We mixed up some guacamole for the “End-Of-Summer” Kick-Off Party of our church choir last weekend. As you may know, I’m the director of the group, which has grown to include up to 65 members. When they get together for a party with spouses, we often have 80 – 100 people! How do you manage to have enough ripe avocados on the same day to make guacamole and sliced avocados for a crowd like that? I’ll give you the scoop on how we do it … it takes some planning and strategy to manage that many avocados!
First we have to decide when to pick the avocados. You probably know that avocados do not begin to soften until they are picked from the tree. They will stay hard as long as they are still on the tree. Once they leave the tree, the ripening time depends on several things. We planned to use Hass avocados, which are usually harvested in California between April and September.
Maturity: Early in the season the oil content is lower than later in the season. The maturity of the fruit will allow it to soften sooner. Since our party was in August, we knew it might not take as long for the fruit to soften as it would in April. We also knew that the fruit would be more buttery, since the oil content is high at this time in the season. It’s tricky to figure out exactly when to pick the avocados if we want them to be ripe on a certain day. We decided to pick our avocados for the party one week before we needed them to be ripe. If the party had been in April, we probably would have picked them 10-14 days before we needed them.
Storing the Avocados: Once the avocados are picked, we have to take special care of them if we want to be sure they are all ripe on a certain day. Some will ripen faster and some will take more time. Lay them out in a single layer in a box if you want to slow down the ripening and eat them one by one. Check them every day, and when they’re beginning to soften, check them twice a day! If you want to speed up the process, put some in a brown paper bag with a banana or apple, and the natural ethylene gas emitted by the fruit will enable the avocados to soften. This is not a hard-and-fast rule…it may or may not speed up the ripening by a day or two, depending on the maturity of the avocados.
When I take avocados to Vermont, we put them in the cool basement (45 degrees) and bring them upstairs as they just begin to “break”…no longer rock-hard. Early in the season (when the avocados aren’t as mature and the oil content is less) the avocados will stay hard and green for two weeks or more in the cool basement. Upstairs we’ll put 2 or 3 in a brown paper bag (and carefully monitor their softening so that we can eat them when they’re perfectly ready.) We may put several in a bowl…sometimes they ripen just as fast as the ones in the bag. It is very important to watch the avocados daily if you want to eat them at peak ripeness.
Here in our kitchen in Southern California, we keep some on the counter and eat them as they ripen…usually two or three at a time. When we want to have a large quantity of avocados ripe on the same day, we put them all in a box and keep them in the house (since the garage is pretty warm here in August).
When we’re trying to ripen a huge quantity of avocados for a special occasion, some will ripen earlier than others. When they are just about ready to eat (and not over-ripe) we put them into the refrigerator for a day or two…not longer. They will be fine for guacamole or slices, but will taste better if brought to room temperature before eating. We never refrigerate our avocados unless we’re trying to save a large quantity for a party. Important to note: do not refrigerate avocados unless they are ripe and ready to eat. The refrigerator is too cold to allow a hard avocado to ripen.
Review: Various stages of avocado ripeness are happening at one time, even if the avocados were picked on the same day: 1. Rock hard (in a box or bowl)
2. Beginning to soften (in a single layer on the counter or in a box)
3. Just about ripe (monitor them so they don’t become over ripe!)
4. Ripe and ready (holding them in the refrigerator)
On the day of the party, all the ripe avocados come out of the refrigerator to be cut and peeled. It’s important not to use any avocados that have become over-ripe, mushy, discolored or have a strong odor. An over-ripe avocado has an off-taste and odor…and it ruins a batch of guacamole! Sometimes we just have to eat some avocados before they go “over-the-hill”, even if we were hoping to save them for a party. A perfectly ripe avocado deserves to be eaten!
If your avocados look like this one, you have waited too long. Don’t let this happen to your beautiful California avocados! Eat them when they’re perfect!
If you cut open an avocado and find that it’s mushy just next to the skin, you can probably scrape that mushy part off and still use the rest of the fruit. The avocado should not have a strong odor.
Perfectly ripe avocados can be peeled…I don’t like to scoop out the flesh with a spoon because the most nutritious part of the avocado is next to the skin. Any bad spots will usually stick to the skin when the peel is pulled away from the flesh. If you scoop the fruit, you can’t tell where the bad spots might be.
Here is a perfectly ripe avocado! The flesh is soft but still firm…not mushy…and still a beautiful green color! This is how you want your avocados to look when you eat them!
Now that we have ripe avocados, we’re ready to start making the guacamole. Stay tuned for Part 2, How We Make Guacamole for a Large Party!
For more information about ripening avocados: Making Guacamole With Hard Avocados