The thing about living where you don’t have certain supermarket goodies, items you’ve become dependent on to satisfy your cravings, is that you have to make do. Like that sweet pickle relish for your favorite potato salad? Oh I know, some consider that an anathema. A certain purist defines potato salad as cubed boiled potato mixed with a blob of mayonnaise, a teasing batch of crumbled bacon, a handful of finely chopped onion, salt and pepper. Well, to make me drool you have to throw in a careful measure of sweet pickle relish – no dill (well, maybe a little dill) – and a couple of chopped hard boiled eggs. All of that is easy peasy to find in our little pueblo magico – except the critical sweet pickle relish.

What to do, what to do?

I do what my fertile mind tells me to do – look with my mind’s eye at the last jar of relish and list all the veggies.

I trundle down to the mercado (market) and stock up on those – cauliflower, onion, mustard seeds (oops, they don’t have those, do they?) cucumber, carrot… all the solid stuff but NO leafy things. Then chop them to a fare-thee-well and boil them up in vinegar and sugar. Oh – don’t forget a sliver or two of garlic and a few cloves for interest – and a wee scoop of prepared mustard to make up for the lack of seeds. And celery seed, if you have any. Boil it all for a while, wheezing over the vinegar vapors, dissolving the sugar and sampling after a bit to make sure the spices are right.

In an hour or two, you have a nice relish to pop into the refrigerator for your next potato salad. Or hamburger? It’s easy, it’s delicious, it’s fun. You can do it. There are more complicated and drawn out instructions on line, but why bother? This works.

The other kitchen activity we recently discovered is the making of guava butter. You can buy it from vendors who call it guayaba caheta, but if you have one of those aromatic guayaba trees that draws birds, skunks and squirrels – pluck them off ground and make your own mouth-watering marmalade. Or easier, just make the paste and call it butter. I do. No pectin required. It’s an outrageous version of apple butter, the South-of-the-Border’s answer to that Yankee bliss we slathered on our Sunday toast when we were kids.

Now the thing is about guayabera fruits, what we know as guavas, is that they are packed with the hardest little tiny beads of seeds you’ve ever tried to clomp with your molars. Bits of concrete. The whole of its interior is crammed with these inedible seeds. What you do is this – you cut the round fruits into quarters, plop all the pieces, as is, into a pot and bring them to a softening simmer. This happens fairly quickly. Do not add water.

When softened, put them through a food mill to separate out the offending beads. If you have weak arms, get a man to do it. We pulled in our gardener to do the duty – he was tickled to help.
Once the consistency has burbled and thickened to a lovely goop, return it to the heat and dose it liberally with sugar, stirring to dissolve it. And add a tad of lime. And a teaspoon of vanilla. Let it all simmer till it’s suitably thick, and spoon into jars. Let them cool before capping off.

Make a piece of buttered toast and reward yourself.