Have you ever tried a sapodilla? The fruit looks like a kiwi; small and brown with sandpapery skin. It tastes like a spoonful of caramelized brown sugar, with the texture of a pear. The Mayans used the rubbery sapodilla sap, called chicle, to make the world’s first chewing gum. It’s still used today in some natural chewing gums.
Sapodilla grows wild in south Florida and the Florida Keys. They were probably introduced from the Bahamas in the 1800s. I’ve collected fruit from wild trees while hiking on No Name Key. They were good, but not as good as more recently introduced cultivars like Makok, Alano, and Silas Woods. The newer varieties have a silky-smooth flesh. They’re beautiful trees for the home garden. For more information about growing sapodilla in Florida, visit Fairchild Botanical Gardens.
I make this custard when I have lots of fruit ripe at the same time. Sapodillas are so sweet you don’t have to add much sugar. But if you want something a little more decadent, add the caramel sauce and flip it upside-down, like flan.
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 cups sapodilla, peeled and seeds removed
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar (for sauce, optional)
- 3 tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
Scald the milk (bring it almost to a boil, too hot to touch). Add the cinnamon. Remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Heat the oven to 325. Heat water in a kettle and set it aside.
Place 6 1-cup ramekins or baking cups in a high-sided baking dish.
To make the caramel sauce, put 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan along with 1 tablespoon water. Heat it over medium-low, stirring until the sugar melts and begins to turn amber-colored. Immediately pour 1 tablespoon caramel sauce into each cup.
Blend the sapodilla in a blender until smooth. Removed the cinnamon stick from the cooled milk and add to the blender, along with the eggs, coconut sugar and salt. Blend well.
Divide the mixture among each of the cups. Pour the warm water from the kettle into the baking dish until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Put it in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes. The center of the custards should be gently set. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for 2 hours.
If you didn’t use caramel sauce you can serve the custards right out of their dishes.
If you did use sauce, put the custard dishes in warm water 5 minutes before serving. Run a knife around the edge of each cup. Turn them over onto a plates. Give them a shake or smack and the custards should come right out. Use a spoon to get any remaining caramel sauce out of the dish and put it on the custard.