I always associated ube jam or jaleya with the holidays. For some reason, if it was close to Christmas, it meant there was likely a jar or more of ube jam in the fridge. I have only discovered recently why this was the case in our home. Turns out the season for kinampay or ube in Bohol, where my mom grew up spending her summer vacations, starts in late November and lasts until late January. The incredibly fragrant ube from the island of Bohol is available in abundance during the holiday seasonâ€¦duhhh, that was simple. Boholanos are proud of their ube and it seems the combination of weather conditions, soil quality (or lack of it), etc. has yielded, in their minds, a provincial specialty unlike that of other ube growing regions in the countryâ€¦ I, of course, as a â€œdescendantâ€ of the provinceâ€¦buy the â€œour ube is best theory,â€ of courseâ€¦
Ube or purple yam is one of several edible tubers that are part of the broad genus Dioscorea according to The Oxford Companion to Food by Alan Davidson. They are not closely related to sweet potatoes nor regular potatoes as most folks might assume. More specifically, ube is one of many yams under the species Dioscorea Alata that thrive all across Southeast Asia and the South Pacific and range in colors from white to deep purple and several shades/colors in-between. Ube can grow to mammoth proportions, with large specimens in Baguio weighing close to 6 or more kilos! These ones here sent by air cargo from Bohol to my kitchen are quite modest in size at just over a kilo a piece. Scraping just a bit of the skin yielded a view of some of the most vividly purple yam I have ever seen.
Growing up I ate ube in several dishes or dessertsâ€¦ as part of a guinataan (stewed root vegetables/tubers and fruits in coconut milk), jaleya or jam, ube pastillas, ice-cream, as an ingredient in sapin-sapin or even puto bumbong perhapsâ€¦ I really do like the fragrance and smell of ube and I was thrilled when my brother sent me some dug up just a few days prior. Taking into account all of the comments from my earlier posts on ube here and here, I decided to make some ube jaleya and some ube pastillas for the recent holidays out of the cache of brilliant Boholano kinampayâ€¦recipes coming up in the next few posts!