Every other Sunday – the first and third of the month – local farmers pitch their tents at la Placita Roosevelt, on the Hato Rey neighborhood of San Juan. I’ve tried to showcase their produce and baked goods on several posts, focusing on new (for me) items. This time around, I would like to highlight one of those items that I’ve bought over and over again but never showed you before. When in season, I usually grab a cup of “cranberry” juice to enjoy while browsing the tables and buy the fruits to add to smoothies or juice at home. These “Puerto Rican cranberries” are actually ketembillas, a native Ceylon gooseberry that was brought to the UPR Experimental Station in 1930.
The ketembillas do not resemble actual cranberries, but their taste is very similar. They are usually juiced or used for making jellies, due to their high pectin content. The wrinkly ones are ripe, and thus, sweeter than the larger smooth ones. I wouldn’t advise eating them raw anyways – they are very tart. Their juice is very opaque, leading me to believe it is loaded with antioxidants. Unfortunately, not much information is available regarding these little berries’ nutritional benefits. Could it be a superfruit in the making?
No special equipment is needed to make ketembilla juice – a regular blender and strainer will do. I made a simple syrup with brown sugar to sweeten the juice, but fructose or regular white sugar would work fine as well.
(Yield: 2 quarts)
- 1/2 pound ketembillas, washed and stems removed
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup of water
In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar and 1 cup of water and bring to a simmer until the sugar fully dissolves into the water. Set aside, and allow the syrup to cool.
Add the ketembillas to the blender, and add another cup of water. Pulse until the fruits are liquefied. Slowly strain the juice into a 2-quart pitcher, pressing the solids to obtain the juice. Add the brown sugar simple syrup and stir well. Top the pitcher with water and store in the refrigerator.