"Mar-ma-lade, mar-ma-lade, mar-ma-lade."
But never having heard very nice things about the taste of marmalade (it was bitter, they told me) I stuck with my sweet, fruity, Sure-Jell thickened jams for years after learning its existence. Occasionally, I'd glance at the Smuckers Orange marmalade on the grocery store shelves and wonder what the heck jam made out of citrus tasted like.
I found out at a London breakfast table where, in the basement dining room of a bed and breakfast, I discovered orange marmalade was the only preserve available to spread on my toast. I spread a tentative blob on a corner of toast and apprehensively took a bite. It was bitter, but then sweet, and actually quite refreshing. There was something very nice about how the bitter citrus peel in the marmalade blended with the creamy, sweet butter spread across a crispy, nearly room temperature piece of whole grain toast.
I stopped fearing marmalade after that first taste and actually came to look forward to finding it at the breakfast table for the rest of that week. But back Stateside, I felt no desire to keep a jar of marmalade in the fridge. There was something awfully romantic about smearing orange marmalade on your toast to start off a day of touring London and honestly, I wasn't sure it would taste as good back home.
I never thought of making my own marmalade until last year when I noticed a recipe for orange marmalade on the Sure-Jell packet. Then I discovered Marisa McCellan's recipe for three citrus marmalade last January and I knew I had to try it.
In the midst of January, when I'm pretty sure nothing will ever grow again, it's lovely to fill your home with the smell of citrus. It reminds me of far off places - both places where the sun shines and citrus trees grow, and also the orangeries of England where the well-to-do kept potted citrus plants centuries ago. (Fyi: the orangery at Kensington Palace is now a lovely little tea house if you're ever in Kensington and fancying a pot of tea and slice of Victoria Sponge Cake.) I highly recommend making marmalade on days where the temperature's not predicted to rise past zero. It's a wonderful escape.
|Three-Citrus Marmalade made with lemons, navel oranges, and white grapefruit|
My lucky marmalade got to take two trips through the maslin pan because someone wasn't patient enough when waiting for the marmalade to hit the set point and the first go around I canned what was essentially citrus syrup. (Lesson learned.)
Speaking of which, does anyone have any tips about when to stop cooking marmalade to achieve the proper set? Last year's batch was most definitely overcooked (as in it was a couple steps away from being hard candy) but still edible. This year's did end up setting quite nicely, but I feel like my marmalade doesn't reach a set I like until it's sustaining 224 F. (It should set at 220F.) Anyone? Anyone? The saucer test doesn't seem to work for me. I feel like I could drop little dabs of the cooked marmalade onto frozen saucers until the cows come home and I still can't tell exactly what the marmalade's consistency will be once it's completely cooled.
Despite the frustrations, I'm so happy to have marmalade back in my pantry. I still like it best on buttered (but slightly cooled) toast, but you can also throw a dollop in with sauteed chicken, soy sauce, ginger and Sriracha to make an orange chicken stir-fry. If I can find tangerines, I may be trying out a tangerine vanilla marmalade in the near future from Elizabeth Field's Marmalade book. Apparently I've become something of a marmalade nut.
Do you like the taste of marmalade?