Guava Duff, tropical delectation!
The culinary flavor of Key West comes from two main areas. One being the island nation of Cuba that sits a mere 90 miles off the coast, and the other is from the European descendants that had migrated to the Florida Keys from the Bahamas many years ago. Having family that are considered true "Conchs", our cuisine consisted of many delights from each, and sometimes a combination of the two. Guava Duff is one of those that many have never heard of much less enjoyed, but it is truly a sweet delight enjoyed as dessert or as a side dish as the Conchs do.
Hunting the wild guava.
Although this tropical fruit is widely believed to originate from Southern Mexico through Central America, it rapidly spread throughout the tropics and became a staple of Cuba as well as South Florida. It seems to be getting harder to find actual trees or fresh fruit here in Florida, but there are always commercial products available in paste form as well as guava shells in syrup. While perhaps not quite the same, it is certainly a suitable substitute for Duff and other dishes.
The Conchs of Key West readily took to the fruit and with the Cuban influence enjoyed guava in a variety of ways. Many are familiar with the wonderful pastries (plain or with cheese) that abound in Cuban bakeries, and a favorite dessert in the keys was Guava Shells with cream cheese. Another dessert made wiith guava is Queen of All Pudding which is a delightful bread pudding with layers of guava running throughout with a meringue on top. Served warm, it is also an old time family favorite. And then of course, there is the Duff!
On to the Duff!
Even though most eat this dish as a dessert, the Conch way was to eat it as a side dish. It was always a special occasion when we had it, and the menu was generally the same. Baked ham, baked beans, avocado salad and Duff. Although a sweet dish, it somehow was complemented very nicely with the ham and beans. One thing was for sure. After dinner, no one really needed dessert!
The Duff itself is basically like a plum pudding of sorts. While steaming in enameled pans was the original and preferred method, true Conchs would sometimes boil it if they were out on the fishing boats, or where it couldn't be steamed. In the absence of a steamer, baking will certainly work and this recipe has been adapted to do just that. It's not complete though without the sauce poured on top. A thick sweet rich sugar and egg sauce with bits of guava, it's definitely not a dish for dieters!
Grannie Page's Guava Duff:
2 cups of Bisquick (or any biscuit dough)
Make according to directions for biscuits.
Roll out the dough on floured waxed paper in a rectangle.
Use approximately 2 cups of peeled and cored guavas
( 1 to 2 cans of guava shells, drained if not fresh)
Slice the guava meat in thin slices and pat dry with paper towels
(especially with canned shells packed in syrup)
spread evenly over the dough setting 1/4 cup aside for the sauce.
Roll up from the long side, and pinch ends together.
Coil into a greased 3 quart casserole baking dish (or steamer pan).
Bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 to 60 minutes (or steam for 2 to 3 hours until it rises and is firm to the touch)
Slice and serve warm with sauce on top.
1/4 cup of minced or pureed guava
Enough sugar to make a thick sauce.
Beat egg and guava on high speed.
Add sugar gradually until sauce is thickened to consistence of molasses and completely dissolved.
Variations on Guava Duff
Though my family has always enjoyed the Conch version of Guava Duff, it is perhaps one of the more popular desserts in the Bahamas. Searching around, one can find variations on the recipe and many look different from others. Some call for additional ingredients such as nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves while others use only gauva pulp instead of slice or chopped guava in the duff. Some add butter to the sauce and a few use vanilla (one calls for rum!). Chances are, you can certainly find one to suit your particular tastes but we prefer to stick to the tried and true Conch method!
This is certainly not a dish for everyone, and you need to have a sweet tooth to appreciate it. Whether you have it as dessert or with the meal as we do, it is truly a rich and guilty pleasure to savor. I hope if you get the chance to try it, you'll love it as well. I hope to be featuring some lenses on Conch Cooking and some of the other food delights indigenous to South Florida and the Keys. Be sure to check them out if you like goodies such as Key Lime Pie, another one of my great grandmother's original recipes from Key West.
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Photo of Guava Duff in introduction courtesy of Travelblog.org
Let me hear from you. - How do you like your guavas?
Bahamian chef on June 20, 2017:
This is a Bahamian dish.
anonymous on December 16, 2012:
I love guavas but I haven't tried a guava duff yet. It looks good.
Tagsforkids (author) on September 25, 2012:
@KimGiancaterino: Hi Kim, that's a good question. Never tried it but it does sound interesting. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out! Thanks.
KimGiancaterino on September 25, 2012:
I wonder if this will work with our pineapple guava fruit? This is the first year we're getting a big crop. Very exciting!
nolinel lm on July 23, 2012:
This looks really tasty.
MissionBoundCre on June 08, 2012:
Guava with Cheese is just incredible. You must try it.
Blackspaniel1 on May 19, 2012:
anonymous on May 17, 2012:
anyone got a recipe for guava duff cheesecake????
biminibahamas on April 01, 2012:
Duff is yummy indeed!
JoshK47 on December 07, 2011:
Ooo - sounds pretty tasty! Certainly would like to try this sometime.
AlleyCatLane on November 06, 2011:
Hello, fellow Conch!!! I am so excited to have found this article. I will add a link from my Key West article. I loved guava duff. Haven't had any since I was a child. I'll have to try this. Blessed!
andreaberrios lm on October 26, 2011:
I also love Guava!! Specially guava shells. I have a lens with the recipe. This I should try sometime.
klopcic on September 28, 2011:
Looks delicious and tasty!
hlkljgk from Western Mass on September 27, 2011:
wow, what an interesting sounding dessert. a must try if i can get my hands on some guava.
anonymous on September 25, 2011:
I've never even tasted guava but my mouth is watering for some guava duff right now!
anonymous on June 20, 2011:
You have never had guava duff until u have had the Bahamian Guava Duff. I've looked online at some of the receipes and haven't seen any that had all of the correct ingredients. They came close, overall the guava duff really is an amazing dish.
Tagsforkids (author) on February 22, 2011:
@anonymous: Thanks, I know when my grandparents were out on the boat, they wrapped the duff in cheesecloth and boiled it. I would imagine similar to the can. While I remember fondly eating it growing up, I only remember the duff being done in the porcelain steamer. I hope you have some luck finding guava shells! :)
anonymous on February 22, 2011:
I have a guava duff can that was my mother's and belonged to her father before that. He was a fisherman/spongerman who lived in the Keys and Key West all his life. The duff can is round, more narrow at the bottom, wider at the top with a lid that is held securely by three attached clamps. After filling with the duff, it is placed in a pan of boiling water for a couple of hours. I was born in Key West and was displaced when the Coast Guard took over the Lighhouse Service and transferred my dad to Jacksonville and later to Miami. I now live in a small town in Alabama and while the folks up here are great, the don't know what a guava is, let alone duff. I would like to make some but can't even find the canned guava shells. Can I guava marmalade instead?
malloryjane on November 10, 2010:
Mmm! Sounds like this would satisfy my sweet tooth. Thanks for sharing!
malloryjane on November 10, 2010:
Mmm, sounds like this will satisfy my sweet tooth. Thanks for sharing!
Bellezza-Decor from Canada on November 06, 2010:
Next time they turn up in the supermarket, I'll try out this recipe.
Spook LM on September 17, 2010:
They grew wild all over my farm In South Africa and were very common in Zimbabwe as well. I haven't seen one in my ten years here in Ireland, not even in a supermarket. A pity as they have no idea what they are missing. Blessed by an Angel.
Jimmie Quick from Memphis, TN, USA on September 13, 2010:
I like guava! I think I would love this dessert. And the menu sounds amazing.
julieannbrady on April 08, 2010:
So! I'm thinking there was a traumatic childhood event in which I was introduced to the guava and was impacted for a life to go guava-less ... but I'm sure this is mighty tasty!
anonymous on December 09, 2009:
@Superwife: Boy this brings back memories! I'm salivating!!!
lakshyaa on December 04, 2009:
Nice lens. I am hearing about Guava Duff for the first time. It looks great!
Kiwisoutback from Massachusetts on December 04, 2009:
This sounds delicious, I've never heard of this. I'll have to be on the lookout for this in restaurants in Key West. I've been three times and I haven't seen this anywhere. Nice work!
Bambi Watson on December 03, 2009:
Very interesting lens, I had never heard of Duff before...it looks amazing!
Superwife on December 03, 2009:
interesting and looks sweet and tasty! longtime lover of the conch republic myself, I'm now wishing for a vacation :)