One of my goals for this year was to learn to make marmalade or pickles. My Grandma Ruby was a canner and I have fond memories of going into the pantry in her basement and looking at the walls lined with jars of tomatoes, corn, dilly beans and lots and lots of pickles.
Her pickles were so good! I loved them piled on hamburgers and chopped up and mixed into tuna salad. And of course I liked to eat them straight too. One of the great regrets of my life is that I never got a canning lesson from my Grandma before she died.
But I digress. Today’s story is about marmalade.
My brother-in-law gave me a huge bag of oranges from his tree when we were over visiting about a week ago. I decided that I wanted to make marmalade from them but I wanted to jazz the recipe up a little, so I bought a bag of blood oranges too when I was at Trader Joes. My friend Shae had pointed me to the basic marmalade recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving as a good beginner recipe. But when I went to the bookstore to get it, I accidentally bought Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving instead.You’d think that a book called the Complete Book of Home Preserving would have a basic marmalade recipe in it, wouldn’t you? Well, guess what? It doesn’t! So instead I chose the blood orange marmalade recipe because I had some blood oranges to use and it looked like a pretty basic recipe.
The recipe started off by having me score the oranges and take the peel off in big chunks.
Next, I was instructed to cover the peels with cold water and boil them. Twice.
Then, I was told to cool the orange peels until they were easy to handle, scrape all the white pith off and then slice the remaining orange part of the peel into paper thin strips.
This process took forever.
Most recipes just have you peel off the orange part of the peel with a vegetable peeler and slice those pieces up. I have no idea why this recipe had me do it this way but once I’d started this recipe I was too chicken to modify it because this was my first time canning anything. The process of scoring the oranges, peeling them, boiling them twice, scraping them and cutting them took three hours.
Around hour two, I started to suspect that the cookbook authors were screwing with me.
The recipe also told me to segment the oranges. I was part way through the second of the eight oranges when I knew for sure that the cookbook authors had it out for me. I gave up on the segmenting at that point and just chopped the crap out of the oranges. I pulled the biggest chunks of pith out and called it good.
Next I boiled the pulp and the peel for a half hour. Then the cookbook authors struck again: They told me to divide the mixture between two sauce pans, bring each to a boil and then slowly pour the sugar into each pan, stirring both pans constantly.
Picture that for a moment, if you will: a woman standing in front of the stove with a spoon in each hand stirring two pots of molten sugar for a half hour straight. Did I mention that I was also supposed to be preparing the jars and the lids while I did this?I opted to put all of the mixture in one pot.
And then I started stirring. And stirring. And stirring. I stirred that pot of marmalade for two hours! I knew it would take a little longer than the half hour the cookbook authors claimed because I was doing it all in one pot, but I didn’t know it would take four times as long to reach the gel stage. Sheesh! By the time I poured the marmalade into the jars and processed them, I was beat, but hearing the little ping! ping! ping! as my jars sealed was an awesome sound.
And my marmalade was darn good!
My six half-pint jars of marmalade that took seven hours to make.
After all that work, I decided I needed to dress them up a little, so I made a cute little label and put a ribbon around the rim.
Pretty cute, huh? I named the marmalade Little Bird Marmalade after my niece (whose dad gave me the oranges).