Yesterday’s post included mention of the pawpaw as a meat-tenderising agent, and I think that a little expansion of the topic is in order. Pawpaw does in fact contain an enzyme called papain, and it is this that is responsible for the effect on meat. I am still not totally convinced that the ‘exhalations’ from the tree, or simple wrapping of meat in the leaves will work (although I admit I have not tried it), but there is no doubt that the juice of the fruit and the tree sap will do the job.
The pawpaw grows exceptionally well in my home state – almost as a weed, in the North, I believe. I give you some comments from Australian newspapers
The leaves of the plant are said to possess the property of making tough meat of any kind tender, by merely bruising them a little and rolling them around the object to be made digestible.
The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld] 20 July 1895
The juice of the fruit and the sap of the tree have the peculiar property of making tough meat tender: even the exhalations from the tree have this property to a large extent, and joints of meat, dead fowls, etc., are often hung among the branches to fit the food for the table. … Papain [the enzyme responsible for the tenderizing effect] possesses, like pepsin and trypsin, the power of digesting meat fibre …
Renmark Pioneer (South Australia) 11 Sept 1903
In an article about the medicinal qualities of a new product - Pawpaw Ointment – still a Queensland iconic product:-
Few Victorians are aware that the Pawpaw fruit, which grows abundantly in Northern Queensland, possesses remarkable medicinal properties. It is a scientific fact that tough meat or poultry, hung or wrapped in the leaves of the pawpaw tree, quickly become tender.
Bairnsdale Advertiser and Tambo and Omeo Chronicle (Victoria) 6 July 1911
The milky juice of the fruit contains papain, which is capable of breaking down proteins into simpler, more soluble products. … In 1730, Hughes wrote that “the juice is of such a penetrating nature that if a slice of the unripe fruit is boiled with the toughest salt meat, it will make it soft and tender.”
The Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld.) 7 June 1951
A Tender Breakfast Steak.
“Oh! What tough steak the butcher always sends us.” How often we hear that remark, and hammer the meat until it is almost in pieces. Next time, however, try this method. If you have pawpaw trees growing, take two of the leaves, lay one on a plate then the steak, and cover with the other leaf. If left overnight, next morning you will have a lovely tender steak for breakfast. Remove leaves in morning, and cook in usual way.
Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser (Qld) 19 June 1926
The above idea is not the recipe for the day. I have something a little more interesting (I hope) for you:
Peel a firm yellow pawpaw and remove the seeds; cut in thick rings and cook in salted boiling water for 15 minutes. Then drain and fry the rings in butter, taking care not to break them. When brown on one side, turn and drop a new-laid egg into each circle. Dust with pepper and salt, put a cover on the pan, and cook until the eggs are set.
Worker (Brisbane, Qld.) 15 November 1943
My only concern about this recipe is that the pawpaw would become a puree after 15 minutes boiling!
P.S. In a previous post I gave some ideas on How to Cook with Paw-Paw.
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