Why hello there, and welcome to Kitchen Catastrophes, Jon O’Guin’s ongoing attempt to kill himself by culinary misadventure, to prove the gypsy woman’s curse was just a hoax. I’m your host and skeptic seeking slaying, Jon O’Guin. Today, we’re going to talk about an EXPERIENCE. One that some of you may be seeing more of in the coming weeks, if the buzz is to be believed: Today, we’re talking about Jackfruit. What is it, how do you prepare it, and is it good? These questions and more will be explored today, so let’s dive in.
Trending is more than just a sidebar on Twitter
Let’s have a quick chat about food trends, to ease you into why jackfruit may be something you’ll be hearing more about. I alluded to some possible upcoming food trends back in the review of Somebody Feed Phil, but what exactly ARE food trends?
Basically food trends are when certain foods, whether ingredients, dishes, or products, for whatever reason, become widely popular and requested. Sometimes a particular food has a sudden expansion in production, or a bumper crop year, so it ends up cheaper, thus showing up in more restaurants and grocery stores. Sometimes a particularly famous or noteworthy rendition of a dish is presented: General Tso’s Chicken got onto every Chinese Restaurant’s menu because of a TV spot in the 70’s. It didn’t even EXIST before the 50’s!
How many times do I have to recommend a documentary before people listen? Do I need to write a whole post? Is that it?
And all around the food world, you’ll find that publications are ALWAYS leaping at the chance to trumpet the arrival of “the brand new thing”. This year, Food Network Magazine suggested 10 dishes, 10 products, and 10 ingredients they thought would be this year’s ‘hot new thing’. And reading that list when you’re someone like me is a real…experience. They suggest Gochujang will be the new big thing, and nutritional yeast, products that are ALREADY BIG DEALS in their respective fields. Nutritional Yeast is basically grated Parmesan for Vegans, and as such can be used on basically ANYTHING. Gochujang has been made in Korea for centuries! It’s been sold in fucking Wal-mart for like, 6 years!
What I find fascinating, though, is the feeling you can get, as someone with their ear to the ground in the food world: Recently I was cutting articles out of old magazines, and I found recipes with pomegranate molasses were showing up at my house as far back as 10 years ago. I found a muhammara recipe from four years ago. You get these…rumbles. And sometimes they turn into stampedes, sometimes they don’t.
Remember when Cake Pops were a thing?
As such, I have to cite two sources for my first rumblings about Jackfruit. The first, we’ve actually already talked about: Justin Warner’s Laws of Cooking (and How To Break Them). Yes, one of his MANY mad culinary creations in the book is a Vegan fish stick, where he talks about how his efforts to create the dish were stymied by an inability to find a vegan source that would flake like fish does, and how he eventually settled on pickled jackfruit. That was the first time I had ever heard of jackfruit being USED for something.
The second…is more nebulous. I can’t tell you where I heard it (it MAY have been an issue of Mental Floss, a magazine exactly as silly and kind of cool as that name suggests), or when, but I can suggest WHY: I think I was researching the idea of doing a “food mysteries” post, or maybe just compiling a list of them to toss out during lulls in party conversation. (You laugh, but a properly timed and executed pivot to food can save many a dull chat.) In any case, I learned that, perhaps surprisingly, Juicy Fruit gum is REALLY secretive about what, exactly, it’s flavored with.
This box just became more ominous, didn't it?
Yeah, think about it for a second. Do you even REMEMBER what Juicy Fruit tastes like? I mean, it’s kinda weak, it somehow TASTES pale. Maybe it’s bananas? According to Wrigley’s they can’t tell because of trade secrets but say that the flavor is “predominantly lemon, orange, pineapple, and banana notes”. Except…That’s a weird answer. It’s PREDOMINANTLY a series of NOTES? Those are two pretty oppository ideas. In any case, people who’ve tasted a lot of fruit tend to agree: it tastes like jackfruit.
This is because of a chemical flavoring compound they probably use that’s pretty common in both jackfruit and bananas known as isoamyl acetate, a flavoring they probably don’t want to talk about…because it was basically run-off from whiskey production. Yeah, THAT’s a great thing to mention about your candy for children: made from whiskey by-products!
Drunken chewing gum aside, let’s get to the main event, the Jackfruit itself.
If you think I’m out of puns, then you don’t know Jackfruit.
So, jackfruit. What is it? Well, it looks kind of like what you’d expect a stegosaurus egg to look like. Let’s go to the Site’s Vanna White, RACHEL, for a demonstration!
It's a bristly baby boy!
It’s actually one of the larger fruits in existence, capable of growing as large as 100 pounds. Ours was a mere THIRTEEN by comparison. That’s right, this fruit was bigger than a baby, or most cats. Not ALL cats, though. My brother’s cat, for instance, is something of a porker. (She’s not, really, but the last time I was at his place she scratched me and drove my normally negligible allergies into overdrive, causing me to pass out in the car later, so I’m rather cross at her.)
Fat-Cat-Shaming aside, structurally the closest thing I can compare a jackfruit to is a pomegranate: see, the edible part of a jackfruit is the flesh surrounding the seed pods, which is held in a kind of starchy membrane. Joe, can you show the people at home what I’m talking about?
I guess we have two Vannas now.
As a quick aside, if you couldn’t guess by the appearance of non-O’Guin humans in the post, we embarked on this particular adventure while in Leavenworth, back in December. I don’t know why, but their Safeway is a little more adventurous than mine. For instance, they were carrying shishito peppers in the produce section like, 2 years ago. And for scale, shishito peppers were one of the ‘Hot New Ingredients’ Food Network predicted for the coming year. I’ve cooked them, and honestly thought I did a post about them, but the site says I’m a liar, so I guess I have to hunt down those pictures and tell you all about it sometime soon if I want to stay ahead of the curve.
In any case, as I told you several times closer to the event, Joe was at the time experimenting with veganism to see if it made him feel healthier. I don’t remember how it panned out, since we haven’t spoken at all since December. Unless you count several hours playing video games over headset, but you never really convey much personal information over that system, other than the number of times you’ve had sex with varying family members of your opponent. Opponent’s? The grammar there is wonky. What were we talking about?
Ah, yes, the jack fruit. I said you only want to eat the stuff around the seed, and that was technically false. Firstly, you can also eat the seeds if so inclined, though you have to boil them for a while, and they basically come out as like, giant pinto beans/tiny potatoes. Secondly, you only want to eat SOME of the meat around the seed. The actual seed envelope is rather fibrous, I’ve been told, so you want to pluck it out.
Did Georgia O'Keef make this fruit?
For the kids, that means it looks like an airplane.
And let me tell you: you will question if this will be worth it. We were 3 mid-to-late twenties men, who, while not the fittest people in the world, aren’t too lacking in ability, and we all struggled to cut this thing up. Processing this single jackfruit took at least 25-30 minutes. You have to cut through the fruit, seeds and all, in lumbering, pushed-through chops. You have to pry the flesh from the fibrous membrane, pull out the seeds and seed envelopes…In the end, from the 13 pound egg of suffering, we produced about 3-4 pounds of flesh.
Precisely pictured presently.
Raw, the flavor is…not bad. It tastes like, well, Juicy Fruit gum, with…cheese. That kind of slight funk you get from Parmesan? Yeah, there’s a hint of it around the fruit flavor. Again, it’s not like, disgusting. People serve fruit on cheese trays all the time. It’s just kinda weird to get that flavor combo straight from the plant.
What did we do with 4 pounds of funky fruit? I’m glad you asked. Join us Monday, and bear witness to a sight you may have never seen before: the Vegan Pulled “Pork” sandwich!
MONDAY: WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT ME? I LITERALLY JUST TOLD YOU.
NEXT THURSDAY: WHAT AM I, NOSTRADAMUS? JEEZ.