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Ingredient Spotlight: Jackfruit

Growing up to 80 pounds, jackfruit is a multi-purpose tropical fruit found in Indian, Asian and Brazilian cuisines. The seeds can be roasted like chestnuts. The flesh can be dried, frozen, or canned. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find fresh ripe jackfruit at an Indian, Asian or specialty food market but more often, it'll be canned in syrup. Tasting like a mixture of bananas and pineapple, ripe jackfruit pairs well with coconut milk and custards.

For vegetarians and vegans, however, unripened (young or green) jackfruit is an excellent meat substitute.

Because it is packed in brine, the jackfruit can be quite salty and needs to be rinsed and drained several times. I pat the jackfruit slices dry and then brown them in olive oil. I add vegetable stock and and simmer the fruit gently for an hour. As the jackfruit is cooking, it has a slightly tropical fruit aroma, but that dissipates after a while and you won't taste or smell any fruitiness in the finished dish. To me, the cooked jackfruit actually tastes like canned artichoke hearts. I allow the jackfruit to cool and then just using my hands, I shred the fruit. It looks like meat and has a similar texture but softer (think more of canned tuna fish or chicken rather than steak). The shredded fruit can then be mixed with spices, vegetables, sauces, curries, stews, and gravies.

By the way, the 20-ounce can of jackfruit in the first picture cost me $2.49 at an Indian market. I've seen the same product on-line for $8.95 a can plus shipping. Wherever you may buy jackfruit, I do recommend trying it at least once. If you're a vegetarian or vegan who misses tacos, fajitas or barbeque, jackfruit can calm those texture cravings. Even the meat-eaters may appreciate a meal made with jackfruit. My husband tried it and his exact words were, "It's good!" Then again, he was watching football at the time...

Just kidding!


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