Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spiced Citrus Marmalade

I am presently about four batches in to the process of learning to make jams and marmalades without a candy thermometer. So far, I've created goo that won't leave a jar without a sharp implement. I've made a thick-ish sauce that was tasty over ice-cream. I managed a wildberry jam with nice texture that tasted burnt and kind of dirty.

Today, I set out to get the jam-like texture I desired, the flavor of not-too-bitter marmalade with the addition of well-balanced pie spices and the surprise of ginger and fennel. This batch is again slightly on the thin side as it's just barely spreadable with a butter knife - but the flavors are awesome enough to make up for it.

And dare I call it versatile? Thick enough to spread on bread and thin enough to spoon over ice-cream!



This recipe is fun and easy and lends itself to getting creative with spices. Read on for my recipe and have some fun creating your own!



Spiced Citrus Marmalade:
Makes 4-5 half-pint jelly jars

4 medium sized ruby red grapefruits
3 large tangerines
5 small Meyer lemons
1 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice (cinnamon, allspice, clove)
One generous pinch of fennel seed
1 tablespoon finely grated zest from one each of the 3 fruits

Add the citrus peel to 2 cups of boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, cool, then chop into small bits (if not already).

Slice the peel off of all of your citrus fruits, taking the outer white part with it (see 2nd photo above). Remove each section (to a medium sized bowl) in a wedge with a sharp knife, leaving all skin, membranes, and-if you're careful-the seeds in the center of the fruit. Give your remaining membranes a good squeeze over your bowl to catch any leftover juice. When you are all done sectioning your fruit, pick through your bowl of fruit and juice, removing any skins or seeds. Transfer this juicy mess to a blender and mix on low for about 5 seconds.

Measure out your fruit (which resembles juice more than it does fruit at this point) into a saucepan. I got a little less than 4 cups today. Add an equal number of cups of sugar. I added 3 1/2 cups today and it was the perfect balance of sweet and tart.

Throw in your zest and spices and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir until your sugar is dissolved - about as long as it takes to achieve a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until your liquid begins to thicken. This is the hard part! They say until it "coats the back of a spoon" but that didn't work for me. They say cook it to 220F if you want to use a digital thermometer. But I've tried that and it was kind of saucy even when chilled. Today, I cooled some of the hot liquid once I saw the color begin to darken and the top kind of gelling up when I wasn't stirring. I poured the cooled liquid back into the pan and saw it slide off the spoon in something that resembles a smooth sheet of liquid rather than liquidy drips. They call this "sheeting" and it worked for me. Though I've read in the time you cool your hot liquid to check for sheeting, you could over-cook your jam. Might want to remove the hot liquid from the stove if you're worried. I wasn't, and mine turned out okay. Spreadable when chilled and pourable when warm.

Once you get to the point of watching your jam like a hawk before you over-cook it, get your jars into a pot of boiling water. Sterilize the jars, lids and bands and anything else you will be using (such as a jar funnel). Remove the jars to a cookie sheet using sterilized tongs.

When your jam is done cooking, fill your sterilized jars almost to the top. Place lids and bands on the jars and tighten (but not crazy tight). Place your tray of filled jars in a cold oven and turn the oven to 300F. When the oven is preheated, turn off the heat and leave the jars in there, undisturbed, until they are completely cool (i.e. overnight).

Check your cooled jars for a seal by pushing on the center of the lid. If it "pops" it is not sealed. If it doesn't budge or make noise, it's sealed and will keep for a year. Any unsealed jars should be used just as you would an opened jar of store-bought jam.

I hope this recipe is a success for you and that you enjoy the process - and the results!

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