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.

Mixed Citrus Marmalade.

I think I may have found the secret for bringing the sun back to our winter, and it's making marmalade.  I'm not talking about the sunny feel of the citrus or the sunny completion the finished preserves take on, I'm talking about the actual sun.  It's as if making a batch of this stuff actually worked as some variation on a rain dance, coaxing the sun from wherever it has mysteriously disappeared to the past several weeks.  I made this yesterday morning, and I've seen more sun streaming through my windows in the past 24 hours than in the past month.

marm jars

I've been patiently waiting to see organic blood oranges for about a month, and I just found them in my co-op last week.  I like to make at least one bright, citrussy thing in the winter, because it seems like there is all this time to fill - and there is no disputing that winter citrus is king of the fruit world.  Every November, like clockwork, I begin trying to squelch the absolute need I get for a good grapefruit, and by January they are hitting their stride.  Oranges seem to be reliably good from December on and I eat at least one a day, usually in my morning smoothie with plenty of ginger and sometimes some blueberry.  Cara Cara oranges pop up around January with their cross-flavor of sweet and tart; they're meaty and deep colored, but not as red as the blood orange.  Blood oranges appear last in my northern neck of the woods, and as Linda Ziedrich aptly said, they have kind of a berrylike essence.  I like that they aren't so sweet.  

blood oranges. 

And I like that I had my eye on a mixed citrus marmalade recipe in Diana Henry's new book Salt Sugar Smoke which focused on all my favorite types of citrus.  Her recipe called for Seville oranges, which I can't say I've ever seen here in Wisconsin.  I used navel oranges instead - and changed up her recipe a little in other ways too.  She used a method for making marmalade that I'd not used before: letting the peel soak in the citrus juices and water overnight before cooking down.  I like starting things the day before, so this was a favorable way to do things.  I'm not sure if it had much flavor contribution, but this turned out so well I'll likely do it the same way in the future.

She calls it "Nick's Good Morning Breakfast Marmalade", so named for Nick Selby who is a master jam maker and the English grocery and kitchen Melrose and Morgan, who gave her the recipe.  One taste makes me want to hop right over the pond to visit them in person, I'll tell you that.  My version strays slightly from the British originals, but it is still lovely.  Silky, barely set, and perfectly sunny in the deepest part of this never-ending winter.

citrus zest

Begin the day before, since the peel needs to soak for 8-12 hours.  I always weigh sugar in metric weights, so I can mix types and not worry about keeping track.  This one calls for 10 cups of sugar, which is ridiculous for my continuing quest at sugar consumption reduction, but it's absolutely worth it.  Use a raw sugar to feel a tinge less guilt.  Sharpen your chef knife to get the thinnest shreds of peel possible, and remember that organic citrus is best since you are eating the peels. 

Mixed Citrus Marmalade (adapted from Diana Henry & Nick Selby)
yields about 10 half pints
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 4 blood oranges
  • 3 navel oranges
  • 4-5 lemons total, divided (to equal 2/3 c. lemon juice and some zest)
  • 10 c. granulated or raw sugar (1916 g.)
Wash all citrus well.  Using a peeler, carefully peel grapefruit, oranges and 1 or 2 lemons (your choice), leaving as much of the white pith behind as possible.  Stack the peels and slice into thin shreds.  Put them into a large preserving pot (5 quart).

Next, juice all the citrus except the lemons into a large measuring cup.  Save the pulp and any seeds and tie them up into a square of cheesecloth.  After you have all the citrus juiced, add enough water to equal 10 cups and pour over the peel in the preserving pot.  Add the cheesecloth bag of pulp and seeds to the pot, stir well, and put a lid on it.  Let it stand 8-16 hours before continuing.

When ready to continue, prepare a hot water bath canner (and jars) and juice lemons to equal 2/3 c. lemon juice.  Measure out the sugar and have it standing by in a bowl.  Bring the preserving pot to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, letting the peel cook until it is tender and the liquid has reduced by half (to 5 cups).  The peel will likely be soft sooner than the liquid reduces, so keep an eye on it and remove the peel with a slotted spoon or spider when it's done.  The whole process should take about 90 minutes.

After the liquid is reduced and the peel is soft, remove the cheesecloth bag and discard.  Stir in the lemon juice and sugar and stir to completely dissolve.  Bring back up to a simmer over medium high heat and skim any foam that forms.  After skimming is complete, add back the peels.  Stir frequently, and simmer until the marmalade gets to the set or gel stage (220 degrees, I let it go to about 223 degrees, it's not a heavily set preserve however.) Once it hits the gel stage, remove from the heat and let stand for about 10 minutes as you ready your sterilized jars.

Fill jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and process in hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Remove to a towel lined counter and cool completely.


I left one jar uncanned to enjoy now, but the yield was right on.  I always have trouble distributing the peels evenly among the jars, but I suppose that's OK.  The peel of the grapefruit in particular adds a lingering bitterness that some might not love as much as I do.  When I consider giving away a few jars, I'll keep that in mind and hold back the ones for myself with the most peels!  Diana Henry said she reserves this marmalade specifically for morning toast, but I think the color and texture would be perfect to top a plain cheesecake or small tart.  I also think the thick syrup would be good mixed with seltzer water.  But I'll probably take her lead and hoard the jars for morning toast or other morning confections.  It's making me want to make a fresh batch of croissants or maybe some sourdough biscuits...

marm spoon

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!

kumquat-<span class=

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!

Lemon (Daydream) Marmalade

I'd feel funny saying that I worked for 3 days on this lemon marmalade only because it didn't seem at all like work. My house has been transformed into a lemony clean paradise as the skies above are overcast and sun is scarce. In the world of preserves, marmalades are a bit famous for being fussy and time consuming. They are also a paradox of flavor, being sweet, sour, and bitter most of the time. That could be why they are some of my favorites to eat. I've read lately of some people dipping their spoons again and again into their various nut butters and homemade versions of "Nutella", but I'm certain that my future sneaky spoonfuls will contain fat dollops of this lemon marmalade instead.

I actually didn't plan on making any marmalade this year, since I have one jar left over from my canning party with Lo and a fully stocked preserves shelf in the basement. When my hold on the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders came in at the library (and I was as impressed both with the weight and size of it as I was the photography), I set out scheming to make this lemon version shortly after reading about it. One particularly interesting thing about Rachel's method is that she uses the oven both to sterilize the jars and lids and to can the finished product. I wasn't sure about that, but decided (after a brief consultation with Julia) to give it a shot.

I'm pretty sure I had two different kinds of lemons, some were thinner skinned and smooth, and some thicker and dimply. I can't claim to know much about lemon varietals, since they don't grow in Wisconsin, unfortunately. I love reading things like this where lucky people have things that I can only imagine growing myself dropped in their laps. It's curious that I recall such instances as if they happened to me. I know I had *wished* that I could make Deena's lemon thyme marmalade last summer when I read about it. But like most things, I forgot about it when "lemon season" has hit me here, right now, in the broadest part of the Winter.

How do I know it's lemon season? I make an assumption based on when my co-op has specials on citrus; I got my 6 lbs of fruit for around $8.50, which works out to about 65 cents per jar for organic marmalade (if you don't include the sugar price).

Rachel's method is easy. The work is shared with three days, but each day's work is rather light. Day 1: soak cut half of the lemons overnight, Day 2: boil soaked lemons to make lemon juice and strain overnight and cut more lemons into thinly sliced eighths and let them soak overnight, then Day 3: add sugar and a touch of fresh lemon juice to the past 2 day's labors and boil until you reach marmalade.

I will say that I admire canners who develop recipes. It seems to be a highly specialized art. I can follow instructions (and in the event of canning, follow them without addition or subtraction which is usually hard for me), but I'm not sure I would be cut from the cloth of precision as canning writers are. This recipe delivers what she says it will, it is very pretty and hard to improve upon. I'll say that it is a miraculous balance of flavor that stems from the patience in 2 days worth of various soaking periods. There is bitter, there is sour, and there is sweetness. And, when you catch a piece of peel and bite into it, it is pure summertime even in the depths of snowy winter.

perfectly gelled.

I've actually only made marmalade one other time, with the aforementioned Lo. While the flavor was really good, the set was not. We did not, however, employ the method of spoons. Prior to making the marmalade, stick 5 spoons in the freezer to get good and cold. When the time comes to test for the gelling, you can pour a little onto the spoon and put it back into the freezer for 2-3 minutes. If properly set, it should not run off the spoon. I liked this step immensely, especially since I got to eat the spoonful after the check. It took me 3 spoonfuls to determine the set, and a full hour and (almost) a half to get to that step.

the method of the spoons.

Cooking down marmalade when the snow was falling was especially enjoyable. I made my coffee and pulled up a stool to lazily keep an eye on it, stirring every so often. I thought about the Italian tradition of serving espresso with lemon peel on the side of the cup. I took hipstamatics using my new free film in the app upgrade I downloaded this morning. I took apart and cut hearts out of an Alterra coffee bag, that I intend to string up and hang somewhere. I in general gave thanks that I am a stay-at-home mami that can do what she pleases, so long as the house is clean and so forth. And, I daydreamed of Summer and it's business of growing and walking and playing: those things I love that prevent me from sitting down at the counter for a couple of hours and tinkering with a jam that I don't even know will work.

thankful for cameras.

The recipe as written did not give an exact amount of lemon juice liquid that should have been extracted from the fruit during the process leading up to the boil. I think that the water just needs to evaporate to the proper stage, and so no exact amount is probably needed. My liquid level decreased by a good 3 inches in my stockpot. Because I kept testing with the spoon method, and because I had pulled up a chair to properly observe, I could actually tell when the boil changed from aggressive bubbling to more subdued activity.

All the while, I had my 10 clean jars with lids in a 250 degree oven. This technique of sterilization and canning I have never done. It actually seemed like something that was too good to be true. No boiling water turning my fan-less kitchen (and the rest of my smallish house) into a sauna? I love this method! I had only one that didn't seal, and I added it to the extra three I had, so I have some to devour straight away. Obviously, I have a couple unsealed to give away as well. This is the time I break out my favorite strange canning jars that I can't really use to preserve in - one triangular jam jar that Sasa gave me is my favorite:

It originally contained a Croatian fig and chocolate jam. Next time I see her, I'll give her this unsealed jar of lemon marmalade knowing I'll get it back again to fill with more surplus jams or jellies. I'm telling you, it's the simple things in life that give me the most joy.

peels seemed to rise to the top, but the gel is set so no matter.

I confess, that so far I've only read through the beginning and "Winter Through Early Spring" sections of the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. I was smitten, my heart at first purchased with luxe paper and pictures, but now also with a sound recipe written very well. Now, I busily page through the rest of the book and drop it into my bottomless Amazon cart. I daydream of warm weather, thankful for California and it's bounty that provides me lemons in January.

I pause, and suddenly shutter at my thoughts: at the end of this summer, I will have officially hit my mid-thirties and I daydream some more that I'm still 23. But then I lighten at the hope that my first ever knit sweater should be complete by that time (I cast on yesterday!). This is what happens to me in the winter. Roller coasters of retrospect and expectation move in when I have time on my hands. I try to remember not to dream it all away and be thankful for each second.