Lady Marmalade

Imagine:

A golden orange falls in paperthin slices into a pot. Joined by its mates, it forms a heaping mound of rind and heady flesh, oozing sweetness.

The next day, it simmers and boils for hours, and when ladled into jars it is dark amber, thick and sweet, with a sharp edge that is not quite bitter.

I now have eight jars of orange marmalade sitting on my counter and a broken camera. So you’ll have to do your best to follow along. Sorry!

This canning thing is too much fun. It’s stressful–will the seal hold? Did I remember to wipe the lip of the jar after filling? Why is that jar all white and funny-looking?*–which adds to the excitement, really. I took a pot of 8 oranges (a few lemons worth of juice added in), sliced them (composting about 3 oranges’ worth of peel to reduce the bitterness), and simmered them for five minutes. Then I let them rest in a cool spot for 18 hours. I didn’t have to deal with cheesecloth because my Valencias had no seeds! Am I a genius? Yesterday afternoon I set the pot on to simmer for 30 minutes or so until the peel became tender while friend Eric, Chris and I played a game of Australian Rails. Then I put the pot to a boil and added the sugar. Eight cups worth. That’s a lot of sugar. I haven’t figured out how to do reduced sugar without artificial sweetener yet.

It was neat, though, watching the sugar dissolve. Cups 1-4 or 5 went in like lead–thump. Disappeared right away. After that, though, each took longer to dissolve and disappear, till the final cup, which lay on the surface and only slowly and with agitation disappeared. I was reminded fondly of precipitates in high school chemistry.

We played the game (in which we pay for and “build” railways between Australian cities in order to travel to those cities to pick up cargo to deliver to other cities, which then pay us for the said cargo, repeat) and I occasionally popped up to skim orange foam off the top. At one point I realized that the marmalade was no longer orange but deep amber. I tested it. Perfect. I poured in the remains of a small bottle of Tobermory single-malt Scotch whisky (aged 10 years before purchase, so now about 14 years old) into the pot and began the jarring process.

After jarring and canning the whole afternoon came to about 4 hours, a bit longer than the 1.5 hours indicated by the recipe, and only a little shorter than the duration of the game. (Wee Geeklet was napping, then in and out of the kitchen with us, having been the lucky recipient of a half-dozen brand-new-in-the-package Matchbox Cars that a downsizing neighbor gave to us. By which I mean we were walking by earlier in the day, Boy on his trike, and the man ran out of his garage and said, “Do you like cars? Would you like these?” And handed him a box of about 30. We made him pick six. This was a good day, and the Boy was feeling mellow and generous, I think. But I digress.) This is on par with the apricot-orange conserve. The main difference here is that I was surprised that I had just as much as the recipe said I’d have–about 8 half-pint jars–and I was short one jar. I ended up jarring one jar’s worth but not canning it as it was a wide-mouth jar and I hadn’t the lid for it. Instead, it sits in our refrigerator, and in two weeks it will be the first to be tasted. Mm. Perhaps I will make brioche to celebrate.

*So, why was that jar all white and funny-looking? All of them were. It seems to be a hard water mineral thing, from the jars boiling away in a big pot waiting for me to use them. I had to wipe them inside with vinegar before adding the marmalade, then outside after the canning was done. See, you learn these things after you’ve been canning a while, as I have. (Er, just forget that this is my second time.)

Now I’m off to clean the sofa, as a bag of seaweed bits was just upended upon it and I’m about to become the target of ravening cats.

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