Monday, March 16, 2009

Blood Orange Marmalade

Okay, things are coming along and I'm starting to find my way back to ol' Cogito (sounds like an artisan brand of apertif or whiskey...I call dibs on the trademark!).

I decided, yesterday, to get off my keester and actually do some cooking; as I've been without much in the way culinary inspiration as of late, evidenced by my lack of posts this year, thus far. Yesterday, however, while at Harmon's I saw they had blood oranges for a reasonable $1.19/lb and was instantly hit with an idea...blood orange marmalade! I grabbed a bag of oranges and went home and looked for recipes.

I recalled having seen a recent episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown focused on the orange and even made marmalade. Alton's recipes have never let me down, so I decided his was the one. It is simple and pretty straight forward, which is what I like about Alton's recipes, he doesn't monkey around, just good food done right.

The blood oranges gave the marmalade a rich, ruby color and a slightly more tart flavor than other marmalades that I've had. It really does have a sense of being a more "grown up" marmalade. The only complaint I have is that there must be something awry in the recipe. First off, the recipe says that it should take 15 to 20 minutes for the marmalade to heat to 222°F, it took mine nearly an hour. I've never had it take so long to heat a pot of preserves. Also, now that it's set, the marmalade is very stiff, sticky and almost candy-like in texture. All the marmalades I've had in the past have a more loose consistency. I'm not sure if this is how Alton Brown intended in to be, or if there's a flaw in the recipe. I also ended up with about 60 oz. of marmalade, rather than the 80 oz. the recipe said I should have. It is good, though, and I do recommend you give it a try. Maybe we can compare notes and figure out what may or may not have gone wrong or right.

Blood Orange Marmalade
via Alton Brown's Good Eats

1 3/4 pounds blood oranges, 4 to 5
1 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced
6 cups water
3 pounds plus 12 ounces sugar
Special Equipment: 10 (8-ounce) canning jars with rings and lids, funnel, tongs, ladle, and 12-quart pot

Wash the oranges and lemon thoroughly. Cut the oranges into 1/8-inch slices using a mandoline, removing the seeds as you go. Stack the orange slices and cut them into quarters. Place the oranges into an 8-quart stainless steel pot. Add the lemon zest and juice and the water to the pot, set over high heat and bring to a boil, approximately 10 minutes. Once boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a rapid simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 40 minutes or until the fruit is very soft.

While the fruit is cooking, fill a large pot (at least 12-quart) 3/4 full with water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Place 10 (8-ounce) jars and rings, canning funnel, ladle, and tongs into the boiling water and make sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the lids and leave everything in the pot until the marmalade is ready.

Meanwhile, place a small plate in the freezer. Increase the heat under the orange mixture to return to full boil. Add the sugar and stir the mixture continually, until it reaches 222 to 223 degrees F on a deep-fry or candy thermometer, and darkens in color, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. You may need to adjust the heat in order to prevent boil over. Test the readiness of the marmalade by placing a teaspoon of the mixture onto the chilled plate and allowing it to sit for 30 seconds. Tilt the plate. The mixture should be a soft gel that moves slightly. If mixture is thin and runs easily, it is not ready.

Remove jars from the water and drain on a clean towel. Place a canning funnel onto the top of 1 of the jars and ladle in the marmalade just to below the bottom of the threads of the jar. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used. The amount of marmalade may vary by 1 to 2 jars. Wipe the rims and threads of the jars with a moist paper towel and top each with a lid. Place a ring on each jar and tighten.

Return the jars to the pot with boiling water, being certain that they don't touch the bottom of the pot or each other. (If you don't have a jar rack, try a round cake rack, or metal mesh basket. Even a folded kitchen towel on the pot bottom will do in a pinch.) Add additional water if necessary to cover the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 10 minutes. Using canning tongs, carefully remove the jars from the water, place in a cool dry place and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours before opening. Once open, store in the refrigerator. Unopened marmalade will last for up to 6 month.

I also want to note that if the canning portion of the recipe doesn't appeal to you, then you can also just freeze the marmalade. I wanted to go all out, though, so I pulled out my canning equipment and boiled away!

Epilogue: This morning I took my open jar of marmalade, popped it in the microwave at 50% power for about thirty seconds, then stirred in about one or two tablespoons of hot water. After sitting in the fridge for a couple of hours I found that it loosened up, so it's easier to scoop and has a consistency I more associate with a marmalade.