Monday, February 3, 2014

The Annual Marmalade Making Adventure and How It All Began


Sunday morning breakfast consisting of this year's grapefruit bergamot marmalade, served from an old Paris porcelain confiturier, and a cup of strong English Breakfast tea. Scrumptious!
Photo: Chronica Domus


Several years ago, on a trip to one of the towns that line the beautiful northern California coast, my husband wandered into a little specialty shop that produced and sold jams and preserves.  Out of curiosity, he purchased a jar of orange marmalade.  His purchase was prompted by the fact that my favorite marmalade was no longer stocked at our local market, where we had been buying it for as far back as I can remember.  My husband's purchase was intended as a gift to me in hopes that I would like what I had tasted and perhaps have a new favorite preserve to slather on my daily morning toast.

Let me explain, although I personally enjoy orange marmalade my husband does not, or more accurately did not, at the time.  Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I grew up in England, where marmalade was a staple at our breakfast table, as was typical of many other breakfast tables up and down the country.  My husband was curious about his gift to me and reluctantly tried the marmalade for himself.  To his great surprise, he actually liked the bitter flavor.  He immediately deemed it a tasty comestible and "unlike any other marmalade" he had tasted before.  I explained to him that although his prior prejudices were warranted (the poor thing had thus far sampled only gelatinous cloying goop, the type commercially available on most market shelves), this particular variety was how real marmalade should taste; tangy and bitter with lots of peel.  He was hooked, and his creative juices had been awakened.

As is typical of my husband when undertaking any project he sets his mind to, he headed deep into the mysteries of producing an old-fashioned, home-made marmalade to my great excitement.  Off he went, shopping list to hand, in search of jars and lids, and a huge pot to accommodate his bubbling sticky mass. He toiled over pounds of oranges, chopping, peeling, scraping, collecting pith and seed in hopes of producing enough pectin to thicken his creations (no store bought boxed pectin for him - I told you he was doing things the old-fashioned way).  He stood at the stove for hours on end, sampling for sweetness and viscosity until he declared he was done and had concocted a marmalade that would be worthy of my delight.  And, indeed, he was correct.  I could not be happier with the results of his labors. 

 Into the jar it goes
Photo: Chronica Domus


First came the traditional Seville orange marmalade, then an aromatic floral blood orange, which later evolved into yet another recipe for a bergamot blood orange variety.  Oh heaven, I was awash in golden nectar!  My husband had indeed cracked the mysteries of producing a traditional bitter orange marmalade that is now a daily treat at breakfast time for us.

A small sampling of this year's home-made Seville Orange marmalade in vintage jars
Photo: Chronica Domus


The tinkering has yet to cease, and this January's efforts have produced an exquisitely tasty grapefruit bergamot marmalade that makes my mouth water just thinking of it.  Delish!  I always like to remind my husband that his initial gift to me, from the specialty preserve shop, has turned out to be the gift that continues to give.

This season will be the fifth year in succession he has stocked our larder shelves with his wonderful marmalades.  His annual efforts (three varieties this year, amounting to four batches of 15 to 24 jars), keep us and our fortunate friends, well supplied for the year ahead.

Paddington Bear hogging his favorite comestible

Tell me, do you eat marmalade, or even like the stuff?  If not, what do you spread on your toast?  Perhaps you'll be inspired to make marmalade yourself one day and discover what my family, and the bear from darkest Peru, have in common.

12 comments:

  1. Not surprisingly, I am a HUGE marmalade fan, and have been so all my life (my mother adored it and I grew up eating it, even though a Yank). The thicker the better, with tart outweighing the swet, and lots of rind -- my idea of Heaven. A dear friend sent me a jar of marmalade she made this Christmas, and it was divine. I admit I ate it with a spoon (bypassing spreading it on toast) more than once. I recently tried a grapefruit/sea salt marmalade (yes, you read that correctly) that was superb. Rgds, Reggie

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    1. Hello Reggie, happy to hear you too are a fan of the old-fashioned chunky and bitter variety, the only type in my book. I must say the image of you spooning marmalade directly from the jar gave me a good chuckle, and I can certainly relate. As for the grapefruit/salt combo, I am not the least bit surprised that it tasted good. I recall a man I worked for showed me how well a Christmas mince pie tasted sprinkled with salt. I thought he'd lost his mind until I tried it for myself.

      We would be happy to send a few jars your way if you'd care to contact me privately with your postal address.

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    2. Dear CD -- I would be delighted to exchange marmalades with you (I can send you a jar of the grapefruit/sea salt combo). Let's take this to email. I can be reached at reggiedarling@hotmail.com. Best ever, RD

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    3. Wonderful, please check your in-box. Thanks!

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  2. I grew up with marmalade, too. and once tried to make it for my english father. his comment was that you really needed the seville oranges to get the proper bitterness. the next year, williams-sonoma had a kit that contained everything you needed for seville orange marmalade. it was much better. however, i am really liking reggie's grapefruit/sea salt marmalade!

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  3. Hello again PD, two comments in one day. I am humbled!

    I agree, you most certainly do need Seville oranges to make a traditional marmalade. However, as you point out, Reggie's grapefruit and salt combo has piqued my interest. We shall have to try that little experiment next January as our larder's shelves are positively bursting from with this year's stash.

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  4. "Many people nowadays like Marmalade instead". I too am a big marmalade fan, quite partial to it with a hint of whiskey or sometimes ginger. I must admit though, I do often add a touch of shop-bought pectin (gasp). I once suffered the heart-sink of staying up all night making marmalade after work, which did not set despite following the recipe to the letter. Since then I have been inclined to add a little shop bought to hedge my bets. BTW, completely covet your confiturier! David.

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    1. Hello David, thank you for visiting my blog and commenting.

      I do hope others that enjoy marmalade as much as you try their hand at making it. My husband always seems to fuss the most right at the point of "setting", as he runs back and forth to the freezer, removing icy saucers that he uses as his test for when things have perfectly set. Even then, he's like a father to newborns as he waits until the following day to see if his setting was successful.

      Happy you like our confiturier. I'm rather a fan of Paris Porcelain and can't pass up a piece when I see it.

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  5. I LOVE marmalade! I've recently discovered a pink grapefruit marmalade made by Stonewall Kitchens in York, Maine while visiting last summer. It's my new weekend staple.

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    1. Oh, don't just limit yourself to weekends only. Marmalade has now become my daily breakfast treat! My current favorite is this year's concoction of grapefruit and bergamot - absolutely mouthwatering!

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  6. Awhile back I purchased some acreage in Charlottesville Virginia that had the biggest old pear tree I had ever seen. Way too tall to pick the pears from I had to wait until they fell and fall they did by the bushel basket full. I made pear marmalade. It was killer great. What a delight to find others who are equally enchanted by this kind of concoction. Ann

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    1. Hello Ann, and welcome!

      Pear marmalade is something new to me but you have me intrigued as I too have an old pear tree that produces far too many pears for my family and I to consume on our own each year. We end up giving most of them away to friends. However, this won't be a problem this year as for the first time, our tree has not produced more than a handful of fruit. I do hope it is just because we had a mild winter and not because the tree is dying.

      I visited Charlottesville several years ago and thought it a charming town, and one I'd like to return to.

      Thank you for your comment and I do hope you stop by again.

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