Kumquat & Blood Orange Marmalade.

I've had marmalade on the brain.  It kind of started with the several jars of it still left on the shelves from last year around this time.  It was a good and bitter marmalade, but very soft set - runny even - and I was not grabbing it for my toast as I thought I would.  The thing about old jars on the shelf is that they translate as food clutter to me, and I feel true guilt about it.  Fortunately, a conversation with Deena some time ago led me to remember that her friend used up old marmalade in granola so that's what I did.  I strained out the citrusy bits and subbed it for the honey or maple syrup.  It's good granola: a not stop-dead-in-your-tracks good, but more of a serviceable good.  And it's nice and crunchy too.  It will not be a bother to eat.

marmalade granola

It seems with less time to do actual experiments in the kitchen, I have more time to daydream about what I would do if I did have the time.  I think about what ingredients I'd like to work with and which flavors I'd combine, and then when the time presents itself I'm more than ready to make the most of it.  I'd been thinking about combining kumquats and blood oranges for weeks now, since I first saw the two of them popping up on my grocery trips.  I wanted to add chiles too because we all know that I'm a complete sucker for sweet and spicy things.  Late last week I finally got my kumquats and blood oranges, and on Friday night after the boys were all in bed I got to begin my 2015 marmalade.

blood oranges.

This marmalade may exist in some form somewhere else, but if it does, I don't know about it because I did absolutely no research on it.  I combined techniques I've read about and done in the past with the wisdom of Linda Ziedrich's ratios, and am beyond pleased with the result.  This marmalade is a good balance of sweet and tart and doesn't really read as bitter the way some marmalades do.  As a bonus, it's also a gorgeous color.

kumquat blood orange marmalade

I started tasting a variety of dried chiles after I tasted the sugared blood orange juice/kumquat and orange peel mixture.  My original thought was to use guajillos (my favorite) or mulato chiles but I didn't want to overpower the pretty unique citrus flavor going on.  Then I turned to my new favorite chile flake the Urfa Biber and decided it was just a little too strong.  I settled on New Aleppo, which has a spicy, almost strawberry flavor to it.  I'm calling it New Aleppo after reading this article on how the Aleppo now available from northern Syria is unfortunately impossible to get.  It's a horribly sad thing, for more reasons that just the loss of a spice. 

kumquats & blood oranges

kumquat blood orange marmalade 

Begin the day before you'd like to can and use organic citrus if possible.

Kumquat & Blood Orange Marmalade
makes about 2 1/2 pints
  • 1 lb. blood oranges
  • 10-12 oz. kumquats
  • 5 cups filtered water, divided
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 t. Aleppo pepper (optional but encouraged)
Wash all the citrus well.  Peel the blood oranges with a potato peeler, leaving behind the white pith. Slice the peel into the thinnest shreds you can and place them in a large preserving pot.  Quarter the remaining oranges, pith and all, and pop them into a smaller pot with  2 cups of water.  Bring them to a boil, lower to a simmer and cover them with a lid.  Cook for 30-45 minutes until they are fully soft and can be easily mashed with a masher.  Let them cool slightly.  Meanwhile:
Slice the kumquats as thin as possible into rounds.  Nick out any seeds and save them on the side.  Add the kumquat slices to the orange shreds in the preserving pot, tie up the seeds in a small piece of cheesecloth, and add 3 cups water.  Bring the pot up to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit overnight at room temperature.

When cool enough to handle, pour the mashed blood orange into a jelly bag (or similar) and allow to drain for awhile.  (If you get impatient as I do, squeeze the bag to glean as much juice as possible in a shorter amount of time.  Generally, this isn't something canners recommend since it can cause cloudy preserves - but I'd always rather have the quantity that the clarity!)  Transfer the juice to a jar and refrigerate until you are ready to continue.

Ready jars, lids, rings, and a boiling water bath.  Add the blood orange juice, sugar, and Aleppo pepper to the preserving pot (you should have 4 - 4 1/2 cups of total liquid), stirring well over low heat to dissolve the sugar.  Then bring the mixture up to a boil over medium high heat.  Stir regularly at first and constantly towards the end.  Heat to 220 degrees or to desired set on a cold spoon or plate.  Take the pot off the heat and let it stand 5 minutes before ladling into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, then remove the canning pot from the heat and let the jars stand in the water for 5 minutes before transferring to a towel-lined countertop.

blood orange juice
I was surprised at how colorful it the blood orange juice remained.  At the bottom you can see the sediment that comes from squeezing the jelly bag, I figured it was good pectin and I suspect I was right.

When researching my book, I consulted with the Master Preserver at the extension office in Madison about sterilizing jars.  I never used to sterilize jars in boiling water before canning sweet preserves, and she advised me that this is not the proper thing to do - or at least proper for sweet (non-vinegar) things that are processed 10 minutes or less.  Ever since then, I dutifully put my clean jars in my water bath as the water is coming up to a boil and I let them simmer away until filling them.  I still always wonder just how many people do this, but I always then suppose it's not really adding that much work to a small batch of preserves.

I might have to make time for another small batch of this marmalade since it was so good I ate almost half of a little 4 oz. jar at breakfast time today.  But maybe I'll just appreciate the small batch I have and not over preserve.  I do seem to be eating less and less sweet preserves, and not because I don't whole-heartedly love them.  Maybe something else will spark my interest in the next few weeks of winter and I can daydream my way into another good combination.  I had better save some room on the shelf for that.

Kumquat-Habanero Marmalade.

At the half-way point of my sugar-free month, I find that I've already made jam four times. Twice I made some for a friend, but twice I made it just for my jam shelf. Even though I dutifully allowed myself just a spoonful or two to check for flavor, I have come to the conclusion that if I add some kind of chile to something sweet, I can hardly keep it off of my mind or out of my mouth. That is exactly what happened when I decided to pair the bright orange habanero pepper with similarly orange kumquats.

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Kumquats are a tiny, cheerful things that I've never tried before last week. I bought a few on impulse when I saw them in a rather neglected bin at my co-op. The second I got in the door, I washed one up and bit into it, the flood of vibrant flavor hitting me stronger than I anticipated. It tasted like every type of citrus I've ever had, held together by tropical, under-ripe undertones of mango. It felt so rebellious to simply bite into it, stippled peel and all - and in the midst of my sugar-freedom, it tasted sweeter than eating a plain sugarcube. The resinous aftertaste was just as rewarding, and just like that I knew my first marmalade of the new year would be made of kumquats.


After I decided to preserve them, I garnered even more excitement by reading about Marisa's kumquat experience, but I had already settled in on a recipe form from Linda Ziedrich - a longer, wait-around method similar to the lemon marmalade that I made last year, and one requiring only 12 oz. of fruit. When I decided to add a habanero, I knew right away that this one was going to be a keeper. I picked up more fruit, and then I waited for our first snowfall, since there isn't anything better than standing over a pot of bubbling citrus when the snow is flying...

kumquat marmalade making

Kumquat-Habanero Marmalade (adapted from Linda Ziedrich)
yield 2 pints (I made two half pints and 4 quarter pints)
  • 12 oz. kumquats, sliced thinly into rounds, seeds removed and saved
  • 1/2 of a habanero pepper, stemmed and seeded
  • 5 c. water (filtered is best)
  • 4 c. sugar (I used raw cane sugar)

Place the kumquat seeds into a spice bag, or tie them up into a small piece of cheesecloth. Put the kumquat slices, water, and bag of reserved seeds into a large preserving pot along with the chile pepper. Bring to a boil, and boil uncovered for 15 minutes skimming off any foam that may form. Remove the pan from the heat and cover with a towel. Let it stand at room temperature for 8-12 hours.

After standing, fish out the habanero pepper (but leave the bag of seeds in), add sugar to the pan and place over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Then, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, then remove the pan from the heat, cover again with the cloth, and let sit for another 8-12 hours.

Prepare jars, lids and rings as well as a hot water bath. Bring the kumquat mixture to a boil slowly, then raise the heat and continue boiling until it passes the spoon test, jells when dropped on a chilled plate, or until the mixture heats to at least 220 degrees.

Remove the pan from the heat, remove the bag of seeds, and skim off any foam. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes. Ladle into pint, half-pint or quarter pint jars and process for 10 minutes in hot water bath.

marmalade set test

The result of this marmalade is truly addicting. Honestly, I tried not to eat any just because I am bound my my resolution... but I did eat one little Daring Baker trial with a spoonful and it was worth any cheating. It has such a clean flavor and underlying heat, which is the best type in my opinion. Hot on the tongue and then departing quickly, that's actually how I always think of the often misunderstood habanero. Yes, his heat is brutal, but it also dissipates faster than other chile. When coupled with sugar, that effect seems hurried and creates easy addiction because you want to keep feeling that embracing heat loll about in your mouth. At least I do!

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In a way, I'm looking forward to February, when I can be guilt-free in trying more sugary combinations. I love chile preserves in particular paired with cheeses and other savory and salty things. I wonder how it would taste if I made a hard boiled egg and mixed the yolk with jam before filling the silky egg white hull. But I know that is just the allure of sugar tugging at my heartstrings, just making sure that I haven't left him for good. Even with these tempting jars of this marmalade close at hand, I am surprised at my resolve, and I actually think quite often of the Sally Fallon quote in Nourishing Traditions: "Don't forget to enlist the power of prayer in your battle against the sweet tooth". It is a battle, but one that with each passing day I feel more like the victor instead of the victim. In the middle of a sugar-free month I'm able to resist this irresistible jam, I must be doing something right!