Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Graduating and Marmalade

Well, everyone, I did it...I graduated from college. Hooray! Note the change in my profile.

The focus of the next few posts, however, will be the numerous notable culinary events that led up to the Big Violet Event (we wear purple gowns: though sometimes a very tough-looking bobcat parades around our [scarce] sporting events, our official mascot is a violet). My parents came to visit and begat opportunities for blogging about marmalade, a cooking spree, and several restaurants.

First things first: The Marmalade. Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Marmalade, to be exact.

There are several important components of my Marmalade Experience. They are:

1. The inspiration. I will now issue a warning: this marmalade is contagious. I caught it from Tea (although I had first caught the lemon bug from Cream Puff), who caught it from Messy Cucina. You can read about our various results.

2. My previous jamming experiences. There is a place in my heart for homemade jams and jellies; growing up part-time in the North Georgia Mountains, I spent summers concocting wild blackberry jam with my mom (along with canning applesauce and the various fruits of our vegetable garden). I will never think about homemade jams/jellies/marmalades without remembering coming in - scratched, bleeding, twigs in our hair - bearing buckets of blackberries, ripe for jamming.

3. My new gourmet market discovery: Garden of Eden, on 14th St. near 5th Ave. After hunting for Meyer lemons in various markets for a couple of weeks, I found them quite by accident while shopping for sofa cushions (to adorn my new, premium sidewalk-find pullout) in this specialty market - which also carries red corn (which we grilled on the roof) and fiddleheads (which you'll read about presently), among many other things. The lemons were so beautiful: gold and soft with leaves and stems still green and pliable.

4. Buying a vanilla bean. I had immediate success finding one at the specialty food imports store around the corner, Truffette (aka. S.O.S. Chefs), which is a truly unique shop that carries a zillion different mushrooms (including black truffles), a dozen oak drawers full of flavored salts...they carried four different varieties of vanilla beans! I got one of the "regular" ones ($6). So exciting! Embarrassingly, I wasn't really sure what to expect inside a vanilla bean...when the recipe tells you to scrape out the seeds, I guess I assumed there would be big seeds, like peas. Imagine my surprise when I opened up the priceless pod to find the fragrant paste inside!

5. The pectin problem. In the South, your average gas station probably carries pectin - because canning jams and jellies is a normal household activity. In New York, however, you're lucky if a grocery attendant knows what pectin is. (I've had similar problems finding frozen pie-crusts here...not that I use those...) I thought I had solved all my problems when I thought to ask the importers at Truffette if they carried pectin and they said yes, and that it was even pure citrus pectin (perfect for marmalade!). I came to discover, however, that they only sold it by the kilo - meaning I would be making marmalade every day for the rest of my life. After visiting several local stores, I was about to give in and buy a freakin' kilo of pectin when I found out that a kilo of pectin goes for the bargain price of $75. Now, I wanted Meyer lemon vanilla bean marmalade badly, but not that badly. Thankfully, the sympathetic Truffette employee made some calls and found a market that carries organic pectin nearby: Commodities Natural Market.

6. The party. You know, I cook because I really, really enjoy it. In fact, under the right circumstances, cooking really cool, involved things like Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Marmalade can make me slightly euphoric. Friday evening began this way, with me gently slicing the beautiful, juicy lemons with my bad-ass new knife (thanks, mom!), when parades of semi-drunk college brats began falling up and down the stairs to the roof, where a party was in full swing. By the time the lemons were simmering in a saucepan, the party-goers had progressed from semi-drunk to completely wasted, and their escalating inebriation was accompanied by escalating numbers, volume, and glass breaking. There is only one other apartment of students in the building besides mine (and they only moved in recently), so I knew who the hosts were, and though I found the burgeoning revelry somewhat disrespectful toward the building's other occupants, I also felt like a crabby old lady and tried to concentrate on my marmalade-in-progress and rejuvenate my euphoria.

That was until - right as I was euphorically scraping seeds out of my six-dollar vanilla bean - they started peeing off the roof.

Onto my fire escape.

Where my plants are.


To spare you the gory details, I'll say simply that verbal abuse was projected at the perpetrators and nasty letters written to the (ir)responsible hosts. Administering said abuse nearly caused my marmalade to overcook. Then I really would have had to show them what's what.

So. A lot of ire went into my marmalade. And I think it made it taste even better.

Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Marmalade


1 1/4 pounds whole Meyer lemons

5 cups water

1 box fruit pectin

4 1/2 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

6 to 8 one-cup canning jars with lids and bands


Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain jars well before filling.

Work on a large plate to catch juice and cut lemons in half lengthwise, then very thinly crosswise. Discard seeds.

To soften fruit: In a large non-reactive pot (such as stainless steal), bring fruit, juices, and water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes.

Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. (If desired, in food processor or small grinder, grind empty vanilla pod and add to pot as well.)

Add pectin and bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly on high heat. Add sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Immediately ladle into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil.

Process 5 min. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and you'll need to keep them in the fridge).

Let rest in a cook dark place for two weeks before enjoying.

I didn't bother with that last part.

(Recipe courtesy of Messy Cucina)


Tea said...

Welcome, Kate! I am so glad you've decided to join our merry little addicted gang:-) Your jars look lovely--and I didn't bother to wait two weeks either.

And a huge congratulations on gratuation! I look forward to hearing about your adventures in the wide open "real" world. If you have no problem taking on drunk college boys with full bladders, I am sure you will go far. Watch out world!

Linda said...

After your last entries, I have literally been dreaming about lemon/vanilla combos - how about crepes with lemon curd and vanilla powdered sugar? hmmm, do I feel like cooking at 5am? nah....
are your poor little seedlings ok? stupid, bad boys - they sure showed everyone how to be grown-up and graduated! Let's see...to turn the situation positive and make proverbial lemonade...Put a piss-pot on the roof and use the resulting ammonia to tan leather? maybe if you added vanilla to mitigate the odors?

darlamay said...

Yes, welcome to our merry marmalade gang! I'm so happy this recipe has excited so many people! Ugh I writhered back at the description of the party goers peeing onto your plants--- I'm embarassed for them!

Well since you didn't wait the two weeks to taste it, let me know if you notcie a difference in taste between the marmalade you're eating now and a future jar.

Kate said...

Tea - Thank you! There's nothing like punctuating new beginnings with marmalade. I'm so glad you posted about this recipe or I never would have found it.

Linda/Omom - Your crepe idea is making my mouth water. Let's do it. As for your piss-pot idea...well, somehow I don't see tanning leather in my immediate fuutre, but I respect your ingenuity. ;) My seedlings, fortunately, were unharmed (and you can bet that if they had been peed upon, there would have been bloodshed).

Darlamay - (I feel like a Pee and Sympathy joke should go here...)I was actually very clever and made two little teeny sample marmalades to tide me over during the two weeks. Unfortunately, they're gone already...but they were quite delicious! Thanks for the recipe. Marmaladers unite.

Ivonne said...

Congratulations on graduating! And beautiful jam ... I especially love the photos!

Kate's Mom said...

Top photo...my jar :-). Get busy all you cooks and children...what a wonderful Mother's Day Gift!
...and you won't believe the fiddle heads, awesome!!

Jamie said...

Woohoo! Belated congratulations. Sorry it took me so long...I've been having a pretty zany time of it.

That marmalade looks KILLER. Mmmmmmmmmm

Lex said...

That looks so delicious... And your story about the drunk boys is hilarious! I miss you, love.

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Janele said...

Thank you so much for the marmalade recipe. I live in California where I am surrounded by Orange and Lemon trees, so I am definetely going to try out your recipe. I am sorry about your plants. What idiots! Thanks again!!!

pedro velasquez said...

It is widely accepted that the term "marmalade" is derived from the Portuguese term for preserved quince, bet basketball or marmelo. Marmalade became the general term for citrus preserves, usually from the Mediterranean countries. Having discarded the hard peel, oranges and sugar were made to set by cooking with sugar and apples, the latter being used for their natural pectin. Marmalade was an excellent way of providing vitamins when fresh fruit was not available and the sportsbook British used it to help prevent scurvy and other illnesses on board merchant vessels and Men of War.
The British found that oranges and sugar could be made to set using just the chopped peel of the orange, without the need for apple pectin. Since that time the world has come to accept marmalade as a British march madness speciality and the best marmalades all come from these shores. Tiptree still make several marmalades from just oranges and sugar. It is more time consuming and more difficult to make a consistent product, but it is still the best way and done properly, gives the very best results. What better than the bitter yet caramelised bite of a good orange marmalade on hot buttered toast?