Monday, March 12, 2012
March break is here! Sorry to all of you that aren't working in the public school system .. but .. March break is here! It's totally exciting, especially since March break this year brought along with it some warmer temperatures and spring-like conditions. Spring-like also means lots of nourishing rain -- totally necessary if we want beautiful stalks of rhubarb, tender asparagus, fiddleheads and early strawberries in just a couple of months. Yesterday was warm and rainy -- a perfect day for an early morning walk before the clouds rolled in, a mug of fragrant and almost decadent Cream of Avalon tea at a local cafe, and a sprint indoors just as the rain started coming down.
Rainy cozy weather is perfect for two things: curling up and relaxing, or engaging in a cooking project. Yesterday, I opted for the latter. Last year during March break, I posted a series of slow food recipes to remind myself that cooking isn't always all about convenience. It can be more about the process of getting the result that leads to relaxation and a wonderful sense of accomplishment. I kept that in mind as I set about making a mixed citrus marmalade. I thought it was the perfect way to say good-bye to winter and hello to spring.
I had never made marmalade before, but I've always loved eating it, especially after I recently discovered that it's delicious as a base for coleslaw dressing. There's also a muffin recipe that I'd love to make with homemade marmalade, and when I saw things like cara cara oranges and meyer lemons at the market, I knew I had to make some. I followed this recipe and method from this cute blog called Apt. 2B Baking Co. It's a bit of work -- not going to lie. You first have to cut off the zests if your fruit (without pith!), cut it up and poach it. Then, you have to supreme your citrus -- that's remove just the flesh and leave the pulpy skins behind. Then, it's genius -- you save the seeds and pulp, tie it up in a cheesecloth bag, and that's your source of natural pectin. Brilliant! And you can use whatever citrus you like! I used meyer lemons, blood oranges and the beautiful pink grapefruit-like cara cara orange. All mixed up, it was like a tart, tangy, floral citrus soup. Nothing like marmalade from the grocery store.
That being said, I don't think my marmalade turned out perfectly. It smells and tastes beautiful -- sweet and tart and bitter, just like marmalade is supposed to taste. But my marmalade didn't gel up like it's supposed to. Maybe I didn't cook it long enough? Maybe I didn't add enough sugar? I did take out about half the sugar (3 cups seems like A LOT for 2.5 pounds of fruit). When I put my marmalade into jars, it was still quite liquidy. It did firm up a bit when cooled, but it's definitely not jelly consistency. But anyway, I think the taste makes up for it. I had never used blood oranges and cara cara oranges before, and had only once played with a meyer lemon, so this was definitely an experiment for me. I'm also excited to open up a beautiful, homemade citrus marmalade in the middle of July .. just like opening my blueberry preserves in December.
Back to the recipe: I used 2 cara oranges, 3 small meyer lemons, and 3 small blood oranges. I used slightly less than 1.5 cups of raw sugar. Those were the only changes I made to the original recipe. But I'd love next time to use just clementines -- those little sweet tangy California cuties .. there WILL be a next time.