Buddha's Hand Hawaiian Candy
I decided to call the best person I know while researching my article, Buddha’s Hand, in today’s The Garden Island newspaper. Ken Love is a kind, gentle man who is well known in Hawaii and around the world as a tropical fruit expert. He maintains a website full of information about Hawaii’s fruit and was in a fascinating movie called Fruit Hunters.Ken has a farm on the Big Island and teaches the Hawaii Master Food Preservers class. In it, he tells his students that Buddha’s Hand is fantastic for making homemade pectin. When I called him, he was teaching a class in Hilo. As his students made chutney with Naalehu mangoes, he shared a recipe with me.
“A lot of people in Hawaii make candy with Buddha’s Hand,” he said cheerfully. “They cut it into cubes, dunk it in boiling water, then an ice bath. They do that six or eight times before coating it in powdered sugar. The insides get jelly like and it’s very popular.”
I decided to experiment because even after cooking with it for one week to write my story, I still had about half of it left. And I needed to use it soon. Ken left me with a lot of unanswered questions and an internet search was no help. I wondered how long to blanch them and how long to leave them in the ice bath. I also wondered how much powdered sugar to use, when to add it, and if the candy would store best on the counter, in the refrigerator, or if they would freeze well.
I diced the Buddha’s Hand into 1/2-inch cubes and blanched them for 30 seconds. I put them in the basket of a salad spinner and left them in the ice bath for one minute. I put them back in the hot water and when it came to a boil, I let it go for 30 seconds. After two rounds, I was out of ice, so I decided to run them under cold water until they were cool. After the sixth ice bath, I tasted one and it was sweet, but not “jelly-like.” I went for two more rounds, for a total of eight. Once they were drained, I tossed them in 2 cups of powdered sugar. Mistake. It turned into icing and dripped off the “candy.”
I think I should have stopped at seven dunks because even with the sugar coating, they were too bitter to eat. But the experiment was not a total loss. I gained some knowledge. Next time, I’ll make sure I have more ice, repeat the process seven times and let them dry before I toss them.
I kept the blanching water for a lemon-mint tea and I think it would make a fine risotto. I couldn’t help but wonder if I could infuse the “candy” with mint during the blanching process, or if chunky Maui sugar would be better than powdered. If you decide to experiment based on my experiment, or if you have already mastered this technique, please leave a comment!