By Barbara Kobsar | Illustrations by Charmaine Koehler-Lodge
Jujubes … You might be thinking of the candies you snacked on at the movie theater, but jujube, the fresh fruit, has been in cultivation for more than 4,000 years, long before the chewy candy version. Printed recipes for pâté de jujube appear in the early 1700s, and those confections did contain jujube fruit, but by the 1920s an artificial fruit–flavored replica was commonplace in the United States.
Like other drupes (stone fruits), jujubes grow on trees and have stone-like pits in their middles. Roughly 1½ inches long, the round or oval-shaped fruits start out light green and develop reddish-brown spots on their skins as they ripen and arrive at market in late summer/early fall. They eventually mature to a deep mahogany color and begin to wrinkle like dates—hence the alternate names “red dates” or “Chinese dates.”
A jujube’s skin is a little tough but edible, and the flesh is crunchy but a bit floury in texture. Peak-of-the-season fruit is reminiscent of a delicious apple and reminds me to savor the flavor as an out-of-hand snack or unique addition on a charcuterie board. To prepare jujubes for cooking into pies, crisps, cakes, cookies, puddings, and stuffings, rinse and then slice vertically through the flesh to remove the pit. Store fresh jujubes in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Once they have dried, they store for up to six months in the fridge.
Blackberries enjoy a relatively long season here in California, and I’m looking forward to enjoying them well into fall. I usually start picking at local farms or purchasing at the farmers’ markets in May, but this spring’s cool weather delayed the crop, which may bode well for fall picking. (Note that boysenberries and olallieberries are blackberry hybrids, but their seasons are short, sweet, and gone for this year.)
I prefer the older blackberry varieties that grow on thorny canes. That may sound odd, but I’m looking for flavorful berries that set up well in jam making, and those tend to be the ones with prickles. On the other hand, farmers have pointed me to some friendlier thornless blackberry canes and a taste test on the Apache variety did get thumbs up.
Berries are picked ripe and ready to eat. Select firm, plump, dry berries without hulls. Refrigerate as soon as possible, and if storage is necessary, arrange a single layer of unwashed berries in a shallow container lined with paper towels. Top with another layer of paper towels and refrigerate for a day or two. Rinse under gently running water just before serving.
Berries freeze well, and those frozen berries will be delicious in smoothies, pies, and crisps throughout the year. Spread washed berries on a tray and freeze. Place frozen fruit in freezer bags and use as needed. ♦
Blackberry Jujube Bread Pudding
Fruit-studded bread pudding is a delicious, warming comfort when the weather cools and a good way to use up excess fruits, fresh or frozen. If I want to step it up a notch, I’ll serve this bread pudding with a scoop of ice cream or a drizzle of bourbon caramel sauce.
Serves 8 to 10
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 24 jujubes (approximately 1 cup), pitted
- 6 eggs
- 3 cups half-and-half or whole milk
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 pound brioche or challah bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
Butter a 9- by 13-inch baking dish and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons brown sugar.
Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, add jujubes, and cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Whisk eggs and half-and-half together in a large bowl. Stir in granulated and brown sugars, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. Add cooled jujube mixture, brioche, and blackberries and stir gently. Transfer to prepared baking dish and press down into pan. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the liquid to be absorbed.
Bake at 350°F for 50 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Veteran journalist and cookbook author Barbara Kobsar focuses on traditional home-cooked meals using local produce. Find her at the Walnut Creek, Orinda, and San Ramon farmers’ markets selling her Cottage Kitchen jams and jellies made from farmers’ market produce.
Artist Charmaine Koehler-Lodge grows most of her family’s food in their rural Pennsylvania garden.