This last weekend I had a boat-full of fun in the sun. My husband’s family all met up in Laughlin, NV, with water toys in tow, for a little R & R at the river. So. Rad. The whole idea for this get-away came from Randy’s grandmeire. This lady is amazing. In fact, his whole family is; I am so lucky to have awesome in-laws. Last month Grandmeire turned 94 and decided that for her birthday she would like a little vacation, a change of scenery. So, we all booked river-view rooms at various casinos along the strip and readied the boats and sea-doos. Now, Gran wasn’t going to be joining us in the 108 degree sun, not this time. Her plan was to stay in her room to enjoy the view, maybe watch a few movies, and basically live it up granny style.
As soon as Randy and I found out there would be a trip, we started brainstorming ways we could make Grandmeire more comfortable in the room, and how we could make the trip more special for her. My ever-thoughtful husband remembered that grandmeire loves orange marmalade. And that my friends, was the catalyst. Right around this time I read a couple posts on a blog I’ve enjoyed reading for the past few months: Lightly Crunchy. She had just made this really cool basket and later I saw this jam. And it all just came together. We made a basket of wonderfullness for gran to snack on at her leisurely, vacationy, will. Because it was also close to Mom’s birthday we wanted to add lots of stuff she would like as well. As I tend to do, I went a bit overboard with the contents, but I wanted to make sure that both mom and gran would have a few of their favorites and I wanted to show off some of the homemade things I’ve been working on. I really wish I would have taken a picture of the finished basket, but it was assembled on the road and it just slipped my mind. So, I’ll use my words.
We bought some black liquorice for Randy’s mom, and then we just went bananas. We picked up chocolate covered malt balls, yogurt covered pretzels, dried mangos, kettle corn, meats and cheeses. I took everything out of its ugly packaging and put it in cute bread bags, cut to size and tied with twine. Then, to add the personal touch, we whipped up our favorite homemade goodies. Randy smoked some of his lake caught trout and he helped make wheat bread. I made granola, sourdough bread, and even enlisted the help of my mom to bake up some whole wheat crackers. And of course, there was the marmalade. I think it’s important to note that I had never before tasted orange marmalade. Ok, maybe I stuck my finger in an open packet at Denny’s once or twice as a kid, but I honestly had no memory of the taste. Maybe it would also be prudent to mention that I had never before made a jelly, jam, preserve, or marmalade of any kind. So my reference to this kind of thing is less than limited. That being said, I probably made a bigger than average mess and I definitely had a few little mishaps, but overall, the process and resulting goo were GREAT! Yay!
I was going to be super ambitious and make a whole bunch of marmalade so I could practice canning as well, but in a moment of rare clarity I realized that it very well may not be fit for human consumption and having a bunch of jars of nastiness would only be a cruel reminder of my inaptitude. So I cut the recipe in half and got to it. Who knew it would be so simple? I mean besides YOU, who knew? Now, I absolutely can’t wait to try to jellify some other fruits and berries.
I researched a ton of marmalade recipes, and for this endeavor, I used Martha Stewart’s Classic Seville Orange Marmalade (do. not. judge. me.) It seemed to be the simplest, and more importantly the most fool-proof method I could find. Here’s how it all went down.
I forced Randy to peel and coarsely chop three oranges, while I quartered and thinly sliced one orange and one lemon, peels and all.
I then took the orange peels and chopped them up altogether too coarsely, resulting in my first blunder. What I should have done was slice them into tiny pieces. What happened here was I had read so many different recipes they kind of got jumbled, one in particular called out for the chunks of peel to be strained out later with cheesecloth. I guess this just stuck in my mind, because the recipe I used called out for no such thing, leaving me with giant orange peels floating in my otherwise gorgeous marmalade. Dangit.
Everything then went into a large pot with ¾ quarts of water and was brought to a boil. After it came to a boil I cooked it for five minutes, then removed, covered and left to cool. When it was cool enough the whole set up was refrigerated for 8 hours.
The fruit goop was then uncovered and simmered over medium high heat for 20 minutes. The whole mixture was then measured; for every cup of goop I added, ¾ cup of sugar. Back in the pot, the mixture was supposed to be cooked until it reached 222 degrees. I didn’t have a candy thermometer, but I boiled it for a while and it looked like it had thickened up.
I, therefore, ended up committing blunder number two. Old Martha gave a tip about freezing a plate and using it to test the doneness of the marmalade. But not knowing what I didn’t know, I just didn’t know what I needed to know, you know? I dropped some on a frozen plate, oohed and awed at it for a minute, ladled the “marmalade” into jars and left them out to cool overnight.
The next morning Randy informed me that the orange sugar soup I made, though delicious, would not work as marmalade. Ugh! So everything goes back into the pot and back on the stove. Well. Almost everything. In the process of transferring the orange sugar soup back into the pot one jar was smashed into pieces – just about the size pieces the orange peels should have been to begin with – funny little coincidence.
I brought what was left of it back to a boil and cooked the stuffing out of it. I watched it closely and stirred. Then it happened. It became thick and marmaladey right in front of my eyes. Finally, I could tell, I was done. And except for the stir-fry-sized orange peels, it turned out wonderfully.
Everyone who tasted it either really liked it, or lied well enough to make me feel good about it. Most importantly, Randy’s Grandmeire really seemed to love it. I plan on making another batch before we see her in August, but this time with just the right size bits of orange peel.