Monday, April 11, 2011

Hot Blooded Marmalade

Apparently the only way I could get over my I-don’t-make-marmalade hang up was to allow myself to make the most exciting marmalade first. This also happened to be the most complicated marmalade to make and the recipe that I planned from the start to alter the most. But armed with a complete lack of knowledge and an obsession with blood oranges I embarked on a Bloody Temple Marmalade adventure. Then I tasted the rind of the temple oranges and wow were they bitter. So I seamlessly switched the temple oranges out for navel oranges and began a Bloody Navel Marmalade adventure. But that sounded …awful. So I decided to add some crushed red pepper and call my creation Hot Blooded Marmalade. Hurray!

If it sounds like I spent more time fretting over the name of this concoction than I did about the recipe, it did. I was loosely following an online recipe and the one from the ball canning book but mostly I was just flying by the seat of my pants. And I wasn’t exactly…um…thinking. At all.

I peeled the rinds from my oranges neatly, round and round the orange in circles like those hand crank apple peelers do it. Except that they peel strips were anything but neat. And I started cutting them into the thinnest strips I could manage but they weren’t at all thin and it was taking forever. Which is when lazy kicked in and knocked my stupidity up a notch. What I needed was a power tool. I pulled out my sorry excuse for a food processor and chopped the living daylights out of the rind strips. Instead of little slivers I had kibbles and bits, but I got them in a hurry and the taste was the same.
Then I peeled the pith from the oranges which was easy enough even with the tough rind off. And I diligently removed the membranes from each wedge of fruit. For all of about 3 wedges. Then I said to hell with it and chopped the rest into smaller than bite sized pieces. This is when I started wondering how or why people make marmalade.
I dumped the chunks into the rind kibble, added some water and started the stuff to boiling. I measured out my sweeteners for quick application once my premarmalade was up to a boil and in the process spilled both pretty much everywhere. But I did like the effect of burying the red pepper flakes and an amber coffin. And when I went to measure my volume of liquid to make sure bring it up to 6 cups I actually had extra liquid which to me seemed like bonus goodness.

After the sweetness was added I waited, and waited, and waited some more. I was planning to use the thermometer mode of testing gel stage and I knew even though I live at 300 ft above sea level m thermometer registers boiling water at 205 degrees so I was going for 213. Everything stalled right around 200 degrees for what felt like an eternity of stirring. I think it was only about 10 minutes but whatever. Then there was a slow creep from 200 to 210 over the course of about 5 minutes and I was starting to get excited because this thing was really happening and things were thickening up. And then the unthinkable happened and just when the temperature started to approach 213 it crashed down to below 200.
I had no idea what happened but I figured I was close enough to my magic number to fudge it and I pulled my pot from the stove, dumped everything in to jars, and processed them. This girl had to get on with her life. I had 4 other citrus fantasies to indulge myself in and here I was getting bogged down on the very first one. I had 10 8-oz jars and 1 4-oz jar filled up which seemed like a lot and when I tasted the mix it also seemed pretty acrid but I was mentally done with this marmalade. Everything sealed and I was content.

But when I checked in 24 hours I was left with an overly spicy, very bitter, soupy sauce. A big flop. So I de-jarred everything and started it boiling again. I added 2 more cups of sugar to balance the bad flavors and I used the saucer test this time. I kept the thermometer in for good measure and that thing bounce up and down for no good reason the whole time the marmalade simmered.

My final yield ended up at just under 9 8-oz jars and the spice and bitterness were a little more mellow. There is still a pretty strong astringent aftertaste which I think could be done away with by boiling the rind for 10 minutes then draining it before adding the fruit. As is, it works well as a chutney or condiment for pretty much any meat I’ve paired it with including white fish but I wouldn’t slap it on a bagel with cream cheese.
It wasn’t a complete failure but I would say significant room for improvement for sure. And my marmalade making friend to whom I gifted all of the stumpy jars diagnosed my problem all along as not enough patience. Ah well.

Special Equipment: Water Bath Canner, Jars, Lids and Bands, Canning Funnel, Bubble Tool

Hot Blooded Marmalade
(Loosely based on That Bloody Marmalade Tastes So Good by Putting Up With the Turnbulls and Blood Orange Marmalade from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. None of my mistakes should reflect on their recipes.)
6 Blood Oranges
2 Navel Oranges
2 C Water + more
2 C Orange Juice
5 C sugar
½ C honey
2 tsp Red Pepper flakes

1. Wash oranges and lemons and remove peel with vegetable peeler
2. Cut peel into thin strips
3. Working over a bowl, separate fruit segments from membrane/pith and squeeze juice from membrane. Discard membrane and seeds.
4. Add 2 c water, orange juice and segments to saucepan with peel strips and bring to a boil for 30 minutes
5. Measure fruit mixture and stir in enough water to make 6 c total
6. Bring to boiling and gradually stir in sugar and honey and pepper flakes while maintaining boil
7. Continue boiling and stirring until mixture reaches the gel stage ~24 minutes
8. Ladle into jars leaving ¼ inch headspace
9. Remove bubbles and adjust headspace if required
10. Wipe rim, center lid, and screw band to fingertip tight
11. Place jars in water bath canner and adjust water level to cover the jars if necessary
12. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes
13. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes and remove jars
14. Check seal in 24 hours. Reprocess or label and store

My Yield: 4.5 pints minus about 2 oz or almost 7 8-oz jars

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