I shot out of work during my lunchbreak last week and managed to track down the last three bags of blood oranges in the supermarket- hidden in a huge pile of bags of "oranges blondes". Three bags of 2 kg each- thus I had to haul 6 kilos of oranges up the hill (see my header pic!) from the train station that evening. Fortunately I bumped into a neighbour, and he carried one of the bags for me. Since I was also carrying 2 packs of four pots each, as well as three cookbooks... I appreciated having 2 kilos less!
The cookbooks I'd picked up at the second-hand bookshop. I had found a copy of the Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, a 1925 copy of Louis Maillard's La Cuisine des Familles (which will be the subject of a future post!), and a book about medieaval feasts.
I had hunted through the Internets, and come up with five recipes for blood orange marmalade/jam. I then realised that two of them were actually based on one recipe- so I pulled that up, and had a look. It looked like a very good recipe, with plenty of detailed explanations, and, after all, the books always say that marmalade is a tricky thing, so I thought we'd better go with that.
I then printed two copies off (by mistake), and, when my friend Mousecatfish turned up at about 13:30, handed her a copy. We divvied up the work, determined that the oranges were far too ripe to be zested before being juiced so we were going to have to do this the long way round, and started.
She juiced the oranges, measuring the juice until we had 8 cups- because, of course, we'd decided to double up! In the mean time, I removed the pulp and segment remains, dropping them into one bowl, and then cut off the white pith, julienning the peel. When she'd finished juicing, she joined me. I think that this part took us well over an hour!
We had 8 cups of juice, and... however many cups of julienned peel, it didn't really matter by that stage, we decided. We then realised that we'd forgotten to add lemons, and, as Greta had suddenly turned up in the kitchen, Mousecatfish played with her whilst I repeated the juicing and julienning with three nicely juicy lemons. We then tipped all the juice and the same amount of water into the big casserole dish, added the zest, I put the segments and pips in a cloth which I'd ironed and tied the top with some string, and we boiled the whole lot for about half an hour. Sort of. We weren't really paying attention- we just fished out a couple of bits of zest, tasted them, determined to cook them a bit longer, tried again, and took it all out.
We measured the juice and zest mixture, with Peter laughing at us in the background as we were saying things like "So that's one of however much this measure is, and another one... So that's 7 of whatever the measurement is, plus up to the two, so that means 7 times up to just about here, plus one up to the 2 on the other side of the measurement." He told Greta that she is to grow up to be an engineer, and take proper measurements.
Hey, these were proper measurements! We just weren't quite sure what the exact nature of the measurements was...
We then measured the sugar out into the cup, measuring seven times (we thought- maybe it was only six and we missed one) up to "just about there", and one time up to 2 on the other side, and tipped it back into the juice and zest mixture. There was some insane giggling here, as the last three jugfuls of sugar made the mixture bubble in a way that... was rather rude. I put on the thick rubber gloves, and squeezed as much pectin as possible out of the cloth bag, finding that although it was mostly juice at first, it was eventually oozing out thick clear/white stuff.
We then added my incredibly stylish and funky brand new sugar thermometer, and started the boiling. Whilst it heated up, we tried my blood orange curd (verdict- nice, tasty, tangy, but needed to be thicker), and my rhubarb and orange jam (verdict- despite only one orange in there, you couldn't taste the rhubarb, and it tasted only of orange. It was nice, but disappointing if you were expecting the taste of rhubarb).
At 18h, the temperature was going up and down by about a degree at a time, but was nowhere near the 220F recommended. As I also had dinner to cook, I took a head of garlic, a pack of thyme, minced them up together in the smacky/choppy, added a couple of slugs of olive oil, some black pepper and the bottom half of a pot of black olive tapenade, smeared it on a leg of lamb, chopped up a red pepper and put that underneath the lamb, and put it in the oven at 180C.
About 20 minutes later, Mousecatfish had to go. I went on boiling the jam, which was slowly creeping up to 217...
At 218 F, it started to try to boil over. I took it off the heat for a moment, turned it down a bit, tried again. It kept on trying to boil over, and I was having to juggle with the heat very carefully, stirring it to cool it a bit whilst making sure that the temperature went on rising, but that I didn't end up with a hob top covered in jam!
Of course, at this point, Greta, who had been sitting happily drawing at the table, wanted out of her chair and into my arms. Impossible! So I took her out of her chair, and set her down on the floor. Unimpressed with me, she stomped out of the room, and closed the door on me. I fiddled with the jam a bit, then went out to see what she was up to... at which point Peter leaned over the mezzanine to look at me- and Greta was in his arms.
We were both horrified. We'd left the stairgate open, and she'd gone upstairs. By herself. On the wooden stairs. With her non-non-slip socks. She could have fallen... But she didn't, thank goodness. Still, I think we'll be being even more careful with keeping that closed!
She stayed upstairs with her father, and I went back to juggling the jam's temperature. I'm very glad I got that sugar thermometer- it made this step a whole lot easier for me to understand! As at first it was boiling over at 218, then was OK at 218 but at 218.5 tried again, then the same at 219F, and I really had to stand over it and keep on turning the temperature up and down. Finally it got to 220F and stayed there, even up to 221 briefly, and I started to jar it.
The result is three big jars for Mousecatfish, and four smaller jars for me.
And a two-thirds full jar to go in the fridge and be tasted this weekend!
And I still have about 8 oranges left... I wonder if Greta would like blood orange jelly?