Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Bitter Oranges and Sweet Mermelada
From late last winter, this post has been slowly aging in its cyber-cellar, until now it is ready for publication.
Yesterday, near Pátzcuaro, we visited a neighbor's ranchito along with a friend. Our amiga pointed out the orange trees and said "Son naranjas amargas."
I asked if they could be used to make mermelada, and she didn't know. These are not the same as the "Naranjas Dulces, 5 kilos por 15 pesos", described in another post. These oranges are bitter, but free.
I'd like to know more; whether they might be used to make a tasty, coarse shred orange marmalade. I suppose I'd need pectin, wouldn't I? I soon found out that it wasn't necessary.
A week later, there was a call at our gate. Our young amiga and her cousin had brought me some 5 kilos or so of oranges. I soon set to work.
After finishing the preparing, cooking and canning of a test batch of mermelada, I'm now having a medicinal brandy. ;-)
I started at about 5 a.m. cooking the washed and scrubbed oranges, then boiling them in plain water until tender. Although the recipe in the book, "Better Than Store Bought" suggests 6, large Seville Oranges, boiled for an hour, the 12, small to medium Mexican Seville (?) Oranges were done in about 35 minutes.
They are cooled in the liquid, which is reserved. Then each orange is cut in half, and the pips and membranes are scraped into a wide, copper clad bottom, stainless steel Revere Ware pot).
That pulp is cooked with the water for an hour. This step extracts the pectin. This mess is then food milled.
The resulting strained pulp is mixed with the finely cut peels. (I did that with a sharp knife on a cutting board, 2-3 peels at a time while the pectin was extracting.) Others recommend using a food grinder with a coarse plate, but that sounds less attractive in its results.
(We then went for a walk)
On our return, I divided the total into two batches of about 6 cups each. To each I added about 6 cups of sugar. There's also fresh lemon/lime juice in it. Each batch is cooked over a fairly high flame until the mixture thickens, and the liquid falls from the spoon in sheets rather than droplets. (Yeah, right.)
Now it's poured into sterilized jars, and, in some cases, a circle of brandy paper is placed on the gel before sealing. In other cases, I said, the heck with it, and just dribbled a little brandy on top of the marmalade.
The jars are wiped off with a hot, damp towel.
(I just heard a lid, "POP!")
This looks pretty good, and the tiny tastes we had indicate that it's worth it. However, I wouldn't think making any less than 4 pints is worthwhile.
Tip to Myself: Get the proper jars ahead of time next time you plan to make this.
UPDATE: We now have the jars, and the oranges are ripening on the trees. After the Christmas holidays, I will make more mermelada.
While looking for a picture to (a-hem) borrow as an illustration, I came upon a Chili-Orange Marmalade recipe. It's from a Danish chili (sic) lover! I didn't use his picture, but I will definitely try his recipe.