One of our favorite places in the world is the island of Kauai, and it is on its southern tip that we like to stay, in Poipu, where the sun comes out often and bathes the beaches and ocean in its golden warmth. We love to go to the farmers markets all over the island as often as we can, to buy good produce that has not travelled by boat to get there; and to meet the farmers and backyard gardeners who sell at the markets. Among the rare fruits you can find are the mountain apples (ohi’a), egg fruit, durian, jackfruit, breadfruit, the delicious rambutans (lychee) and their cousins, dragon eyes (longan). There are more still, too many to name, and at the end of the list lies the crown of them all: the lilikoi, or passionfruit. The fruit is round and slightly larger than a chicken egg, its skin is smooth and deep yellow and tough; it is as hard to cut into as plastic. Once you cut it open, inside is a small gooey center filled with small seeds. Taste this juiciness and your tongue is lashed with the sharpness of something like lemon and your nose with the tropical fruity smell that you may think for a split second is like lemon, but almost instantly you realize no, it is not the taste of lemon; it is far more fragrant and tropical and exotic. It is the taste of lilikoi.
Hawaiians like to use the juice of the lilikoi to make lilikoi pie, which is similar to Key Lime pie. It is also a popular flavoring for cakes, pastries, jams and other sweets.
So, being at the farmers market, and being entranced by the rich tropical fragrance of the lilikoi, we bought a basket of them. Once we got home, we admired them and demonstrated their dreamlike taste to all the friends and family who would listen and taste. But after the days had gone by, we asked ourselves, how are we going to get this home to Portland, and how are we going to share this fabulous fruit with our Portland friends? Hawaii will not allow us to bring fresh fruit out of the state. The idea struck us; we shall put the juice in vodka and make it into liqueur. That way it will not be fresh fruit any more, and we will get a lot of mileage out of just a few small fruits. It was a simple idea and luck was with us. It worked! We love this liqueur!
This Is How We Did It:
• 1 quart vodka
• 8-12 ripe lilikoi fruits
• sugar to taste
Choose lilikoi that are wrinkled. If you choose pretty, smooth lilikoi fruits, they are young and are not sweet or rich enough to generate the rich flavor and scent you are looking for. If you must buy smooth lilikoi, allow them to ripen on the counter until their skin becomes wrinkly. Cut the lililoi in half with a sharp knife. It may help to pierce the fruit’s skin with the point of the knife before slicing in half. Pull the pulp, juice and seeds out with a spoon and pour the juice, seeds and all, into the vodka. Allow it to steep for at least a month to generate the full richness the fruits are capable of. Strain the liquid though a screen or a cheesecloth to remove pulp and seeds, then pour the strained liquid into a large container. Add sugar a small amount at a time, stir until dissolved, taste; then continue to add sugar and stir until the desired sweetness is achieved.
Purchase cork-top bottles, or look at a second hand store for them. I found mine by looking at the back of my canning shelves and by stopping at garage sales. I made several shapes of labels to be sure there would be one to fit every bottle, and I was surprised that the 1 – 1/2 inch circle shape fit all but one. Then I went to the Ace Hardware store down the street where they have several drawers of different-sized corks. I picked out sizes that would fit my bottles; then added the labels, tags and ribbon. They are absolutely rich with the golden color of lilikoi; as much a treat to look at as to taste.
- Circle Labels • I chose the “Love” style in Spice.
- Designer Address Labels • I chose the “Love” style in Tuxedo.
- Scallop Hang Tags • I chose the “Love” style in Gold.
Dear Jeanne, I would love to try this recipe for Lilikoi Liqueur. Do you know if they have that fruit in any stores or special markets here in the states? I live in NC, and I have never heard of this fruit before. It sounds like an exciting recipe.
Thank you . Debbie Ayscue
Debbie – there are different varieties of passion fruits; I have only seen the purple ones in my local supermarkets (I have lived in NH and ME). Also, although this probably won’t really work for this recipe, you might be able to find Goya or another brand of frozen passion fruit pulp (look for “pulpa de maracuya congelada” in latin groceries.) Goya also makes a passion fruit nectar sold in soda cans, which you can find in the International aisle at your grocery store. I have seen
many delicous looking coctails made with passion fruit juice – good luck!
Thanks Colleen, I had no idea there were purple passion fruit. I wonder how that would look as liqueur? I also didn’t know you could buy canned Lilikoi pulp in the store. Thanks much for the tips.
Debbie, thanks again for the tip about finding frozen lilikoi pulp in latin groceries. We are going to Hawaii for our son’s wedding, and we want to give macadami lilikoi shortbread cookies as favors. We need to make them here since we will be so very busy once we are over there. I am going to a latin grocery today to look for it. Will report back!
The purple lilikoi are the same inside…just purple on the outside. They can easily be used for this recipe I get both varieties here in Kona and sue both together.
Don’t know where you can purchase on the mainland, but here we litterally pick them up off the ground…their best that way, they aren’t ridpe enough if they’re still on the vine.
Another way to use/preserve for future use is to take scrape out the seeds and pulp into a blender, blend for a moment or two to help lift more pulp from the seeds, then strain the juice and pour into ice cube trays. Freeze, then use a cube or two for a martini, cake, pie, icing etc.
Pam, thanks for the info about the purple lilikois. I agree, the best Lilikoi are those found on the ground that have fallen off the tree. They look terrible, but they have the most flavorful juice!
Also, I searched our latin groceries here in Portland for Pulpa de Maracuya (lilikoi puree). I started by asking at the mexican tienda where my hispanic daughter-in-law likes to shop. I asked for “pulpa de maracuya”. The clerk just stared at me and said, “never heard of it.” I explained I was told to go to a latin grocery to find it, and he said “yeah, a latin grocery. This is a mexican grocery. Latin groceries are more for south american things.” So I looked up latin groceries and found a tiny one on Glisan street in east Portland. They had it, exactly even to the brand – Goya. And all kinds of other fruit purees too – papaya, mango, tamarind, mamey, jocote. Wonder what people do with all those things?
Somewhere along the line, our plan for lilikoi cookies changed to lilikoi liqueur. We used the puree and the liqueur turned out just great; just as good as last time, when we fresh-squeezed the lilikoi fruits. But I know where to get more lilikoi when it’s time to do the cookies!
I was so happy to find your blog on Pinterest. I live on the Big Island and have lilikoi growing on my property. I average about 15 fruit a day. I have made jelly, marinade, smoothies, cheesecake, added the juice to orange juice from our orange trees, given them away to friends and my freezer is filling up with frozen juice and pulp. Cheers!
I’m so happy to see this. I live in San Diego and they grow really well here. I bought two starter plants at $17 ea and they went from a 1 ft stem to a 100 ft of fence Coverage in a year. I only buy organic and they are $20 lb here, so I know this is the perfect gift for friends because it’s not something they would typically be willing to make at $20/lbs, thank you for sharing!!!