So, with Ms. Panda on work-related travel in far-away Africa at the moment, Puppersmith-Jones, Stella the Wonderkitten, and I decided the weekend was an excellent time to get back in the kitchen and do some canning. It being winter, citrus seemed in order, and I’ve had my eye on the Blood Orange Marmalade recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for at least a week.
A couple of caveats:
- We live in the mid-Atlantic. There ain’t no such thing as a local orange, as far as I know. I’ll have to wait ’til spring until the Missus and I can go out and pick some fresh, local fruit of our own again.
- I didn’t exactly scour every store in town – I in fact stopped only at the new “Social Safeway” in DC (I’d heard great things about the new store, was out and about in town with a friend who was joining me on my day-in-the-city-running-errands, and honestly by the time I got through with the Safeway, I was ready to get home and get the frozen stuff I’d bought into the freezer). In any case, I didn’t find blood oranges, so I used navel instead (the only other variety available was clementine – which, while delicious, seemed like a lot more work with the peeling and whatnot to get the desired 3 lbs of fruit). I bought enough for 3 batches, to allow for some experimentation.
- I altered the recipe a bit. Specifically, I used only 4 cups of sugar instead of 6 (Ball seems to want me to become a diabetic well ahead of my time – and let’s not kid ourselves. 4 cups of sugar in what turned out to be 4 half-pints of marmalade is still a lot.) And…
- In case you were wondering about the title of the post, I added 1/3 cup of Reasonably Priced (i.e. great for cooking, not so much for sipping) Scotch. In this case, Tambowie.
Its starting to look like Ruby Ridge in here, with all those bullets, so I’ll get away from those now that I’m ready to start my round-up of thoughts and lessons learned. Instead, let’s do a numbered list!
- I’d never really worked with orange peels in the kitchen before. When I was growing up, Mama Bolt always told me that one could make candy from them, but that it’s something of a pain, so she never really did it. So I never really tried it. I was wary, at first – especially with the nasty smell they emitted when I was initially cooking them down (god I hope my scrubbing got all the wax and whatnot out…), and I haven’t yet eaten any of the marmalade (other than what I scraped off the inside of my pan with my finger while I was waiting for the jars to get out of their water bath), so we’ll see how that all turned out.
- The recipe said I’d get six half-pint jars. I got 4 (rather, I picked up some adorable 4-oz. jars while I was in town, so I made 3 half-pints and 2 quarter-pints to give away). It seems like I never get the yield a recipe says it’ll give me.
- I think I can safely cut it down to 3 cups of sugar, maybe even 2, though that might change the gel-time; I’ll have to play around with that.
- This stuff is pretty labor intensive. I timed myself roughly, and from the time I started washing the first oranges to the time I pulled the last jar from the bath, it took me just north of 4 hours. In particular…
- Our knives could use a good sharpening. I was trying to get ahead of the game by getting all the orange segments separated from their membranes before the peels came out of their initial cooking – no way. On the upside, this gave the peels some time to cool before I needed to scrape the crap off the inside and slice them up.
- This stuff makes a LOT of foam. We picked up a 6 quart enamel-coated cast-iron dutch oven branded by some food TV-show star at a major big-box chain store, and I was worried for a little while that the foam was going to boil over. Once the foam starts to go down though, you’ve gotta watch really closely for gel – I think I let it go slightly too far. This one turned out to be pretty firm. Not as firm as the peach-thyme fiasco of earlier in the summer, but still pretty firm. A little too firm, if you ask me.
- I added the scotch at the beginning of the final boil-down-to-a-gel. This, I think was a mistake. My finger-swipe-taste-test showed that the flavor was pretty dang good, but I didn’t pick up even the slightest hint of the scotch. Two things I want to try: adding the scotch just before the marmalade has reached its final gel point (as the Ball book more or less suggests in the “Tips” sidebar that I neglected to read), and marinating the fruit for a couple of days in the liquor.
I plan on being home early from work tomorrow though, so I’m thinking of trying that first option tomorrow, and ideally, if I have time to get the peels and segments prepared for the third (and final batch), I’ll go ahead and get those marinating for a jam-up this weekend. Otherwise it’ll have to wait for Friday night, I reckon. I’ll let you know. Also, I’ll come back around on this post and add a picture of the final product once I take a photo of it, which I’m hoping to do tomorrow around sunset. You know. When the light is nice.