Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Guava jelly triggers boyhood memory

After many years, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich recently. As I took the first bite, several memories flooded my mind – my first taste of peanut butter as a child in India; eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches during my stay in America; and the guava jelly my mother used to make in India’s heartland, where I grew up.

The most remarkable is the memory of guava jelly. Guava is essentially a tropical fruit; so, I didn’t see any in the United States, although, it does grow in semi-tropical America, like California and Florida. I grew up eating guava, for we had a huge guava tree in our backyard. I grew up in Bhilai, which was then a part of the state of Madhya Pradesh. The tree was more than a tree – it was a prime presence in our garden, almost a human friend as we climbed the tree, picked fruit, or swung from its branches like monkeys. The fruit was so delicious I have never tasted that variety anywhere else since then. It had few seeds, even the ripe ones; the shape was round, and the flesh flavorful. We would eat even the half-ripe ones with salt – the taste was sweet and mildly tart. What other fruit could beat it in vitamin C content?

My mother packed all the goodness of the guava in her jelly. I was too young – I hadn’t developed the strong interest in food that I have today. But, I remember the distinctive taste of the jelly, a dark brownish red stored in glass jars.

As I recently ate the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, made with store-bought guava jelly, I asked my mother how she made the jelly. (She no longer makes the jelly, for she is 72 and a city-dweller far from our small-town garden we once owned.)

She first diced ripe guava and boiled it in water until soft. Then, she pressed the guava juice and pulp through a cloth or strainer. Next, she added sugar and lime juice, and reduced the juice until the jelly formed.

Back in the present, as I ate the sandwich made with store-bought Druk (Bhutanese brand) guava jelly, I imagined it was the jelly from my boyhood. I recalled the great guava tree in our backyard.

Dear reader, do you have such a memory?


Suma Gandlur said...

I have a few questions regarding the jelly.
How much quantity of guavas, sugar and lime juice are added in the recipe?
Do you use the water used to cook the guavas?
I appreciate your response. Thanks.

Nandita said...

Very touching post, we rarely appreciate certain things in our childhood and those are the very things we miss as an adult. I've always lived in city apartments, and the first one where I was born and spent 10 years was grandly facing the Arabian see. I never realised then how lucky I was and now I miss the sea all the time.

Guave jelly is quite popular with Anglo Indians I guess, as Suma has asked could you give some directions as to the quantities?

Love your writing!

Anonymous said...


Really love your style of writing. It seems like you are talking right now.

Being from Kolkata, and living in US for the past nine yrs. I can identify with your stories.

Keep writing.

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Princess said...

I saw your site thru "in mamma's kitchen". I could feel and taste the people, places and food that you describe in your writings. Your article of your mother is very touching. Thank you for sharing your experiences and passions...

Pelicano said...

Hello Angshuman,
I found my way here through a series of jumping links, so I don't think i could possibly tell you how I got here, but I'm glad I came!
I grew up in the U.S...in the north. We didn't have a guava tree, but we did have a beautiful crab-apple tree that in spring was covered in fragrant pink blossoms that when they fell was like snow. These gave way to small, tart fruits that my mother would make into a small batch of pale-pink jelly. This was relished as such a treat as anything like this could not be bought. Sadly the tree was cut down years ago, but I remember it well.

ankurindia said...

really nice post .

ML said...

I really enjoyed reading your post!

My Mom used to make guava jelly and jam when I was a child. Lovely memories.

Angshuman said...

Thanks to all those of you who have said kind things about the post and my writing. I am touched by the response. It's amazing how people living in disparate continents connect through their food memories.

Angshuman said...

Suma, I forgot to get back to you. Sorry about the delay. Actually, my mother is almost 75, and she is no longer as adept as she was at cooking. Her memory also falters. I asked about the recipe -- she said something vaguely, trying to recollect. If I do get a clearer reply, I will let you know.


gautam said...


gautam said...


gautam said...

Here is a recipe with exact temperatures on a candy thermometer:


"According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the thermometer should read 220ºF at sea level, 218ºF at 1000 feet above sea level, 216ºF at 2000 feet above sea level, 214ºF at 3000 feet above sea level, 212ºF at 4000 feet above sea level, 211ºF at 5000 feet above sea level, and 209ºF at 6000 feet above sea level. "