Betty, You are My Hero: Blood Orange Marmalade, a la Betty Crocker

Betty, You're still my hero

I love blood oranges; their colors ranging from light orange to deep red, they are gorgeous. They are worthy of every recipe that is made in this #365daysofbaking challenge:

 

The same color hues are true of their inside flesh:IMG_6990

 

According to Healthy Eating, “Blood oranges possess a distinctive flavor compared to other sweet oranges like navels. This citrus variety is considered less acidic in taste than the navel and often contains overtones of berries such as raspberry or strawberry. The blood orange is considered an eating and juicing orange, while the navel is more of an eating orange. Its sweet taste can turn somewhat bitter when its juice is exposed to air.” They have a growing period of December-March, but I say snap these babies up in January, and you will be immensely happy with these rotund lovelies.

The flavor is almost hard to nail down – a little like a crazy, tooty, fruity aunt – maybe a little less sweet than others, but still deliciously fun to have around.

For all the canning I’ve done in the last 20 some-odd years of my life, marmalade is a new thing to me; it always seemed so intimidating. I am here to tell you, the intimidation comes in the form of being abso-fucking-lutely time consuming. Like one double batch will take you, say, 4-5 hours kinda time sucker out of your day or night.

This is my first go round, and I knew there were mistakes to be made. Me, make mistakes??! I know you’re utterly stunned.

Avoiding the Internet, I went to an ole’ standby in the form of Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. This has given me so many goodies over the years, I knew I’d find a trusty, good ole’ recipe for blood orange marmalade.

Nope. I found a bloody complicated one. I proceeded to go through my library of canning cookbooks (seriously, over 20), and to Ball’s credit, it was the least complicated version of blood orange marmalade I’ve found to this point.

Then, I cracked – I wasn’t in the mood for some painfully cumbersome recipe – so I started perusing the Internet, hoping I wouldn’t come across another ill-fated, seemingly purposely set up for failure recipe. I couldn’t take being the central character in another episode of the kitchen gods’ reality show “Mortal Failure: [subtitle “Watch the Idiot Who Thinks She’s Gonna Be a Baker.”]

Enter my standby hero for so many recipes,Betty Crocker. Here is Betty Crocker’s Blood Orange Marmalade recipe.

If you didn’t hear me before, or you’ve not read my other posts on marmalade making: cranberry, grapefruit, Meyer lemon, I’ll say it again, it’s fucking time consuming. Painfully so some days. Just take a look at the wee slivers of peel below…that’s after peeling it off with a vegetable peeler, risking severing my fingers off with a freakishly sharp knife to remove the white pith, and then risking chopping off more digits as I sliced these into wee bitty slivers.

There are some curious observations I have made in this round. The 1st is a little thing on light… you know, my whole beef with good photos and all. Look at the images below: it’s the exact same image taken from different angles, but the one of the right is actually what I was seeing with my naked eye. The color of the peel was turning the enameled pot a rosy hue. Turn 45 degrees to the left, and the lighting shifts to a more orangey-yellow cast, as seen in the picture on the left. Just… curious, that whole lighting gig.

 

Part of most marmalade making is the blanching of the peels to soften them. In this recipe, it happens in 4 minutes of boiling, but look at how radically the color of the peel changes. Don’t look so bloody any more, eh?

IMG_6991

And when you add the sugar, look at what happens to the color of the juice – it becomes the vibrant red lovers talk about on walks on the beach at sunset <gak>. Maybe the peel reabsorbs some of the red. For the record, this is my favorite stage of any jam/marmalade making. The sugar brings all the color lost in the boiling to that point back into gloriousness:IMG_6992

I let the above picture simmer on medium-low as called for (remember that whole enameled cast iron mess in the Meyer lemon marmalade?). I stirred it way more than the Meyer lemon recipe. Betty’s recipe said to “simmer for about 45 minutes until temperature reaches 225 degrees F.” This temperature was achieved about 30 minutes in, and I even let the instant read thermometer go several degrees higher, almost to 230 F. I pulled the marmalade off, noting the sides were starting to look congealed. I canned it, which produced 4 half pints, with a little reserve, not the 7 noted in the recipe. Where’d Betty get 7 half pints??

Below is what the final product looks like – beautiful sunset orange (keep talking you lovers on the beach)- and I should have walked away. I just should have. I know that some recipes take a few days to set up.

IMG_6999

Instead, I came running downstairs the next morning, like a kid on Christmas Day, to gobble up my blood orange marmalade on a toasted English Muffin. I was sad to see my reserve was still incredibly runny. Again, I should have just walked away, but when I spooned the runny marmalade on the crusty English muffin, it just soaked right in.

Like any good fool, I decided to trudge forward without thought to the end.

I opened up my 4 half pints, dumped them right back in the pot, brought it all back to a boil, brought it down to a simmer, and simmered until the instant read thermometer read 239 F.

What-the-ever-fuck was I thinking? Yes, that is a full 14 degrees F more than the recipe calls for. 230 F was pushing it on the 1st go round.

Things you do not want to see in any jam or marmalade you make… a knife that stands up on its own when placed in the center. And no, I am not holding the top of the knife in place. I had turned this into blood orange taffy.

Quite tasty, stringy, gooey blood orange taffy, I might add, but nonetheless, taffy.img_7015.jpg

And in the remake, I lost one full jar. I now only had 3 half pints… where did that other half pint go?

I swear the kitchen gods were howling with laughter on this one.

A few other curious observations:IMG_7005

See how all the peel is suspended at the top? This happened in the first canning, and again in the remake. None of the other marmalades have done this. Then, the marmalades with which I’ve had success have all been based in commercial pectin; however, not even the Meyer lemon did this, and that recipe was based on the lemon’s natural pectin.

I’m not sure what caused this. Any ideas canners of the canning world??

I will remake this recipe and win the battle of what is the right temperature, right length of boil in my enameled cast iron pot. This battle is worth it. Just like the chocolate chip cookie battle.

Betty, you are still my hero. The mistakes were mine. I own that. You will help make me better.

I will be that lovely lady whose marmalade brings the masses. Hear me sing my siren song. Hear me ROAR!

 

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