Monday, December 03, 2007

And the Skies Parted; Angels Sang

A miracle of miracles happened this weekend my friends. For the very first time, out of my many attempts, I successfully made marmalade. I’m talking no pectin here. Real, honest-to-God marmalade. This may not sound like much, but for me, it was a sign of hope.

You see, I have a shady history with marmalade. For the longest time, I’ve labeled myself as “Marmalade Challenged” in the canning and preserving department. Every year it seems I would offer my sacrificial offerings to the Marmalade Gods, and be rewarded with either some sort of syrup or something completely inedible. Every other canning or preserving project I’ve set out to try has turned out beautifully, except marmalade. It always eluded me. I could never figure out what I was doing wrong. If I were Mel Gibson, marmalade would be my rocking chair from the movie The Patriot.

And it was so disappointing. I live in Florida. I have friends and family who willingly GIVE me free access to all sorts of wonderful, fresh, organic citrus fruit year round. I’m talking Key Limes, Kumquats, Persian Limes, Grapefruit, Honey Bell Tangelos, Navels, Tangerines, Meyers Lemons, and many more. There they sat. Taunting me.

I’ve read somewhere that expectations are just premature disappointments, so this year, I let go of any expectations. I figured it was time for another batch of “Maybe Orange Marmalade”, which by the way, made a fabulous syrup for Asian sauces and flavoring for buttercream icing. So, off I went. I found a reliable recipe, followed it to the letter, and to my thrill, found it starting to come to the gel stage towards the end of processing. Eureka! Of course, I haven’t tried the final, canned product (only what I tasted on a spoon), and it was fabulous. But at least I’m on the right track!

Orange Marmalade
(makes 7-8 half pints)

4 med oranges (I used a slightly sour Honey Bell Tangelo. Try to stay away from overly sweet oranges like Navels)
2 large lemons
8 cups water
8 cups sugar

Cut each orange and lemon in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut the oranges and lemons into very thin slices. You could probably use a mandoline, but I’ve never had much success with mine using citrus. Place the citrus slices and any reserved juices into a large stockpot. Add the water and bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and add the sugar; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Place a lid on your pot and let the orange mixture sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, bring orange mixture back to a boil, then lower temperature to a steady simmer. Simmer orange mixture for 2 hours, stirring often. After 2 hours, bring heat back up to medium-high and boil for 30 minutes to gel stage (220 degrees). The orange mixture should have a dark golden orange color. Ladle hot orange mixture into prepared canning jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

All Dressed Up For Christmas

Oh, and the mustard I made earlier was a bust. The Oktoberfest mustard still tasted awful, but the Ginger Garlic mustard improved quite a bit and has good potential. I’ll post that recipe soon. Till next time darlings!

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