Have you ever seen a jujube? Have you ever eaten one? No, not the confectionary variety – although I do remember those rather fondly from my childhood. I’m talking about a small fruit that grows on a jujube tree. Sometimes called Chinese Dates or Chinese Red Dates, jujubes are a fun little treat. They’re hard to find in most groceries, but one of the farmers I frequent at my local Farmer’s Market had some for sale last weekend. The trees grow remarkably well in North Texas. (There’s actually also a jujube tree on the property where my Farmer’s Market is located – I noticed that the branches were full of still-green fruit when I last visited.)
While jujubes are popular in other parts of the world, it seems they are not so common here. When I asked the farmer what she preferred to do with her jujube fruits, she replied that she enjoyed them simply out of hand. While they were sweet when ripe and fresh, I wanted to make something special with them. Since I felt as though the fruit tasted somewhat reminiscent of an apple, I had the idea to make a fruit butter not too unlike apple butter with my jujubes.
After pitting each jujube (the pits are like the pits of dates), I simmered them with sugar, water, and spices, and then pureed until smooth and simmered some more. The aroma of the slow-simmered jujubes, cinnamon, vanilla and cloves made the house smell heavenly. My little 8 ounces of jujubes didn’t make a vast amount of fruit butter, but it was enough for me to enjoy spreading on toast or tucking into cookies.
In fact, my next project was to make cookies to further highlight these fun little fruits.
If you’ve had jujubes before, how did you enjoy them?
- 8 oz fresh, ripe jujubes, pitted (once the skins are brown and wrinkly, then they are ripe)
- ¾ c water
- 3 T granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- ¼ t ground cinnamon
- pinch of ground cloves
- ½ of a vanilla bean, seeds scraped (or ½ t vanilla extract)
- 1 t lemon juice
- In a small saucepan, add the pitted jujubes, water, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer, covered, for 30-40 minutes or until jujubes are soft. Place all ingredients in a blender and puree, scraping the sides as needed, until smooth.
- Return the puree to the saucepan. Add the vanilla bean seeds and the outside of the vanilla bean to the puree, as well as the lemon juice, and stir in. Allow to simmer on low until thick and spreadable, for an hour or so. Remove and allow to cool. Discard vanilla bean.
- Store in an airtight container for two weeks in the refrigerator. Makes almost 1 cup of jujube butter.