March 12, 2012

Simply Supreme: Blood Orange Marmalade with Star Anise and Ginger

Cooking is full of oddities.  Funny measures, like a a pat of butter or peck of peppers.  Archaic techniques and even stranger ways to describe them.  Baking a pie crust blind.  Bringing water to a rolling boil.  Coddling eggs. 

I love the specificity of these words, carrying with them the collective wisdom of hundreds of hands doing the same task, perfecting them and capturing their meaning in a "just so" way.  And like an amateur sleuth, I ferret out new methods and the words to describe them, collecting them like so many shells along the shore.

Here's my latest acquisition.  Supreming. A lovely word to describe a rather onerous and mundane task: that of separating the pesky membrane from a citrus fruit.  Not so bad if you're making a smallish fruit salad but a bit more daunting when faced with several pounds of citrus waiting to be transformed into marmalade. 

I first made blood orange marmalade last winter, and with the last of the jars scraped clean and a new crop of the beauties at the grocers, I wanted to try my hand at it again.  Serendipity in the form of Food in Jars smiled upon me, with this brilliant and time saving method that eliminates the need to supreme the fruit.  I added my own twist in the way of exotic spices that heighten and complement the sweet and slightly mysterious deep red oranges from way down south.  While you may not need supreme the fruit, I can assure you the results will still be quite divine.

Blood Orange Marmalade with Star Anise, Ginger and Cardamom
adapted from Food in Jars
yields approximately 6 ½ pint jars

The secret to this brilliant technique that eliminates the need to supreme is an overnight soak of the citrus fruit.  This breaks down the pith, and softens the fruit, with glorious results.

2 lbs blood oranges
2½ lbs sugar (about 5 cups)
3 star anise pods
2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thick slices
5 green cardamom pods
8 c water

1.  Wash the oranges well.  Trim each end, exposing the fruit, and cut in half.

2.  Using a very sharp knife, cut out the orange cores, removing any seeds at the same time.  Preserve both cores and seeds.

3.  Cut the orange halves into thin slices, and cut each half into three segments. You want the fruit to be as thin as possible, with small bite size segments.
4.  Take the reserved cores and seeds and tie them up securely with kitchen twine in cheesecloth.

5.  Put orange segments and cheesecloth bundle in a large bowl and cover with water. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.  If time and life interfere and you need to soak the fruit longer than a day or two, do so with impunity.

6.  To cook the marmalade, remove the cheesecloth bundle with the cores and seeds and discard. Place the fruit and water in a non-reactive large pot (preferebably wide and shallow), and stir in the sugar. Place the star anise, fresh ginger and cardamom in cheesecloth, and tie securely so that none of the spices escape.  Tuck the spice bundle amongst the fruit.

7.  Bring the marmalade to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the marmalade is reduced by half or reads 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer (about 40 minutes).  Test the marmalade to ensure that it has "gelled".  Ladle marmalade into prepared jars, wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Enjoy this delightful marmalade in a variety of ways, and not just on toast.  Try it on roast pork or as a side to a cheese plate too.

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