Ask Peter: Feijoas
I have an abundance of feijoas that I want to freeze. Do I cook them first and then freeze them or can I freeze them whole? Suzanne
One of my good memories of feijoas (and there are many, as I adore this fruit) was receiving a big brown paper sack of them about 18 years ago. I was cooking a fundraising dinner for the LAM Charitable Trust, which is a charity close to my heart as a friend of mine has this disease. The dinner was held at the now-closed Point Five Nine in Point Chevalier and, as is usual for such a meal, we asked around our various contacts to see what ingredients we could source at cost, or even better, free of charge.
In among the goodies we were able to secure was the promise of some feijoas, which I ordered. I was expecting perhaps two or three kilograms, but what I received was a sack of them, I guess closer to 20 kilograms. They were frozen, unpeeled and abundant. I was so happy to see so many of them, I was in Guava Nirvana! At this stage I’d been living in London for 12 years or so, and over here we get them at huge expense, from their native South America. They’re much smaller than you’ll ever see in New Zealand and they arrive slightly unripe so they can make the journey without bruising. They soon ripen at room temperature but never get to the luscious aromatic fruitiness that we experience in New Zealand.
As I had so many of them I had to think of the best thing to do with them once defrosted. I made a feijoa, vanilla and sugar compote to serve with one of the desserts, but I also made an oven-baked chutney. I peeled and thickly sliced the feijoas, mixed them with 50 per cent volume of thinly sliced red onions and a handful of manuka sprigs off a local tree (I’d not done that before but have done it since — a great idea that came out of the blue). I added brown sugar, cider vinegar and spices, including chopped fresh ginger, lemongrass, garlic, chillies, coriander seeds and star anise. The whole mix was baked in a wide roasting dish for a few hours, stirred frequently, until it looked chutney-esque. We bottled it in large sterilised kilner jars and had plenty left over after the lunch, having served it with roast lamb and veges.
So, to answer your query, you can freeze them whole and unpeeled. To do that, lay them out on trays in a single layer, ideally not touching and once solid you can bag them up, making sure to remove any air from the bag. Sitting them standing up in egg trays makes it easier to avoid touching if your freezer is large enough. Alternatively, you can also peel them then cut into pieces and freeze — but you do run the risk of the flesh going brown in the process. If you’re going to cook them anyway into a chutney or similar this won’t be a problem, but also I don’t know that it will help you much. Lastly, you can peel and cut them up then stew with white sugar (80 per cent feijoa to 20 per cent sugar) until just cooked before packing into freezer bags, removing any air, and allowing to cool. Then lay flat on trays — which will speed up the freezing process as the density is less — and freeze. Generally we always cook feijoas with sugar — but if for some reason you’d like to avoid that, simply stew over a lowish heat with a little extra water and fresh lemon juice until gently boiling. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, then bag up as described.