Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cara Cara Orange and Meyer Lemon Marmalade

So I got these Cara Cara oranges awhile back - I got suckered into the advertisting on the package, talking about how wonderful they were.  Plus I'd seen them on a citrus farm website not too long ago.  They sounded intriguing.  Didn't look too different on the outsides, but the picture implied a much more rosy hue inside...

First one I cut into had me doing a double take, and even heading back to the crisper drawer.  Did I accidentally grab a grapefruit?  Nope - it was a Cara Cara orange - and they are beautiful on the inside!

Unfortunately, I really wasn't all that into the taste.  The same thing happened for me with Blood Oranges.  I wanted soooo bad to love them, but they're just a deeper flavor than I want in my orange.  It feels like someone crossbred them with some sort of berry.  Only problem - now what was I going to do with them!?!?

A little looking around and I had my solution - marmalade!  Heck, if I went to all the work and hated it because of that slightly-berry taste, I'm sure I could unload the stuff on someone else.

This also seemed like a good time to get and use some Meyer lemons since they're in season, especially since I found a recipe using lemons in the Cara Cara Marmalade:

Lemme tell ya, slicing all of this smelled amazing.  And I whizzed through four large oranges and two plump lemons in no time with my mandolin.  I didn't recall using it on citrus before, so I wasn't sure how easy the tough skins would be.  I admit I'm a little intimidated by the blade on mandolins (ok, I'm terrified), but thankfully they come with a holder/protector.  Just skewer the fruit with the holder, and zip zip zip go the slices!

You can see in the pic above that I hand-sliced some of the skin - that was the end nubbins that weren't easily fed into the mandolin.

After all the slicing you boil the fruit, then take it off the heat, dump in the sugar, and let it sit til the next day.  Easy!

The next day you simmer for about two hours, then bring up to a boil and in a half hour it should hit 220F.  That's the temperature you need to aim for to get that jelly texture.  Stop before you hit 220 and this stuff is going to be syrup.

Only the recipe suggested a half hour, and after a half hour I still couldn't get much past 210.  Sometimes it would get up to 215, but I would stir it out of fear of burning, and then the temp dropped down to 210 again.  Grrrr.

When in doubt, you can also do the cold-plate test.  Keep some small saucers and spoons in the freezer, pull one out, and drizzle the stuff onto the plate:

Wait a few seconds (this stuff is molten lava hot!), then drag a finger through it.  If the pectin is starting to tell, you should see the path traced by your finger remain.  This next picture was taken as the goo was closing the gap....nope, not ready yet!

Let's just say it took over 45 minutes (closer to an hour?) of boiling.  I even took the heat diffuser (I have a gas stovetop) out from under the pot just in case that was making a difference.  Within maybe 5-10 min, the temp started to rise again, and then hit 220.  I stirred and...oh no!  It was starting to burn on the bottom of the pot!  I stopped scraping stuff off the bottom, and canned the goods.

You have to admit, that's some beautiful stuff!

I did taste it as I was canning, and was worried that, because of the long boil and the little flecks of "extra dark" citrus, it would taste burnt.  While it is a bitter marmalade, that's sort of what marmalade is all about.  Not something you just eat off a spoon.  But put it on an English muffin...?

Mmmmm - that's some good stuff!  It definitely wasn't too bitter.  It did set up MUCH firmer than I expected, but again, I think marmalade often sets up more firm than your typical jelly.

Also - I was worried that just using half-circle slices of the fruit would result in some really stringy marmalade.  Look around online - people have very different opinions on how marmalade should be - some like it stringy, some want a super fine chop, some want it chunky.  With this batch it went from really stringy to having the rinds falling apart some during the cooking.  Yes, it's still got texture, but not in a bad way.

The deeper, berry-ish flavor that I didn't care about in the original oranges wasn't at all overwhelming in the finished product.  Yes, it's a strong, darker orange flavor, but again - that's something you can get with marmalade.

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