The Random Garden: Nêspera

The flavor of a nêspera, or loquat, reminds me of several things. First, an apricot, but it’s also tart-sweet, like the Sweet Tart candy I grew up consuming in rolls by the pool. The flesh gives like a peach when it’s ripe, but it’s tangier. 

I’d tried one stolen from our neighbor’s tree last year, because ours didn’t yet produce fruit of its own. The trees practically intertwine over the wall between our townhouse gardens, so this lack was particularly frustrating.

Imagine our joy when the blossoms turned into green lumps this year, and bloomed into pale orange fruit, with a light fuzz covering their skin. It took great patience to wait for them to ripen. Because we had a plan for this bounty from our Random Garden. Jam.

Stephen’s somewhat of a jam savant, having brewed many pots from our leftover fruits over the last few years. He’s made jam from the medronhos that adorn the woods in November, and from the tomato bounty we’ve enjoyed every summer since we moved in and started throwing our compost onto the Random Garden’s plots in the backyard. I knew he’d been eyeing those sunshine-y orbs throughout the month of April, just holding back til they hit a balance of sugar and acid that would make a sprightly confiture.

That day arrived today, when he climbed the ladder to pluck a kilo of fruit from the tree. There’s more hanging up there amongst the shiny emerald leaves, but a kilo makes for a manageably sized recipe. He detailed the process for me, which we share with you here. The resulting jam preserves a bit of the tartness of the fruit while taking away its pucker-y-ness.

The spring’s now in full force here in our little corner of Colares.

Stephen’s Nêspera (Loquat) Jam

Doce de nêsperas

1 kilogram loquats/nêsperas

1 kilogram sugar

Juice from half a lemon

Sterilized jam jars

Plate to put into the fridge to chill

  1. Pick the fruit, and don’t wash it. Cut it into halves, and remove any bits you don’t want, and remove the stems and pits. Discard those into your compost pile.
  2. Put the fruit into a heavy-bottomed pan with an equal amount of sugar. Stephen weighed out one kilo of fruit and added sugar to match that.
  3. Add juice of half a lemon, and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. This will take about 10 minutes; the fruit will become soft.
  4. Blend the softened fruit with a hand blender.
  5. Pass the fruit through a fine-mesh sieve using the back of a ladle to push the fruit through the mesh. This will remove the skins and any tough bits of pulp.
  6. Put the smooth mixture back into the heavy-bottomed pan, bring to a boil, and boil rapidly for 10 minutes.
  7. To test the jam: Put a plate into the fridge as you start the process. Put a teaspoon of the processed jam on the plate after it has boiled, and leave it for 10 minutes. Run your finger through it, and see if your finger swipe remains. If it does, the jam is set. If the jam is not set, continue the boil for another 10 minutes, then repeat the test.
  8. Put the finished jam into sterilized jars. We used three regular sized Bonne Maman jars, plus a half jar, about 1300 grams.
  9. Turn the jars upside down on a cloth or cutting board to help with the sealing process.
  10. After the jars have cooled, wipe them down, and label them with the date. They’ll be shelf-stable (in a cool dark place); keep any opened jars in the fridge. Use within a year for best results.