Saturday, September 14, 2013

Tita Bess' Heirloom Guava Jelly

As a child, I loved visiting the farm.

My late father would bring us to the farm on weekends to immerse us into "farm life."  But now that I am in the business of food writing, to experience "farm life" again brings it to a different realm.

"They just gathered dozens of baskets filled with guavas and we are going to make guava jelly, would you like to come?" asked Tita Bess (my brother-in-law's mom) one morning. 

The invite appeals to me. I have featured Tita Bess previously, here and here. She's a great resource, especially for heirloom recipes. I appreciate  her generosity  to share the process of how their family's heirloom guava jelly is being made. At the same time I am excited to visit my brother in law's farm, which he tended to before migrating to the US.

The winding dirt road takes us to a vast farm blanketed by a green carpet of tropical trees:  mangoes, santol, guavas. We were greeted by two large vats filled with simmering guavas. Each vat, filled with a boiling mixture of yellow and green guavas, was a sight to behold. Like golf balls swimming in a large vessel full of water, the air quickly fills with the sweet aroma of guavas. And with the sound of the crackle of the blazing firewood and the rustling of water poured into the vat, I start my immersion to this charming "farm life". My senses are overwhelmed.

The vat has been simmering for 3 hours when we get there.  We arrive just in time, as they are about to strain the guavas.

Then a second step of straining is done, until the guava extract is free from seeds and other particles. While this is done, freshly picked calamansi is also being juiced.

The guava extract is poured to another vat, sugar is added along with calamansi juice.

And we watch patiently, as the guava extract turns into jelly over a period of three hours.

So three hours gives me the chance to know the members of the crew...  

Meet Dummo, I call him the silent worker.

This is Tinong... he's been with the clan for ages... I call him the loyal worker.

And this is Fer, the master mixer.

Three hours may seem long, but I am distracted by the charm around me...

The serene surroundings make me appreciate life in its simplest form...

 And as soon as the temperature reaches 230 degrees F, it has reached its gelling point.


Or they use the ball test:  drop some jelly in a bowl of water, if the jelly forms a ball it's time to stop boiling but if the jelly spreads, continue to simmer the mixture

Now it is time to skim off the bubbles collecting at the surface

then pour them into jars...

then skim off any remaining bubbles...

Now its ready for sterilization...

Soon enough, these sweet bottles of guava jelly will be distributed among friends and relatives...  and each bottle will bring smiles and joy.  Because they know that this is a heirloom recipe passed on to generations from more than 60 years ago.

For me, it is a sweet experience to be on the farm: being able to scoop a spoonful of freshly made jelly onto warm bread; being able to partake in guava jelly making with the crew and being one with nature. Sweet memories indeed... And the charm never wears off being at the farm.  

Thank you Tita Bess for the sweet experience.


  1. What a wonderful experience, Malou. That is jelly making on steroids! It looks really good too. I can only imagine warm jelly on fresh bread.

    1. Hi Maureen,
      I'm grateful for the warm and wonderful experience. THe sweet taste of a warm jelly in my mouth lingers up to this day.


  2. WOW! Nice Experience.
    Theres no place like home. =)

  3. I love the story. I love the scenery. This is my kind of a happy place. You are lucky to have a Tita Bess who is unselfish to share her heirloom recipes.

  4. Wonderful pictures! And terrific jelly. Such an entertaining post - thanks so much.

    1. im glad you find the post entertaining. i have so many hometown inspired posts in mind but being here at my hometown has its downside... yep blogging is in the back burner hihi.

      thanks again!

  5. This is a wonderful heirloom recipe and I hope you share it someday with us. I love the photos and can practically smell the guavas. I want to dip my spoon in that big jar of guava jelly right now. Thanks for sharing. Hope all is well with you and your family, Malou!

    1. helly Betty Ann, I'm finally back and Im so happy to see you stop by. Thanks for always being there.


  6. what a beautiful post! and what a lovely way to spend a day; your photos are gorgeous and it makes me feel like i'm right there with you (and indeed, i wish i was.) :)

    1. Hi Shannon,
      Great to see you stop by. I apologize though for the late reply. I just got back from the Philippines and hopefully will get back to blogging soonest.

      Thanks again

  7. This is a wonderful post, Malou! I love guava jelly (and paste) but never had any idea of how it was made! Your photos capture both the method and the emotion. Thank you for sharing this! Perhaps your blog isn't on the back burner, as you suggest, but on a different burner. :) Posts about your culinary adventures while home in the Philippines are facinating!

    1. Hi Wendy! So thrilled to see you. I was hoping that our friendship won't end when the Food Forum ended, seeing you here makes me so happy.
      Sorry for the late reply. I just came back from the Philippines and I am having a difficulty getting back to my old grind. I will see you around! Thanks!

  8. It looks great. Thank you for sharing. life is beautiful and peaceful :)

  9. Indeed, this is a wonderful post Malou! I've never seen the making of such a huge batch of jellies...homemade; especially guava jelly, which really is so popular here in S. Florida among the Hispanic community.

    Such a generous offer to have them given away to family, and friends...must be a huge family and lots of friends...smiles...xoxo

    Before I forget, I love your new profile photo! (beautiful)


Thank you for stopping by and oh I would be thrilled even more if you could leave a comment... :) Cheers!

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