Shades of red: marmalade edition.
Actually, I discovered, plain blood orange marmalade isn’t all that red; rather it’s a lovely shade of rich orange with the slightest pinkish hue. Like a sunset, really. But additions like extra ripe strawberries and deep red Chianti wine enhance the color, creating a marmalade gradient that is really quite stunning.
Blood oranges are at the very tail end of their season right now. And I mean the very end. Meaning, if you see some now, buy them ALL, because it will be a long, blood-orangeless summer if you don’t.
Granted, these recipes would work just fine with regular old oranges, too. I wouldn’t tease you like that.
This was my first time actually making marmalade. I used the process outlined at Food in Jars, which seemed a bit more straightforward that other sources requiring you to cut and slice apart the orange in all manner of ways. Apparently soaking the pieces overnight is supposed to tenderize them. This marmalade definitely has more tooth to it than some commercial versions, but I’m ok with that. No one wants a dainty marmalade anyway.
Now, about these jars. I started searching last year for alternatives to the ubiquitous mason jars and two-piece pain-in-the-you-know-what lids. I swear I’ve got buckets of those stupid rings that I can never seem to reach and/or find when I actually open a jar and need one. Indeed, one piece lids are not only much more aesthetically appealing (and you know that matters to me!) but also more practical. I also loved that these jars came in 4 and 6 ounce sizes; which, for infrequent jam-eaters like ourselves, meant less wasted jam. Plus the facets… the gorgeous, hexagonal facets and the dramatic black lids… I could stare at these jars all day.
I did my research, and everything I found said these lids would work just fine for water bath canning. I am not a canning expert, and I certainly invite anyone who is to chime in. Of course, the USDA only officially supports two-piece lids for home-canning use, so make of it what you will. If I offer you a jar of this beautiful marmalade, I’ll understand if you politely decline.
I will say that I had success getting the jars to properly seal, no more or less than regular jars, although it did take longer: the tell-tale “pop” didn’t occur for a few hours after the jars had finished their bath, unlike the mason jars which popped almost instantly. I had a few jars that didn’t seal, and those went in the fridge for immediate use.
The same company also sells smooth standard mason jars, without all the raised, tacky ‘decoration’ that the Ball jars have. You could use those with your trusty two-piece lids and they’d still be beautiful. Because, you know, as much of a fuss as I make about the jar, what really matters is what’s inside.
Blood Orange Marmalade
1 pound blood oranges (about 3-5 oranges, depending on size)
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup strawberries, hulled and chopped (optional, for strawberry variation)
1/2 cup Chianti or port wine (optional, for red wine variation)
Using a very sharp knife, trim and halve oranges. Remove the pithy core of the oranges, discarding any seeds (if there are any). Cut the orange halves into thin slices; halve slices.
Secure any seeds and trimmings in a length of cheesecloth; tie it tightly into a bundle.
Place chopped oranges and any juices in a medium bowl along with 3 cups water (filtered, if necessary). Submerge the cheesecloth bundle in the liquid; cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.
The next day, prepare canner and wash/sterilize 3 half-pint mason (or equivalent) jars. Keep jars in hot (not boiling) water until ready to use. Warm lids in hot (not boiling) water to sterilize and soften seal.
Remove the cheesecloth bundle; squeeze out any remaining juices and discard what’s left. Pour the soaked fruit and all liquid into a large saucepan along with sugar.
Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook, stirring regularly, until it is reduced by more than half and reaches 220 degrees F. You can test the gel of the marmalade by placing a spoonful on a chilled plate. Return to the freezer for 1 to 2 minutes, then check for doneness. If you want a firmer gel, cook for a few minutes longer.
When sauce has reached the desired consistency, remove from heat and skim off foam. Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims and threads. Screw on lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let cool completely, 12 to 24 hours. Check seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within 3 weeks.
Add 1 cup chopped strawberries to saucepan along with soaked oranges and sugar. Proceed as directed.
Reduce water by 1/2 cup and add 1/2 cup of Chianti red wine to saucepan along with soaked oranges and sugar. Proceed as directed.