As we sit here buried under two feet of snow (and counting), I think it’s just the right time to talk about oranges. (After all, how can my thoughts help but escape to Florida right now?)
The thing is I made this marmalade a few months ago, in fact. I found out that one of my new favorite online stores, the Florida Orange Shop, sells Seville Oranges which are well-known but hard to find (like so many other fruits I struggle to get my hands on). When I ended up ordering the smallest package, 3/16 a bushel, however, I had more than I knew what to do with.
With such precious raw materials, I had to turn to the The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. If you’ve ever seen this book, you can’t help but be drawn in by the saturated colors of a seemingly magical world of fruit. But the recipes too are captivating–elegant, sophisticated, every step carefully thought out to bring out the best possible results. I was recently lucky enough to take a class with the author and founder, Rachel Saunders, and even with all the jam I’ve made I learned so much–but it only whet my appetite (so to speak!) and I didn’t hesitate to sign up for her upcoming marmalade class in March. It goes without saying that I can hardly wait.
The marmalades generally take 3 days or so to make–which before you balk actually makes the process all the better. You can do all the work of chopping and seeding and slicing and squeezing one day and then put it aside. The second day you boil and set aside again, and only on the third day do you actually make the preserves. This makes it less of a Herculean undertaking and more of a manageable process that can even be done on a weeknight.
It’s not about convenience though, but about making a beautiful product. Unlike other marmalades I’ve made, the jelly is clear and translucent (rather than opaque and gelatinous) and the suspended pieces of fruit are like candied jewels. About half the fruit is quartered and used for its juice alone and discarded, while only the other half actually makes its way into the preserve. I was initially aghast at throwing away so many peels unused (I mean, I did special order these!) but when I ended up with such beautiful results and 13 jars, I saw no reason to complain.
As for the flavor: there’s no exaggeration in the fact that these are called bitter oranges. If you’ve never had marmalade before it’s a bit shocking (and even if you have). But it grows on you–with vanilla and muscovado sugar, its flavor is as elegant and complex as its rich burgundy hue.
I apologize for not providing the recipe here, but I can at least tell you where to get Seville oranges–which should be in season through the remainder of the month.
Note that the methodology used in the The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook for processing jars is not the USDA specified method. I was nervous about this so I processed the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
I’ll be slathering this on warm toast as I watch the growing mountains of white snow out the window. Stay warm!