Friday, February 15, 2013

Eating Omily: Yummy Things

Meal-planning wrapped up just fine last week, but this week was a little anticlamactic because my Birthday  was Wednesday, and Valentine's Day was Thursday, which both necessitated eating out.  Not that I'm complaining; we stumbled across this little French place in Williamsburg yesterday (ok, we were trying to make a reservation at like, 3:00 in the afternoon the day of).  The house-made gnocchi served with LOTS of cream and cheese, and topped with bacon was pretty ridiculous, along with the carrot soup, the escargot topped with puff pastry, and the rare herb-crusted tuna.  And the cocktails!  Awesome, awesome, awesome.  So much butter.  We were very happy.  It was called La Comptoir, in case you wondered.

Anyway, we did have omelets with leftover enchilada filling for dinner Monday, and we're having pizza tonight.

I wanted to tell you about my blood orange marmalade today!  It's a really manageable canning project, since the effort is spread out over a couple days, and all the pectin in the orange peels pretty much guarantees a good gel.   You don't have to use blood oranges; whatever oranges you like are fine, but we just love the color and flavor of marmalade made with blood oranges, and with a couple cloves added to the final boil.  It's the husband's hands-down favourite spread.

Some people are intimidated by marmalade, not even by making it, just tasting it, since the orange peels are in it.  The thing is, the sliced oranges sit in water for forty-eight hours before the final boil, and after twenty-four hours, they're simmered for about half an hour, which softens the peels, and also takes out a lot of the bitterness.  On top of that, before the final volume, you add as much sugar as you have orange mixture.  This stuff is HALF SUGAR!  How bitter can it possibly be?  You do get a subtle pucker in the final spread, but just enough to act as the perfect foil to the sweet, gooey, spreadable awesomeness.
Here's the jam simmering away in the final boil.   You have to let it boil (not simmer) for about half an hour, until the sugar and heat activates the natural pectin in the orange peels.
I've got most of the jars filled here, and dribbled a fair amount across the counter, as you can see.  Old towels (or cut up t-shirts) are essential for keeping the sticky mess under control!
Isn't that scarlet color beautiful?  Last year the marmalade was more of a deep ruby: almost the exact color of the orange's namesake.  Different fruit is going to look and taste slightly different, which is part of the fun!  After this the jars are put in the canner full of boiling water for ten minutes, to sterilize them inside and out, and heat them up enough to form the vacuum seal.  Those two things (along with the high acid content that won't allow botulism to survive) are what make canned goods shelf-stable.
I love the way the peels look in the jars, and for some reason, I've never gotten fruit float (when the solid pieces of fruit float at the top of the jar, leaving clearish jelly at the bottom) with marmalade.  They're always nicely distributed and really pretty.  This marmalade would make a great gift, if I could get the husband to part with any!

Canning forces you to slow down, be in the season you are in, and do things exactly right.  It adds beauty and amazing flavor to our lives.  You should give it a shot!

~em

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