Friday, August 03, 2018

A little bit about Jackfruit.

Red Chile Jackfruit Taco Salad
 So a few weeks ago, I tried using Instagram Stories for the first time, in an amateurish (or nightmarish?) attempt to show all three of my followers how I "do" jackfruit.
I was genuinely surprised at the feedback, as it seems there are tons of jackfruit recipes out there, but not a lot of photo tutorials on exactly how to get this weird fruit-not-fruit stuff into the delicious shreddy-plant-based-meat texture that you want.

So I'm posting those below-average  photos here, on my sadly neglected blog, with a few more notes, in hopes that they'll help a few more people discover how fun and creative you can get with this stuff. Follow along. I tend to get wordy.

 First of all, lets start with this: You aren't going to want a giant, pokey, smelly, sticky, fresh jackfruit for this project. They ARE delicious, do try one if you get the chance, but just know that whole, fresh jackfruit can be a HUGE mess to deal with. They're giant, bulky things with sharp. stabby spines, and the sap/latex inside is literally the consistency of rubber cement. Unless you're familiar with jackfruit and they grow in your back yard, leave this part to the professionals. You'll never get the sticky off your hands, counters, cutting boards, knives, hair, pets, shoes... not that I would know.
If you're wanting to cook with jackfruit, the best product is very simple, but you want to get it right: CANNED, YOUNG/GREEN JACKFRUIT IN WATER (OR BRINE). Accept no substitutes.
Not the fresh fruit, not ripe canned jackfruit, not pre-flavored, prepared, plastic packaged jackfruit. Those all have a purpose, but not for this "tutorial". Not if you're wanting to cook it down into a nicely flavored, shredded BBQ-sandwich or taco filling type of thing. You're going to have to get the canned stuff.
Canned young, green jackfruit shouldn't be too hard to find any more. It's available, (and shouldn't be very expensive), at Asian markets, Trader Joes, some Whole Foods, some larger Walmarts, and on Plan on about 1 can per person, it cooks down quite a bit. In my photos, I'm using two cans of jackfruit. Most brands are about the same quality, I tend to use the "Dragonfly" brand when I can find it, it seems just a but firmer and less mushy, but I really think they're all pretty similar.
So, now you have your jackfruit. Open those cans. Drain them. It should look like pale chunks of dense pineapple.

Put the chunks in a colander or sieve and rinse under running water for a minute or two to get rid of the briney, "can" taste that some people complain about.
If the jackfruit chunks have a hard "core" (like pineapple does) you'll want to cut that off and chop it a bit, so everything cooks evenly.

Add the cut up core pieces back to the jackfruit.  Rinse again. (At this point jackfruit absorbs the flavor of everything, even your wooden cutting board).
Now, take all your jackfruit bits and pieces, and dump it into a dish towel. Wrap it up, twist it and wring the heck out of it.  Wring it a couple times until you've pressed out as much liquid as you possibly can.

Undo the dish towel over a cookie sheet. The jackfruit should be damp but not mushy, and will look somewhat "stringy". Go ahead and shred it up a little more with your hands if you want. It will break up a bit during cooking, your pieces don't need to be real uniform.

You'll probably notice some almond-sized seeds. Go ahead and pick those out if you want. They're soft and completely edible but personally I just think they look weird in the finished product. Do what you want.

Preheat your oven. Your choice here: I originally said 375° in my photos, that'll cook things faster, but since then, I've decided I prefer about 300°, as you have more control over the finished product if it's done at a lower temp. 
Now, spread your jackfruit into an even layer on your baking sheet. You don't want more than two cans per baking sheet so if you're doing a bigger batch, use more sheets.
I use a "Silpat" baking mat because once the sauce is added, the jackfruit will become sticky. Baking parchment also works fine here.
Sprinkle with about 1 tsp. olive oil per can of jackfruit. Work the oil into the jackfruit with your hands. This will shred it more, too. 
If you want any DRY seasonings or spices, (cayenne, salt, pepper, smoked salt, etc) add them now, as the oil will help them stick.
Bake your naked jackfruit for about 30 - 50 minutes, stirring at least once, until it's just starting to get a bit dried out.

**You can remove the jackfruit at this point and store in fridge a few days until ready to finish, OR even freeze it for later.

  Once the jackfruit has started to show signs of drying out a bit, remove from oven and pour your preferred sauce over. This is where you can get creative! Anything goes! BBQ, teriyaki, sweet-and-sour, taco sauce, adobo/chipotle/red chile, curry, Korean BBQ, honey garlic, Hawaiian, hot and spicy, buffalo, whatever! Plan on about 1/4 cup per can of jackfruit. Mix in as well as possible (jackfruit and pan will be hot). 
Adding the sauce after drying the jackfruit out a bit seems like a lot of extra time and bother, but it's worth it - it's a key step in having the flavors absorb all through.
If you've frozen the partially prepared jackfruit, take it straight from the freezer, put on baking sheet and continue with the sauce step.

Continue baking the jackfruit for another 20 - 60 minutes (depending on what temp you're using and the desired texture of the finished product). Remove from oven and stir every 20 minutes or so. 
 Your recipe will determine how long you continue to roast the jackfruit. If you're wanting a dry, crumbly jackfruit, like for a taco-salad filling, then go longer. If you're wanting saucy "pulled-pork-style" BBQ for sandwiches, then less time is better. Nachos or burrito filling might need something in between. If you're wanting some "burnt-end" bits, let it overcook a bit and then add back more moisture with more sauce.

When the jackfruit is done to your liking, remove from oven, stir again, and let cool a few minutes.

Serve and enjoy!
Like tofu, green jackfruit is a blank slate and will absorb any flavor you cook it with. Get creative and have fun!


Greg Prosmushkin said...
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