There was a bumper crop of santol this season, or so it seems, since our bedroom is under a fairly large santol tree and for the last month and half the fruit have been falling and hitting the G.I. sheets and causing a ruckusâ€¦ I finally asked the gardener to remove as many fruit as possible and give it to neighbors, passersby, or just take it home and sell it or eat it. When he came down from the roof, he had collected at least 40 kilos of ripe santol and there were still many left on the tree. And we have another santol tree in our front yard that yielded about 30 kilos on the same week. I like santol, but not that much. The santol in our yard are quite small but the fruit is sweet. Besides the homegrown fruit, I spied tons of huge Bangkok santol on our recent trip to Subic, where they were selling the fruit roadside at an outrageous PHP35 per kilo, I feigned shock, attempted to bargain to little success, scoffed and quickly retreated to the car in a huff. The same exact type of santol could be had on the Batangas roadside a few days later for just PHP8 a kilo, so feeling lucky, I bought 12 kilos worthâ€¦
Now why would I buy large Bangkok santol if we were swimming in small â€œnativeâ€ santol back at the house? To try two different versions of santol preserved in syrup, of courseâ€¦ First up, the smaller santol in syrupâ€¦these are the smaller cut in lighter syrup in the photographs. Here I did not caramelize the syrup for too long and perhaps the tannins or other natural colors in the santol were not as strong so I ended up with an anemic looking preserve, but they tasted really good. The second batch are large chunks of the Bangkok santol in a darker syrup and these are delightlfully complex, possess an intense santol flavor and are great on toast or with cheese. These are closer to the color of the santol preserves or jam I made last year that were the perfect batch, as far as I am concerned. The balance between the softness of the fruit (not overly soft), the amount of liquid or jelly, the color of the syrup and the depth of flavor seemed to easy to do then but wasnâ€™t that easy to replicate this year!
To make, take several kilos (maybe 5-6 kilos) of good santol and put them in a large pot and cover with water and bring to a boil, boil for say 10-15 minutes, drain and cool. When cool enough to handle, carefully peel the tough outer layer of skin off, taking care not to remove too much of the under layer of pulp. Carefully slice the santol in half at its equator and extract the seeds. Place the santol halves in a large glass or ceramic bowl and cover either with rice washing water or just plain water. Soak for 12 hours, change the water and soak for another 12 hours. Remove and slice the santol halves into the desired size. Boil some water and plunge the slices into the boiled water for say 3-4 minutes, just to kill off any surface cootiesâ€¦ check the softness of the fruit, they should be medium softj, not hard, not overly soft. Put the fruit in a colander and drain. Next take a kilo or more of sugar, I always err on too much syrup and throw some out if excessive, and cook this on medium heat with 2-3 cups of water. Once the syrup is a little thickened and falls off a spoon like a â€œthread,â€ but still clear, add the santol pieces and cook for 10-12 minutes. Shut off the heat, soak the santol in the syrup for 12 hours. Drain the fruit in a colander and place the syrup back on the fire and once hot, add the santol yet again for about 3-5 minutes until it looks like jam. All of these instructions are useless if you donâ€™t go with the flow and watch the consistency of the preserveâ€¦that is your best guide and I find the results vary with source of fruit, length of cooking, thickness of santol skins, etc. I store the jam in bottles and refrigerateâ€¦it will keep for 2 months at least. Last year, I did the whole bottling thing with boiling the bottles under water to sterilize but it was too much of a pain in the neckâ€¦although necessary if you want to have long-lasting preserves. The taste of the jams? Spectacular! Takes you back to your childhood in a flash. Terrific over cream cheese on wheat toast. Great with slices of salty manchego.