Tag: Citrus

Peel, pith, and pips! Piedmont Picnic talks marmalade

The count is neither sad nor sick nor cheerful nor well—

he’s just civil, as Seville as an orange,

with the same jealous-yellow complexion.

-Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing

This week, our citrus peels continue on their wheel of reincarnation, being made into one of the stars of citrus peel confectionery delights:  marmalade.  While reading extensively about marmalade of late, I must say the “jam porn” (as I like to call it) is taken to a whole new level as authors talk about the shining, citrusy, decadent, classic, perfect balance of bitter, sweet, and sour that is marmalade.  It brings out the anglophile in all of us, I think.

Our marmalade can be made with fresh citrus, saved peels (from fruit that has already been juiced or eaten), or from your peels after they’ve been soaked to infuse alcohol, such as in our Tale of Two Vins post.  Marmalade is a great addition to our Feasting in Times of Winter Scarcity series, using up every last bit of your citrus.  As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, we are attempting to place ourselves in the mindset of a time when citrus would have been such a special commodity that we would have tried to hold on to every last bit of its flavor for as long as possible, seeing the peel as a valuable resource rather than a waste product.  Marmalade not only makes use of the peel, but showcases it.

Marmalade_Finished

History

Many of us probably associated marmalade with the British – as something you have on your crumpets with your tea.  Enough British stereotypes yet?  Throw in a “Cheerio!” for good measure.

Today we think of marmalade as referring exclusively to citrus jam – a sweet, tart, and slightly bitter combination of jellied citrus juice and tender peel.  The word marmalade comes from the Portuguese word marmelada, for quince jam.  Yet Seville oranges came to be known as the quintessential marmalade fruit.

Advert for 'Nell Gwyn' Marmalade, 1943.

American canning books will often differentiate between “quick” and “traditional” marmalade.  Quick marmalade has added pectin.  However, I prefer the long method, as the citrus peel is chock-full of pectin, making added pectin unnecessary if you are willing to take a little more time.  This utilizes an existing resource while saving you a little money and using fewer processed additives.

Variations

The peels.  As mentioned above, you can use fresh citrus, with all of the pulp and juice intact.  However we are using peels from citrus that has already had the flesh eaten or juiced (and then possibly soaked in alcohol).  If using juiced citrus, I leave the remaining pulp attached.  You can make a one-fruit marmalade out of any one citrus peel type, or mix and match.  Note that the classic Seville oranges are higher in pectin than much of the citrus we commonly use, and that freezing the peels can reduce pectin content.  This may mean you’ll need to cook your marmalade down further to get the consistency you are looking for without adding pectin.

Marmalade_Peels

The pips.  Many people recommend saving the pips, or seeds, from the fruit to soak or boil in a muslin bag to release further pectin.  However, many sources say that most of the pectin is really in the peels and pith, and the seeds don’t much matter.  I find with our more common citrus fruits, there are too few seeds to bother with, contrary to Seville oranges which are full of seeds.

The liquid.  For the liquid that makes the gelled portion of your marmalade, you can use water or citrus juice.  Alternatively, you can use wine, leftover cocktail or punch (whatever that is), or a combination of these things.  Note the significant color difference in the two jars in the picture at the top – one made with wine and the other with water.

Additional flavors.  Classic marmalade often does not include any added flavors, but rather, lets the taste of the citrus shine.  I am a big fan of the classics, but if you have a lot of peels, some variation is nice too.  Add fall spices to a marmalade of orange and red wine.  Add lots of fresh ginger to a classic orange marmalade to spice it up.  Add rosemary and peppercorns to grapefruit marmalade to mimic the flavors in our Vin d’ Pamplemousse.  Throw in a 1/4 cup of bourbon right before canning.  This is where there is some room for experimentation.

Recipe

1 1/4 lbs citrus fruit/peels, quartered, seeded, and sliced very thinly

Liquid, enough to cover peels by about 1 inch (water, juice, wine, or a combination)

2 1/2 lbs sugar

2 lemons, juiced

Optional spices

Grease the bottom of a large heavy-bottomed saucepan (large enough that all contents do not come more than halfway up the side) with butter or oil.  This will help prevent scorching later.

Combine citrus fruit/peels and enough liquid to cover them in your large saucepan.  At this point, I like to cook the peels covered until they are soft (as long as 1-2 hours) and then let them sit in the liquid overnight to release more of the pectin.  But you can also just cook them covered until they are your desired softness, and then move on.

Marmalade_Pour

Note:  Test a peel’s softness by eating one.  If it is not to the softness you would desire it to be on your morning toast at this point, cook or allow to soak longer until it is.  The peels will NOT continue to soften once the sugar is added.

Optional: At this point, if you want to be extra sure of your ratio, you can strain the peels from the liquid and measure how much liquid you have.  You want to have an equal weight of liquid as you had peels when you started (so 1 1/4 lbs).  If you have less than this, add liquid; if you have more, cook the liquid down further.

Boiled_Peels

Add any spices you wish at this stage.  For whole spices that you want removed before eating, place in a tied-up bag of cheese cloth to be easily removed later.

Warm the mixture over medium-high heat.

Marmalade_Boil

Stir in sugar and lemon juice before contents come to a boil.  The sugar will not dissolve as well if you add it to boiling liquid.

Bring mixture to a hard boil.   Sources disagree on whether you should stir or not during this stage, some saying not at all, others saying occasionally, still others saying constantly.  All have risks.  Stirring a pot of boiling marmalade sometimes seems it should require a welding mask due to the risk of popping, splattering hot sugar.  Yet, I have also had to chisel a scorched layer of jam off one too many pots to trust not stirring at all.  I’ll let you decide.

Begin testing the marmalade for thickness once it starts looking shiny and syrupy.  You need to chill a dollop to see what the consistency will look like once the marmalade has cooled.  I prefer to use the cold saucer “gel stage” test rather than looking for a specific temperature.  Furthermore, I like my marmalade to be about the consistency of thick syrup rather than “crinkle” when I do the saucer test.  I find taking the marmalade all the way to the “gel stage” is difficult with lower-pectin peels and puts you at a high risk of scorching.  It seems to still firm up nicely after cooling in the jars.

Allow to sit for 10 minutes once marmalade has reached the gel stage.  This allows it to thicken slightly, which means the peels will stay suspended in the liquid when you stir it, rather than all fall to the bottom.  This give you even peel suspension in your final jarred product.

You may notice foam on top.  You can either scoop any foam that has appeared on top off with a spoon, or simply stir it back in after the cooling period.  It’s just bubbles, so it won’t hurt anything.

Ladle the marmalade into clean jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace at the top of the jar.  If you want to store jars in the refrigerator, you can just put lids on and allow to cool before refrigerating.  If you plan to can the jars for long-term storage, see our instructions on water bath canning, and process at a boil for 10 minutes.

Marmalade_Jars

Enjoy your marmalade for months to come on toast (or crumpets)… on or in sponge or pound cake…. added to marinades, barbecue or stir fry sauces…  or smothered over pork or chicken.  If you eat (and drink!) as much citrus as I do all winter, you’ll certainly have the peels to make enough to last till next winter!


Resources:

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
The River Cottage Preserves Handbook

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Reinventing Citrus: A Tale of Two Vins

Stop!  Don’t throw that citrus peel in the trash!  No, not even in the compost.  It still has so many lives left to live…

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As you may have noticed from the low prices at the grocery store or the band boosters selling cases of them, citrus fruits are in season now.  By “in season,” we unfortunately don’t mean that they are growing locally here in North Carolina, but rather that this is the time when citrus fruits ripen in our southern neighbor-state, Florida, and therefore are available in fresh abundance here!  Normally, this local-food-obsessed lady tries to stick to local fruits, even in the winter – pulling my peaches out of my freezer, jams out of my pantry, or stockpiling farmers’ market apples in the fridge…  But, if I’m being honest, citrus is a non-local downfall of mine.  I LOVE citrus.  Especially in the dreary days of winter.  Grapefruit cocktails, lemon poppy seed cake, salsa with extra lime.  These are a few of my favorite things!  Ok, coming back down to earth now.

I’ve tried local substitutions, like gathering local-growing bitter oranges to add to our hot cider or making our lovely Wood Sorrel Lemonade featured this summer.  But even with how delicious that “lemon”ade is, I can’t help but think, this would be even better with a squeeze of lemon!

So, along with chocolate and coffee, citrus is one of those things I have surrendered to allowing in my usually mostly-local kitchen.  Yet, I try not to truly gorge on citrus until this time of year.  The time of year when it is at least regionally in season and when it tastes its very best.  This just so happens to also be the time it is at its cheapest and most abundant, making it part of our Feasting in Times of Winter Scarcity series.

Even so, I can’t help feeling like throwing away even one bit of that citrus fruit is a waste, particularly that fragrant, brightly colored peel!  To remedy this, I decided to look back at times past…  What did people do when citrus fruits really were a special luxury – special enough to give and receive excitedly as Christmas gifts?  They would never have just thrown away that fragrant, beautiful peel, right?

As I looked into it further, I found a wealth of uses for that peel!  Household cleaners, flavored salts, flavored sugars, candied peel, marmalade, homemade pectin, and finally…  citrus-infused liqueurs.

Today I am sharing one of my favorite ways to reinvent citrus peels – citrus-infused fortified wines.  Just toss those peels in the refrigerator or freezer until you have enough for this recipe.  This is also only the second life of at least one more use, which I’ll get to in future posts.

And so you have, a Tale of Two Vins

These two fortified citrus-infused wines are based off of similar French aperitif traditions you find in the stores such as Lillet blanc.  You can use “empty” peels or those with the pulp still attached (of which I have many from juicing them for cocktails).  The spices and sweeteners can be interchanged or played with to your liking.  They take a lot of resting time, but not much time to prepare, and they’ll keep indefinitely once complete.  Infusing a fruit’s flavor in alcohol is one great way to hold onto it for months to come!

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Vin d’ Orangeorange peels (with or without pulp inside)

peels of 2 lemons

15-18 peppercorns

6-9 bay leaves

1/2 vanilla bean, cut in quarters

6 Tbsp honey

2 bottles white wine

1/2 one fifth of vodka

1/2 c to 1 c bourbon

Vin d’ Pamplemoussegrapefruit peels (with or without pulp inside)

peels of two lemons

15-18 peppercorns

3 rosemary sprigs

1/2 vanilla bean, cut in quarters

6 Tbsp sugar

2 bottles white wine

1/2 one fifth of vodka

1/2 c to 1 c brandy

Wash a large glass container with a wide mouth with hot soapy water.

Slice peels in “smiley faces” and then in half again so each slice is about 1/8 of a peel.

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Layer peels to fill the container approximately 1/4 of the way full.

Add 1/3 of each of your herbs/spices, vanilla, and sweetener.

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Alternate peels one quarter of the container at a time with the added spices and sweetener until the container is full.

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Pour over liquors and two bottles of wine until peels are entirely covered.  Save any extra wine.

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Let sit for at least 4 weeks (or as many as 8) in a cool, dark place, shaking occasionally.  If liquid level decreases (from being absorbed in peels), top off with reserved wine until all peels are completely covered.

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Strain out the peels and spices when the 4 weeks is through.  Set peels aside for a future project.  Decant vin into clean glass bottles, labeled with the contents and date.  At this point you can drink immediately, or let it sit again for another 2 weeks or so to improve flavor even further.

Serve straight as an aperitif over ice with a twist of lemon or use in cocktails, like the deliciously fresh one below.

Citrus Shaker Cocktail

1.5 oz Vin d’ Orange

1.5 oz Bourbon

juice of 1 orange

3 splashes bitters

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Combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker.

Shake until contents are ice cold and well mixed.

Pour strained into a martini glass.

Garnish with a curl of orange zest.

Don’t forget to throw that juiced orange peel in the freezer for your next batch of vin d’ orange!  And there you have the closed-loop cocktail.


UPDATE:  This year’s Vins are complete, and delicious!  Here they are…

Vin d' Orange Vin d' Pamplemousse

 

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