Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grapefruit-Blood Orange Marmalade

I have been going back and forth over whether or not I should make this marmalade. I bought all of the ingredients and then couldn't decide between two recipes: one that lets the grapefruit sit overnight, but requires a candy thermometer, and another one that has a million steps. And then I began to wonder if I would even use the marmalade, or if anyone would like it.

What brought me back to my senses was a box of Honeybells, delivered to my place of work by a kind swim team parent. Honeybells are a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. Who thought of that? Tangerines are tiny, juicy, and sweet, and grapefruit are enormous, tart, and tangy. Honeybells are essentially big tangerines that are slightly less sweet. Now I'm ready again for citrus, (though, as I eat my Honeybell, I'm reminded that citrus gives me uncontrollable hiccups.)

I went with the recipe of a million steps, because I realized, reading it again, that many of them are canning steps that I know already, and this one is a relatively simple process. The thing that takes the longest is preparing the rinds and fruit, but it's well worth it to follow the directions so you don't have odd textures or some serious bitterness in your marmalade.

Because marmalade requires the rind of the fruit, buy organic fruit if you can. Pesticides don't make for good eats. The flavor of marmalade relies on how you prepare the fruit, so take special care to slice the peel thinly, and to include as little of the pith (the soft white meat that separates the peel from the fruit membrane) as possible--it's incredibly bitter. The same goes for the membrane, which encases the pulp of each section. I didn't put the pulp of the blood oranges into the mixture because I couldn't separate it from the membrane, so I just juiced mine. Slicing the rind from the pith takes a lot of practice, so don't worry about it if some of your peelings are unusable--I only used about 1/3 of the rind out of all of the fruit. It turned out fine!

Traditional marmalade recipes use the membranes, seeds, and sometimes the pith to extract the natural pectin from the fruit to create a set. I decided to go the liquid route for a few reasons: one, taste--I like fruit spreads to be sweet; two, convenience--the balance of sugar to fruit and the time that you boil the mixture is very delicate. If you boil it too long, or there's too much sugar, or not enough sugar, the pectin will lose its gelatinousness, and you'll have syrup instead of spread. If I'm going to spend a few hours making this, it had better work!

Just a quick note, it may take up to two weeks for the marmalade to set, so plan ahead!

Grapefruit - Blood Orange Marmalade
(makes about 4 pints)

2 large ruby red grapefruits
3 blood oranges
1 1/2 cups water
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 3 oz package liquid fruit pectin

1. Sterilize the jars, lids, and bands according the directions.

Prepare the fruit:
2. Slice each fruit in half length-wise. Slice the peel off of the fruit, leaving as much of the pith on the fruit as possible. With a sharp knife, slice the peel into matchstick width, 1" long pieces. Separate the pulp from the membranes and set it aside in a large bowl with the juice. If necessary, juice the blood oranges.

Cook the marmalade:
3. Add the water and fruit peel to a large pot, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the fruit and juice and repeat, but for 10 minutes.

4. Add the sugar and stir well. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Add the liquid fruit pectin and boil hard for 1 minute.

5. Skim off any foam and ladle into hot sterilized jars. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water canner. Let sit on a towel for an hour and check for a seal by pressing down on the lid. 

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