Friday, January 6, 2012
Satsuma Mandarin Marmalade
Citrus fruit is abundant right now. Trees all over the neighborhood are heavy with ripe oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes, as well as some of the more exotic varieties such as blood oranges, Meyer lemons, kumquats, and yuzus.
Now is the perfect time to preserve the season's bright citrus flavors by making marmalade. Marmalade is usually a softly jelled spread with pieces of peel and fruit suspended in a transparent jelly.
You can make marmalade from just about any citrus fruit and your marmalade will keep in the fridge for weeks, if not months, without canning. If you can it using a hot water bath canner, you can make a shelf-stable product that will keep for at least a year, if it doesn't get eaten up before then.
Making marmalade doesn't take long. There are just three basic steps: chopping the fruit, cooking it briefly to soften the peel, and adding the sugar and cooking it until it's done. If you don't have time to do this all at once, you can spread out the work over two or even three days.
Our Satsumas make a delicious marmalade with just three ingredients: fruit, water, and sugar. Added commercial pectin is not necessary because most citrus peels, pith, membranes, and seeds are high in pectin.
When you make your own marmalade, you can choose to cut the rind thick or thin and you can opt for a slightly higher or lower fruit to jelly ratio depending on your taste. You can make flavor combinations that you might not find at your local market. You can even add dried herbs such as rosemary, lavender, or lemon verbena.
I use a basic recipe that's essentially a 1:1:1 ratio of fruit to water to sugar. There's room for a little variation, such as reducing the sugar slightly or adding a little more liquid, but reducing the sugar too much will result in a product that will not jell.
Step 1, Chopping the Fruit: I like to leave the fruit on the peel. I simply quarter the fruit lengthwise, trim the ends and a little of the membrane from the center, and slice each quarter crosswise, capturing as much of the juice as possible. Put it all in a bowl, or better yet, a large measuring cup, if you have one.
I save the ends, center membranes, and any seeds for their juice and to put into a pectin bag (pictured below), which simply involves wrapping them in cheesecloth. The pectin bag goes into the pot during the peel-softening stage.
You can separate the pulp from the peel if you like, but that adds another step - chopping the pulp; and most of the pulp gets cooked off the peel anyway. Besides, I like the look of the fruit on the peel suspended in the jelly when I get that effect.
Once the fruit is chopped, squeeze the juice out of the saved ends and membranes before wrapping them in cheesecloth.
For a nice small batch of marmalade, chop up about 3-4 C of loosely packed fruit and juice.
Step 2, Softening the Peel: I find that Satsuma mandarin peels are pretty soft to begin with, so they don't require much softening. [This is not true of all citrus. Some will require longer cooking and perhaps even an overnight soak.] Still, I cook the Satsumas in water for about 20 minutes with the pectin bag.
Measure out your loosely packed peels and juice and place in a large, wide pot. Add the same amount of water and the pectin bag. Bring to a boil and simmer softly for 20 minutes. Remove the pectin bag when it's cool enough to handle and squeeze it out into the pot before discarding it.
Step 3, Making the Marmalade: Measure out the same amount of white granulated sugar as the fruit in Step 2 (not the fruit plus the water). Add the sugar to the pot and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly to make sure it doesn't burn, until it reaches the jell point.
The jell point is about 220 degree F at sea level. You can check this with a jelly thermometer, or you can use a lower tech jell test by placing a teaspoon of the marmalade on a plate and putting in the freezer for a minute. Take the plate out of the freezer and push in one edge of the marmalade. If it wrinkles and folds, it's at the jell point.
Turn off the marmalade and pour it into glass jars with lids. Cool to room temperature before putting it in the fridge. This recipe yields approximately 3-4, 8-ounce jars.
If you'd like to can it so that it's shelf-stable, you'll need canning jars, new canning lids, rings, a jar lifter, and a pot with a lid, a rack at the bottom, and tall enough to cover the tops of the jars with at least an inch of water. You can buy a hot water bath canner that comes with a rack or you can improvise your own if you have a big enough pot.
Fill your canning pot with enough water to cover the jars and heat to nearly a boil. Wash the canning jars well. You may want to warm up the jars before pouring the hot marmalade into them, but they do not need to be pre-sterilized. You can do this by putting the jars in your canning pot filled with hot water. Also, place the lids in a separate pot of hot, but not boiling water.
When your marmalade is done. Remove the jars from the hot water and fill them to within 1/4 inch of the top with hot marmalade. Wipe the rims of the jars well. Place lids on the jars and screw on the rings until their just tightened, not too tight. Using a jar lifter, place the jars in your canner. Bring the water to a full boil and process, covered, for 10 minutes. When done, turn off the heat and uncover the pot. Allow the jars to stay in the pot for 5-10 minutes before removing them with a jar lifter. Place them on a kitchen towel and allow them to cool before labelling and storing. The marmalade may not set completely for 8-12 hours, so be patient.
Today's bounty included:
From Underwood Family Farms: White icicle radishes, red leaf lettuce, orange carrots, fennel, broccoli, bok choy, green kale, and Brussels sprouts;
From Weiser Family Farms: Watermelon radishes, parsnips, celery root, and Romanesco cauliflower;
From Sage Mountain Farm: Arugula, Russian green kale, broccoli raab, Swiss chard, and white carrots;
And from Rancho Santa Cecilia: Satsuma mandarins.