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Small Batch Blood Orange Marmalade

blood oranges

When I first started making marmalade, I thought it was the same as any other preserve. Chop the fruit, combine it with sugar and cook until set. I didn’t realize that citrus needed a more specialized treatment. You either need to cut away the tough, white pith or treat it in some way so that it tenderizes and loses its chewy bitterness.

blood orange marm cut one

This recipe uses an overnight soak to help break down the pith, providing a far superior product to the old blood orange marmalade recipe you’ll find on this site. The fruit becomes tender and it fully suspended in a ruby-hued jelly. Here’s how you do it.

Take 1 pound of blood oranges (approximately 4-5 tennis ball-sized oranges) and wash them well. Trim away both ends and slice the oranges in half.

blood orange marm cut two

Using a very sharp knife, trim away the core of the oranges and pluck out any seeds that you find. Set the cores and the seeds aside. Not all blood oranges have seeds, so don’t stress if you don’t find any.

blood orange marm cut three

Cut the orange halves into thin slices. Go as thin as you can manage (I recommend sharping your knife before starting this project).

blood orange marm cut four

Finally, cut each sliced half in half again, so that you have a number of thin blood orange quarters.

seeds and membranes

Bundle up all those seeds and pithy cores in a length of cheesecloth and tie it tightly so that nothing can escape.

soaking blood oranges

Put chopped oranges in a medium bowl and cover with 3 cups water. Tuck the cheesecloth bundle into the bowl and cover the whole thing with a length of plastic wrap or a plate. Refrigerate it overnight.

blood orange marm cooking

When you’re ready to cook your marmalade, remove the cheesecloth bundle. Combine the soaked fruit and water with 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar. If you happen to have a copper preserving pan like the one you see pictured above, make sure to fully dissolve the sugar into the fruit before pouring it into the pan.

three half pints

Bring the marmalade to a simmer and cook until it is reduced by more than half, reads 220 degrees F on a thermometer and passes the plate/sauce/wrinkle test. When it is finished cooking, pour marmalade into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

blood orange marm

When all is done, you should have three half pints of the most vivid red blood orange marmalade. I’m extraordinarily fond of this particular preserve on peanut butter toast, as you can see above. It’s also good on scones, stirred into yogurt or with crumbly homemade shortbread.

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Urban Preserving: Small Batch Kumquat Marmalade

a pound of kumquats

Kumquats aren’t like other citrus fruit. Instead of having a tart rind and a sweet interior, they keep their sugar in the skin and have their pucker on the inside. It took me years to realize that the best way to eat them is to pop them into your mouth whole and take a big bite. That way, you blend the flavors into a single, delicious marriage.

quartered kumquats

If eating whole kumquats isn’t your thing, don’t think that there isn’t a place for them in your life. They just happen to make a luscious, if slightly energy-intensive, marmalade. Because they demand a lot in the chopping department, I find that it’s best to keep your kumquat marm batches tidy and contained. That makes them downright perfect for my every-so-often Urban Preserving category.

kumquat ribbons

Take one pound of kumquats and wash them. Pick them over well to make sure that you don’t have any that are turning to mush (I bought mine at an Asian grocery story, tied up in a mesh bag, and the ones in the center were liquifying). Cut off the stem end and slice the kumquat into quarters.

pectin bag

When all the kumquats are quartered, use a sharp paring knife to cut away the inner membrane and any seeds (reserve these! They will provide our pectin). This leaves you with a small piece of rind with some pulp still attached. Then lay these stripped quarters rind side up and chop them into ribbons (I warned you that it was energy-intensive).

finished marm

When all the chopping is done, you should have about two cups of chopped kumquat bits, and a scant cup of reserved seeds and membrane. Place the seeds and membrane in the center of a square of cheesecloth and tie it up well so that nothing can escape.

Place the chopped kumquat in a large pot with 2 cups water and 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used plain white sugar, but you could easily use unrefined cane sugar. Just know that your finished product will be a bit darker). Pop the bundle of seeds and membranes in there too.

two half pints of kumquat marmalade

Bring to a boil and cook for 15-25 minutes, until it reaches 220°F. The wider your pot, the faster it will cook (I used a 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset, and my cooking time was right around 20 minutes). Once it has reached temperature and seems quite thick, remove marmalade from heat. Funnel into two prepared half pint jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a small batch canning pot for 10 minutes.

I love this kind of canning. Small batches means you get to try different flavors and combinations. And when a recipe yields just two half pints it means you have one to keep and one to share.

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Welcome 2012 + Persimmon and Pear Chutney

persimmon

Happy New Year, friends! I hope your celebrations last night were full of delight. Scott and I rang in the new year with pizza, champagne and a few favorite people (including 20-month-old twins who entertained us by dancing to the Nutcracker Suite).

I didn’t intend to go entirely quiet over the last week, but I so wanted to relish my last couple days in Portland with my parents. When I landed in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning, it just felt right to continue the break. It’s been a lovely thing to take a little time away from this space, to think about how I want to approach it in 2012.

I plan to continue to post new recipes, including more pressure canner tutorials, small batch preserves and ways to get your jams, chutneys and sauces out of their jars and onto the table.

purloined persimmons

You’ll see more foods in jars made by other people. Though it’s always my goal to help inspire people to head for their own kitchens, there’s also a world of delicious foods in jars out there being made by truly talented folks. I want to occasionally showcase them.

There will also be posts about cookbooks, space for questions and answers and some regular video features. I’m also going to be out and about a bit over the spring and summer to help promote my cookbook, so I’ll be posting about any and all opportunities to come and spend a bit of time with me.

bruised pears and persimmons

Now, about that recipe. While I was out in Portland, my mom and I came across a persimmon tree. It was in someone’s yard, bursting with fruit and covered with birds. We stood there for a moment, pondering the ethics of the situation, when a car pulled into the house’s driveway. We asked about picking a few and the owner held out an open grocery bag and simply said, “take what you want.”

Not wanting to be greedy, we took just three of the perfect fuyu persimmons from his bag and said thanks. We brought them home and proceeded to let them sit around for nearly a week. On the morning of Christmas Eve, my mom commented that I either needed to make something with them or throw them out. And so, I made a small batch of chutney with our three foraged persimmons and two bruised pears that had been rolling around the fridge.

After cutting away the bad spots and chopping them finely, I combined the pears and persimmons with half of a finely chopped red onion, 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons raisins, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon allspice in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot.

Then it was just a matter of letting the mixture cook down for 30-45 minutes over medium-high heat. As you simmer the chutney, taste it and adjust the sugar, spices and salt. Should you like a bit of heat in your chutney, add a pinch of red chili flakes or smidgen of cayenne pepper. The chutney is finished when the persimmon skins are tender and it doesn’t look at all watery.

My batch filled three half-pint jars with just a bit leftover to eat immediately with cheese. It can be processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, or just kept in the fridge for regular eating. This time of year, when we rely more heavily on braises, stews and soups, it’s nice to have something within easy reach that can add a burst of bright flavor. I left all that I made back in Portland and am hoping to find a few inexpensive persimmons in Philly to make another batch.

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Urban Preserving: Small Batch Seckel Pear Jam with Brown Sugar and Cardamom

pears

I’m crazy for pears these days. I buy them without a plan for how I’m going to use them, just to be able to have them around to look at and munch on. Seckel pears are a particular weakness, followed closely by crunchy asian pears* and the bright, green Anjou. Though I’ve always been a fan of pears, I don’t remember a year where I’ve been quite so smitten by them.

cooking jam

I’ve had the above bowl on my dining room table since Sunday. It just looked so pretty and made things feel so very fall-like. Yesterday afternoon, I looked over and realized that the Seckel pears were dangerously soft. It was time to stop gazing and take a bit of action.

finished jam

I turned to one of my favorite, small batch cooking vessels – the 12-inch stainless steel skillet. You’ve seen me employ this pan before to good effect and I’ll confess right now that there have been many other undocumented batches of jam cooked in it as well. I love using a large, flat pan for these small batches because they make for such quick cooking times. Lately, I’ve been dreaming of adding a 6-quart saute pan for its jam-cooking surface area.

small batch canner

I cored and roughly chopped my pound and a half of Seckel pears, which gave me three scant cups of fruit. I heaped it into the skillet and added three quarters of a cup of brown sugar. I stirred them together until the juices started to run and then turned the heat on to high.

I let the jam simmer and sputter, stirring regularly, until the remaining juices were thick and sticky. Then I added half a teaspoon of cardamom and the juice of half a lemon. I continued to cook for just another minute or two, to give the spice and juice time to integrate.

Seckel pear jam with brown sugar and cardmom

When the jam was done, I scraped it into two prepared half pint jars and processed them in my favorite small batch canning pot (the 4th burner pot) for ten minutes. From chopped to cooling, this jam took just less than half an hour to make.

To my mind, this jam is the perfect thing for stirring into oatmeal. The gentle flavor of the pears with the spice of cardamom and the sweetness of brown sugar would combine so nicely with the creaminess of oats. It’d also be great spread on an oat scone or millet muffin.

*The asian pears are for eating out of hand, they are lower in acid than other pears and so can’t be used in basic jam recipes. They have to be heavily acidified for canning.

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Urban Preserving: Red Pear Lavender Jam

red pears

I’ve been going a little bit crazy for pears lately. In my heart, fall has arrived, no matter what the heat and humidity seem to think. These particular red pears caught my attention while I was walking through Reading Terminal Market last Friday. I had dropping in for chard and eggs and ended up walking home laden with all that plus avocados, an enormous cabbage and two and a half pounds of these glowing pears.

red pear lavender jam

It’s funny. I’m not all that adventurous when it comes to pears. I tend to stick with Bartlett or Bosc. For a few weeks each fall, I’m hopelessly in love with Asian pears. I like to pickle the tiny Seckel pears. But really, that’s about it. Until I bought this bundle, I don’t know that I’d ever brought red pears into my kitchen. That’s all changing now. I now declare myself a red pear convert.

filling jars

Cored and chopped, I ended up with just over 5 cups of fruit. I didn’t peel the pears because that crimson skin was integral to their charm. Without it, how would you know that these pears were any different from my standard Bartletts?

finished red pear lavender jam

In the past, I’ve made pear jam with ginger, with cinnamon and with vanilla. A lavender infusion seemed like the next logical step (as least, it did in my head). I’m quite thrilled with how it turned out. The flavor of the lavender nudges up beautifully against the slight spiciness of the pears. I think they are perfect partners.

If you can’t find red pears, don’t think that you have to skip this recipe. Feel free to use any smooth skinned pear you’d like (except Asian pears. They’re low in acid and need special treatment). It’s a very nice way to welcome fall.

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Urban Preserving: Italian Plum Jam with Star Anise

chopped plums

The day before Hurricane Irene hit the east coast, a massive box of fruit arrived on my doorstep. It was from the Washington State Fruit Commission, the folks behind the most fabulous website Sweet Preservation. A few weeks earlier, they’d emailed to ask if I’d be one of their Canbassadors again this year (last year’s recipes can be found here and here).

macerating plums

Last year, I got apricots and cherries. This year, it was a fun blend of Italian plums, apricots, nectarines and peaches. So far, I’ve made a small batch of lavender-infused, honey-sweetened apricot butter (you’ll see that one over on Simple Bites soon), an oven-roasted peach butter (it’s a technique I detail in my cookbook, but I’ll give you a little preview before the peaches are out of season) and this tiny batch of plum jam with star anise. The nectarines are still in the fridge, waiting for inspiration to strike.

truffle tremor

I only had about a pound of these little plums, so by necessity, this was a small batch. Chopped, there just over 2 cups of fruit. Combined with a moderate amount of sugar and three star anise flowers, I let this macerate at room temperature until it was beautifully syrup-y. Tasting every 15 minutes or so, I left the star anise in while it sat, but pulled them out before cooking, to ensure that I didn’t cross the line from gently flavored to something akin to Nyquil.

truffle tremor with plum star anise jam

As it was cooking, I tasted. Most of the time, I taste jam just once or twice as it cooks down. This time, I tried it at least five or six times because I was so in love with the way the plums played with the flavor of the star anise. As I tasted, I started thinking about the cheese I had in the fridge.

Awhile back, the folks from Cypress Grove sent me a few of their startling good goat cheeses. The idea was for me to dream up a few perfectly paired jams to match up with them. And while I hadn’t started this batch of jam thinking to couple it with one of those cheeses, it’s just gorgeous with the Truffle Tremor. The slight, mystical funkiness of that cheese just sings with the plums and their trace of star anise.

I’ve eaten the combination for lunch at least three times already. I can’t promise that there won’t be a fourth.

Recipe after the jump…

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