What does a mango have to do with traditional Italian recipes? Nothing – a part from the fact that every time that I cut a mango I cannot stop smiling. The reason for that is that the very first time I was asked to peel and diced this exotic, sunshine-like fruit I completely and utterly mushed it. At the time I was living in Bristol with a lovely English family and my landlady – the quintessence of what only an exquisite and charming English lady in her 50’s could be – gave me this unhappy task. Well, do not blame me. Years ago in Italy mangoes were not so common! That said, she gracefully took the chance to show me how not to kill a mango. Lesson learnt and today I turned that knowledge into a recipe to share with you.
1 and ½ kg of sweet, medium ripe mango (weight after peeled and stone removed), diced
750 g of granulated sugar
Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons, finely grated
Juice of a lemon, strained
1½ tbsp fresh ginger, minced
Place some empty jars in a large pot linen with a clean tea towel and completely cover them with water. If necessary put another tea towel between the jars so they don’t knock against each other.
Bring to a boil over high heat and let them simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Do not boil the lids as this can damage their plastic bottoms. Instead, just heat them in hot water. When the water is cold enough, take out the jars and the lids and let them drain on a clean surface.
Place a saucer in the freezer.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, combine the diced mango, the sugar, the lemon juice and the grated zest. Mix well and leave it to rest for 5- 10 minute.
Turn on the hob and bring all the ingredients to the boil over medium heat, stirring well to completely dissolve the sugar. Once it comes to the boil, slightly lower the heat and simmer the jam, uncovered, stirring occasionally until the setting point is reached, for another 45-50 minutes.
To check the setting point, when the jam starts to look thicker, test the consistency by taking the saucer out of the freezer and dropping a small quantity of jam on it. If it doesn’t run off the plate, it’s ready.
Remove the mango jam from the heat, skim off the foam with a clean spoon and let it cool for 15 minutes.
Ladle the jam into the sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 cm headspace. Wipe the rims with a clean wet towel to remove any residue and seal.
When the jars are cold, place them in a large pot full of water and sterilise them using the same technique described above, letting them simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the jars cool completely in the pan, then remove them from water.
Press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight. If the lid springs back, it is not sealed properly and refrigeration is necessary. Store them in a cool, dark place.
Here is the easiest way for me to cut a mango. Take a sharp knife, hold the mango in a vertical position, then slice it lengthways either side of the stone. Then hold each mango “cheek”, flesh-side up, cut a criss-cross chessboard pattern, into the flesh right down to the skin, not cutting it through. Now scoop the dices out of the mango skin using a large spoon. Then remove the skin from the left middle section using a small sharp knife, dicing the remaining flesh.