Remember when I posted about how to make French toast, and the “failed” orange sauce I had tried making to go with it? Well, it wasn’t that bad in the end. In fact, at least a few of my friends really liked it. Ever since then, I’ve been thinking about different approaches to marmalade, and how that sauce, which seemed like it was going to be a total waste of time and effort, did actually come together, and with a little more time and effort, become something good. Here I send out a silent (yet public—interesting) prayer to the universe that I will one day say the same about all the things which that sauce represented to me on the first of this year.
Anyway, orange marmalade:
It’s really just a combination of orange peels, juice, and sugar (and usually pectin to thicken it for canning). My New Year’s orange spread had all of the pith inside the peel, and all of the membrane around the orange slices, still in it too. I just washed & sliced the oranges (discarding the ends), pulled out the center strings of pithy stuff, chopped the slices to get out the seeds, and put them in the food processor. I added the juice of a couple more oranges, and some sugar to the pot, and started boiling it on the stove. For a while, it seemed like a kind of bitter, barely cooked orange goo … and eventually I realized that I was going to have to add a lot more liquid, and a lot more cooking time, and some more sugar. All the pithy parts of the orange needed to absorb a LOT of liquid in order to cook down, more than I wanted to juice oranges for, so I started adding water. After that, all it needed was time—a couple of hours of simmering on the stove. Check on it periodically, adding more water and sugar to taste as necessary, until all the parts of the orange are tender enough to eat on toast, and the sauce tastes as sweet as you want. The result has a full, whole-orange flavor—some of the bitterness remains, but you get lots of other flavor elements as well. At the time, I didn’t feel like taking a picture of the finished whole-orange sauce, but it comes out mostly opaque and pale orange, with darker bits of peel mixed in.
I’ve made a quick kumquat marmalade using a similar method. Kumquats have a lot of seeds, so be sure to chop them in quarters and check each one for seeds before putting them in the food processor. They don’t have very much pith or membrane at all though, so you can cook them fairly quickly into some tasty preserves. Just add juice and sugar and boil them on the stove until you get the consistency you want.
On the other end of the cooked-orange-peel-and-juice spectrum from the whole orange spread is a quick thin sauce we made quite a lot a couple of years ago, because it’s awesome on crêpe. It’s mostly orange juice, with just the thin outer peel grated into it. Save a little fresh juice, and put the rest in a small saucepan with the peel. Add sugar to taste as you go, and boil until it thickens somewhat. Add the reserved juice back in when the sauce is done, it brings the brightness of fresh orange to blend with the more mellow cooked flavors.
And of course, you could use other citrus. You could blend them. You could add honey, or a different juice, or another sweetener you like. You could cook it thick or thin, add pectin, can it, freeze it … At first I was going to wait to post this until I had tried a few more variations, maybe one somewhere in between these in terms of how much pith is in it. But the more I thought about it, the more ideas for different marmalade I thought of, and it seemed pretty silly not to just put this idea out there and let you all do whatever you want with it. It might be a fun way to wait for spring.