Thursday, February 16, 2012

Blood Orange Marmalade

Aaron and I are heading to California next month to visit my family. We'll be staying with my brother Jeffrey, and sister-in-law, Patricia, both busy parents (of my adorable 16 month old niece, Addy). They're two of our favorite people on the planet and I wanted to do something special for each of them as a belated Christmas gift. I have jams picked out for Jeff, but I remembered that Patricia particularly loves marmalade. I flipped through some of my canning books to get a few ideas and decided to make a Blood Orange Marmalade. Blood oranges are in season right now, and I wanted to showcase (and preserve) them before they're gone. It's a slightly different take on the traditional orange marmalade and one that I hope she'll love.

Blood oranges are so fragrant and vibrantly colored, they're one of those foods I always look forward to. The most common varieties of blood oranges are Moro, Tarocco, and Sanguinello. I used the Moro variety, which are grown in California and Texas. I love to use them in cocktails, toss them in salads (their juice also makes delicious dressings), or simply peel and eat them. Not to mention, I feel like Dexter getting my hands all "bloody" while juicing the oranges. A delicious crime scene indeed.

This recipe was the result of three different attempts. I experimented with several recipes before deciding which marmalade tasted and worked the best. On my third attempt, I came across David Lebovitz's recipe for a classic Seville orange marmalade. I replaced the Seville oranges with blood oranges and added a little port to give an added depth of flavor and a slightly darker color. The final result was wonderful. Together with the port wine, the blood oranges give this marmalade a deep burnt orange color and an intoxicatingly rich flavor. 

Adapted from David Lebovitz, Ready for Desert

6 blood oranges
1 navel orange
9 cups water
1 cup port wine
heavy pinch of salt
8 cups sugar

Place a couple of small plates in the freezer to test the marmalade later on. Wash all the oranges and wipe them dry. Cut each orange in half, crosswise around the equator. Place a fine mesh strainer over a medium-sized bowl and push out any seeds and discard (see notes below). Juice the oranges. Pour the juice and any pulp into a large 8 to 10 quart stock pot.

Remove the stem ends of each orange. Cut each orange half into thirds and then chop each of these slices into about 1 centimeter cubes (or thin slices, if you prefer) and add to the pot. Add the salt and pour in the water and port. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the peels are slightly translucent, about 30 minutes.

Stir the sugar into the mixture and return to a full boil again, then reduce to a gentle boil. Stir occasionally while cooking to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pot. Continue cooking until the mixture has reached 220 degrees (the jelling point) on a candy thermometer. This will take some time, so be patient. You can also test the marmalade by removing the pot from the heat and taking a plate from the freezer. Place a small dollop of the marmalade on the plate. Return to the freezer for a minute or two before running your finger through the marmalade. If it wrinkles slightly and has begun to jell, it's done. If it remains liquid, return the pot to the heat and continue checking every few minutes in the same manner until it's done. 

Once the jelling point has been reached, remove marmalade from heat and ladle into clean 4 or 8 oz. jelly jars and process in a boiling water-bath canner for 10 minutes. Let jars cool in the pot for a couple of minutes before removing. Allow the jars to sit for a few days to allow the marmalade to fully set before using. For more information, see my step-by-step guide to canning here. If you find yourself with any extra marmalade that can't be processed, put it in a clean jar and place in the refrigerator. Use this jar first, within 3 weeks. 

Yield: About 11 to 12 cups

  • Many recipes require you to hold onto the orange seeds, place them in a spice bag or well-tied cheesecloth bundle, and add to your marmalade as it cooks. The seeds are loaded with pectin, which helps to jell the marmalade. The Moro variety of blood oranges I used cumulatively only had about 4 seeds, so I've left them out. If, however, you're using another type of orange (such as Seville), by all means add them to your pot and remove a little while after you've added the sugar.
  • I used my trusty candy thermometer to be absolutely sure when the marmalade had gelled. I like using the thermometer because I can actually see the temperature rise and anticipate when the marmalade needs to be removed from the heat. I also like to use the plate method to test for gelling, and often use both methods side by side.
  • If you don't like the slight bitter aftertaste orange marmalade is known for, consider removing some of the pith on each orange peel, or using just the peel itself. However, the pith is full of pectin, which helps to make the marmalade jell. Using just the orange peel may require you to use added pectin.

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