We're at the height of citrus season here in Upstate California. I'm loving the oranges. Our family goes through ten pounds in a week easily. We're also loving blood oranges. On the outside they look quite like a naval orange, maybe a rosier tone to their skin, but on the inside they are red-purple (watch out for staining) and their flavor, while definitely citrusy, has a very "berry" element to it. Such a prize in the middle of winter! To me a blood orange isn't a substitute for a naval orange, it's a whole different fruit. With our first taste of this years' crop of blood oranges a few weeks ago I was so taken aback by the berry-ness of their flavor, I immediately wanted to preserve it.
I've been trying to take it easy in the kitchen lately, because this pregnancy is reminding me to rest, so I wanted a marmalade with an easy method. No de-seeding, no separating the peel from the pith and then segmenting or supreming the fruit. (Who are these bloggers who have time to peel and section multiple pounds of citrus...and then tie up the seeds in a piece of cheese cloth "for added bitterness"?)
Also, I wasn't looking for a classicly bitter marmalade; I wanted a fruit spread that captured the flavor of a blood orange. I wasn't looking for slices of orange peel, but a smoother texture, something to make the kids stop complaining that we ran out of strawberry jam months ago. So I took the basic ingredients from one recipe and I adapted it to use a method briefly mentioned on the blog, Hitchhiking to Heaven (a blog totally devoted to jams, jellies and preserves). That lady knows her preserves. In this post she mentions--and pictures--a Rio Star Grapefruit Jam. She refers to it as a jam because the whole fruit is pureed in a food processor and cooked more quickly than a classic marmalade. Whatever the terminology, I'm glad I used her method. A 90-minute simmer for the whole fruit, a quick whirl in the food processor, then a fairly brief simmer with sugar to make a tangy-sweet marmalade/jam was a fun Sunday afternoon project.
I think about this jam when I go to bed at night... On a piece of sourdough Sunflower-Sesame toast from Hearth & Stone Bakery with butter. I think about it when I wake up in the morning. And then I go make a slice and cup of tea and I start my day.
Blood Orange Marmalade
Adapted from Spectacularly Delicious with inspiration from Hitchhiking to Heaven
Makes approximately 8 half pints.
2 pounds blood oranges
2 lemons (I subbed another blood orange for one of the lemons)
8 cups sugar
Thoroughly clean blood oranges and lemons by scrubbing with a vegetable brush under running water. Remove any stems. Place whole fruits in large saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a simmer and let simmer with pot partially covered until fruit is tender and can be easily pierced with a knife (about 90 minutes). This requires almost no attention while simmering, a perfect time to make tortillas with the kids or do whatever other household chores keep you busy on a Sunday afternoon.
When fruit is tender, remove to a plate to cool a bit. The original recipe calls for saving the water that the fruit cooked in, but I only saved about a cup. I wasn't really interested in the extra bitterness that the liquid was supposed to provide and I certainly wasn't interested in the extra boiling time that all that liquid would add to the final cooking stage, so I deviated from the recipe. Cut the fruit in half and removed the seeds from the lemons (there weren't any visible seeds in the blood oranges). Working in two batches, put the halved fruit in a food processor and pulse 5-10 times until it is a small mince, not completely uniform. Return the puree to the pot (with the reserved 1 cup of liquid), add the sugar and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally at the beginning, more constantly toward the end to prevent scorching, until the mixture thickens, about 20-30 minutes. You're aiming for a temperature of 222F on a candy thermometer, but mine was sufficiently thick before it reached that temperature.
Transfer marmalade to hot sterilized half-pint jars. Leave 1/2" headspace. Process is boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove to a towel covered counter and let sit 24 hours. Check seals, label and store up to one year.