Marmalade Mash-up

One time I went to three or four different hole-in-the-wall asian markets looking for green papayas to make green papaya salad. It was probably the only legitimate craving I had the entire time I was pregnant with Lilli.

It wasn’t even that much of a craving, really. More of an “I think I want to make this” and then it got more and more important the harder I had to look for those stupid papayas.

Anyway, last week Lilli and I took another journey down to those hole-in-the-wall asian markets, this time with two important differences. One, she was an actual kid and not just a zygote, or whatever. Two, we were looking for citrus, preferably weird varieties, but not with anything too specific in mind. Unfortunately we didn’t find anything that weird.We did come home with a couple of huge pomelos and about 3 pounds of kumquats, all for about 8 bucks.

This is awesome because unless you happen to live in california and have some sort of citrus tree (that actually produces fruit, unlike the one in my dining room) somewhere within, oh, say, 200 miles of your front door, those little babies will cost you an arm and a leg. I knew I wanted to make some sort of marmalade so it really didn’t matter what we found, as long as it was cheap. I have also been collecting other citrus. By the time I was getting ready to go to work on this marmalade, I had a bevy of grapefruit, a small stash of Meyer lemons and more oranges than I could count, of several varieties.

So I set to work reading a ton of awesome posts about marmalade. I read some over at Food in Jars (Whose kumquat recipe I followed…the whole thing. Which is unlike me.), and there’s been tons of good ideas for citrus in general on Punk Domestics. I wanted to make a batch that had just one fruit and also one batch that was a medley. I peeled an orange for Lilli and then set to work chopping everything up.

And then I decided that I am a total crazy person. Making kumquat marmalade is like making strawberry jelly where the first step is taking out each individual seed with a pair of tweezers before you cook the fruit. It’s ridiculously time consuming. As good as it tasted, I recommend you find a crazy-person friend to make it for you instead of attempting it yourself. Unless you’re crazy too, in which case you have my blessing.

The other batch I made was the medley and I kind of just made it up using the rule of thumb that says you should add about 3-4 cups of sugar for every pound of fruit. Marmalade isn’t like other jam. Since it contains the peel of the citrus you kind of need to let it soak and soften and then cook for a really long time. It’s better that way. There are ways to get around it, but not with kumquats.

I used the way around when we made the lemon marmalade back in San Francisco. When I cut up the pomelos I followed this “way around” too. You can basically make supremes of the fruit. First, use a vegetable peeler to take off all the zest in big strips which you then chop into very thin slices. Next, cut the flesh from the membranes, and chop it into smallish pieces, setting aside the seeds and membranes like you would if you had cut them whole. For the pomelos it was kind of the only way to go since there’s so much peel and the membranes can be kind of tough. I added one delicious pink grapefruit, mostly just to give it a little more rosy color than the pomelos would bring and also cut up 5 Meyer lemons. And I let it soak the entire 24 hours, even though I’ve never done that part before.

When I got around to cooking it, I realized I had probably added too much water, because it boiled forever. It boiled for probably over an hour before it hit the jelly point (220ºF), which is sort of on the ridiculous end of the spectrum.

In the end, it was kind of on the bitter side. Not inedible, just a little bit not sweet even though I knew it had plenty of sugar in it. So, I’m not going to share the recipe. I hope you don’t mind. I think it will be excellent as part of a sweet cookie or made into a sauce to go over ice cream…Why don’t I have any ice cream?

Well, good thing the kumquat marmalade was delicious. I guess I’ll have to eat that first.

One thing I did deem a success was the pomelo sugar I made using the rind from one of the pomelos. I had decided that since they’re such a big fruit, I only needed to add part of the zest, and was pretty glad about that later. To use it up (because I hate to throw stuff out if I can help it) I ground it up very very fine in the food processor and then dumped in a couple cups of granulated sugar to absorb all the oils from the rind. The sugar also serves as a medium for the zest to get into whatever it is you want it in.

You can just mix any sort of citrus zest in with some sugar. About one orange or lemon per cup of sugar, or two of each fruit it they are pretty small. Mix it up and then store it in an airtight container. I went the wacky route and physically cut up the zest, but a microplane style grater is the best tool for the job. You can use it anywhere regular sugar would be called for but a hit of citrus would be welcome.

Getting Crafty–Homemade Tonic

I may have mentioned this before, but I live with a pretty frugal guy. Joe is the driving force behind all those times when I say to myself, “Do I really need that?” He’s also the main reason I have gotten really good at justifying kitchen expenses. One recent kitchen expense was a Sodastream machine.

I accidentally started a habit buying a bottle or two of sparkling water when I did our weekly shopping trip, plus the occasional bottle while out and about. And then these machines started invading the homes of everyone I know. I figured if there was going to be some sort of robot soda invasion I wanted to be a part of it, so after much hemming and hawing about if it was really worth it (which was weird considering how environmentally conscious we are, on top of the frugality) we finally bought one. With a coupon.

Then I started experimenting with all sorts of different simple syrups to flavor the water. Orange vanilla syrup leftover from candying orange peels. Rosemary simple syrup made from branches swiped on walks with the kid. Fennel syrup made from the fronds leftover from all the salad I eat.

But when I saw an article about homemade tonic, it kind of blew my mind. It was one of the reasons we finally caved and bought the machine, the idea that I could somehow make tonic from scratch. Seeing that article, along with all the different links it had for variations on tonic syrup was kind of overwhelming. I decided to just pick the one that looked like it had a lot of positive reviews and start there. Little did I know it would actually make more than a quart of tonic syrup. Now I have a lot of gin to drink…

Which totally isn’t a bad thing. Practicing for summer is never a bad thing.

So it turned out that I didn’t have any regular oranges lying around. This was back when we were still in love with little clementines and were eating them by the pound, and before citrus season was in full swing and I started obsessively buying anything I could zest. No big deal I decided. Also no big deal to me was the fact that I neglected to buy whole allspice berries when I went down to Tenzing Momo (at Pike Place Market) to buy the required Cinchona bark. I just used whole cloves instead.

One thing I did do just as Morgenthaler suggested was to strain it through my french press, which I had never though of using in that sort of capacity. Best kitchen tip I’ve gotten in a long long time, let me tell you.

In the end, if you drink a lot of things that need tonic in it, I’d say the recipe was worth the small amount of time it took. After all, it is a syrup so it will last a while in the fridge. It definitely different than commercial tonic, which I think is too sweet but without any real flavor. If you’re into making things homemade just for the sake of it, then this is probably a good thing to add to your repertoire.

And if it can convince your significant other to let you pick up a new kitchen gadget then you get bonus points!