fully ripe, and it separates best from the seeds and skin when ripe.You lay the fruit in the colander and squish it flat with your palm and your knuckles. It separates readily from the skin. Then you grind it around, seeds, pulp, skin and all, until just the pulp squeezes through the colander holes into a bowl below. After awhile, you have something that looks like this in your colanderand this in the bowl below:That's the money shot, right there. Pure gold.

Chet Baker got to lick the colander when I was all done.I will say this about processing paw paws. It is messy. You want to do it outdoors, because the vigor required to squash the paw paws around means that a certain amount of pulp winds up elsewhere than in the catch bowl. The pulp is extremely sticky, and I found I had to whack the colander on the catch bowl to dislodge the pulp and make it go into the bowl. Little bits of pulp fly about when I do this. When these bits dry, they set up like cement on clothing and kitchen surfaces. By my third big batch of fruit, I was processing paw paws in my underwear, out on the deck. By this, I mean to say that I was wearing only underwear whilst smashing paw paws. Not that I was processing paw paws in my underwear.

There are blogs that titillate. This is not intended to be one of them, unless you are talking about the titillation of delicious food and the occasional bizarre play of words or a seductively misplaced modifier.The entree that night? Chicken korma, with fresh tomatoes from the garden, cilantro garnish, and a sweet paw paw yogurt sauce over jasmine rice. Swoon.

Here ends the paw paw series. I have loved coming to know the paw paw, abundant native fruit of the Ohio Valley. The pounds that we harvested are now reduced to two large zip-loc bags of pulp in the freezer. I'll saw off chunks for smoothies and sauces all winter long, into spring.For all you could want to know (and some things I'd rather not know) about the paw paw, check this page. Thanks to JW for the link!

I leave Friday morning for a jaunt to Columbus, where I will be accepting an Ohioana Library Association Citation for "outstanding contributions and accomplishments in a specific field or area of the arts and humanities." I think you can tell that I find it great fun to live in Ohio. I celebrate it every day, right here with you all. Well, now it's even more fun. Thank you, Ohioana Library Association, for digging my stuff.


I bet you really miss that privacy tulip when you process paw paws.

Congrats on your recognition, aptly given. You share, and by doing so, enrich so many with the details so flattering to this state.

I'm clearing a spot for Paw Paws. There may be years to wait for fruit, but it seems worth it.

"processing paw paws in your underwear." This has to be the oddest thing I have ever read on your blog. (So far.)

Chet Baker sent me a psychic message. I think he was afraid to disappoint you, so he didn't deliver it straight to you:

"I'm so worried Mether will find me less than a perfect doggeh because I did not smelled the fruits she wanted me to smelled. First of all, I have a little nose and not all smells go up it like they should. If she wanted a real smeller doggeh, she should have gotted a bloodhound. Second of all, there are some smells which I find much more good to smell, like bunnehs. So that is why I did not find her dumb fruit for her. I hope she is not mad at me, Chet Baker, an otherwise excellent doggeh."

Go easy on Chet; it is hard to smell paw paws when you are nasally challenged.

~Kathi, who is anosmic and therefore can relate to Chet

I've added "paw paws" to my life eat list: one day I'll be in Ohio at just the right time. In the meanwhile, do they can them, or put them in a jelly?

You need to look into a Foley food mill for paw paws and other garden goodies. My mother in law gave me one years ago, each of my daughters requested one when they got married. I have processed tons of tomato sauce and applesauce using one. Simple, low tech and effective.
My kids like the fact that apples don't have to be peeled, just cored and it makes pink applesauce because the skins are still there.

Caroline in South Dakota

Who wouldn't dig your stuff, Julie? Paw-paw recipes, the melon head, underwear...

I dig it.

I think Kathi could write a Chet post nearly as entertaining as yours! ;-)

Congratulations on the well deserved award Julie. :c)
My, now we really MUST find a Paw-Paw to sample...

What a yummy post! And how wonderful that you know you can pick paw paws right in your backyard now!

From my friend Jane:

I have a killer pawpaw jam recipe, would you like it? For every 2 1/4 lbs of prepared pawpaw you will need 1 small lemon. 7 oz water and 3 1/4 cup sugar. In the water simmer lemon sliced thin and squeeze all the juice you can from the lemon and discard pulp and rind. Bringto boil and add mashed pawpaw and sugar. Boil briskly until it sets up and then process in jars using hot water bath. Enjoy! My grandma used to make this years ago and I had it in her recipe box!

Your post made me hungry. I have never tried paw paws, not living somewhere where they grow, but they sound does the chicken korma!

Honey, you need a Foley food mill. That's the tool made for squishing things and leaving the hard bits behind. They're relatively cheap and easy to find. Mine is plastic (and I think a knock-off of the real Foley) but terrific for apple sauce and tomato goop and I bet it would work for pawpaws, too.

[Back to Top]