visit the web site

Sunday, September 25

Lady Marmalade

Because I don't have enough to do what with the arts business and the part time job and the house worky stuff, I decided to make marmalade.

It all started when a friend who has been living off the land...well, part time when she's not a corporate attorney..sent some peach jam home with friends and I got one of the precious little quilted jars and it was the best thing I ever ate. It was spoonfuls of orange sweetness, tangy bits of peach, I swear it glowed in the morning sunlight. I fell in love. I wanted my own little quilted jars. I wanted to make something to put in them. I googled and googled (things to put in quilted jars that glow in the sun) and found a recipe from my own personal guru, Ina Gartin. It seemed simple and straight forward. She said if you had a mandolin it would go faster, I have one, Ina, I thought proudly. I assumed success was a given.

I found the appropriately thin-skinned oranges, bought a box of the pretty, quilted jars, some lemons, a barrel of sugar. I was ready. The recipe is fairly simple, actually. You slice up the oranges and lemons, cook them in a whole lot of water for a couple of hours and let it sit at room temperature overnight. I was really good at this part. I retired for the night, smug in my expertise.

The next morning, I proceeded with part 2. This entailed boiling the orange mixture gently for several hours and then, boil it not so gently until it reaches 220 degrees. (Yes, I have a candy thermometer, Ina!). To test the doneness, you put a bit on a cold plate, wait 10 seconds and see if you have jam or juice. I put a small plate in the freezer to be at the ready. Soon, I would be filling those jars.

It takes a while to get stuff on the stove to 220 degrees. I'm not sure you know that. I didn't. I pulled my little ice plate out of the freezer a dozen times to test my mixture and it never changed from juice to gel. I did not lose patience. I was, after all, doing an old-fashioned thing, a take your time for a change kind of thing. I was serene. Almost cocky. Write this down: Cockiness is never a good thing.

I calculated how long I had been boiling the goop, ran an equation in my head about how much longer I could expect this to take based on my cold plate to gel ratio and decided to play a game of Bejeweled on my laptop.. Well, face it, that old-fashioned charm thing doesn't last all that long.

I blasted the last row of gems with the bomb icon and went back to the kitchen expecting the thermometer to read 219 degrees at which time I would retrieve the little plate from the freezer one last time, put a golden spoonful of deliciousness on it and watch while it miraculously transformed itself into marmalade. I would then ladle it into my newly sanitized jars and I have 8 jars of orange sunlight perched on my pantry shelves. I was smiling in anticipation.

I could smell the burnt orange from the dining room. No, no, no. It could not have burned. Bejeweled is a one minute game. The pot was bubbling rambunctiously. The burnt smell was stronger. I picked up the wooden spoon, approached the pot, the thermometer read 220, I stirred. The spoon stuck to the bottom of the pot, mired in an inch of thick, burnt goo. I did not have marmalade, I had tar. It gelled immediately on the cold plate. Brown marmalade.

Apparently there is a magical moment when the boiling goo becomes jam and if you wait just 30 seconds too long, you have botched it. Ina neglected to mention this. You failed me, Ina.

Per the instructions (if it is too thick, add some water) I adjusted, added water, ladled some of the watered down tar into my sparkly new jars. Brown. No sunlight penetrated. 5 minutes later, it was too solid to get out of the jars. Sigh.

I am not defeated. This was my learning batch. Sort of like a dress rehearsal, your first loaf of bread, your first marriage. Get the kinks out so you do it right the next time.

I have more oranges. And a recipe from a lawyer acquaintance.

No comments: