Now that I’ve learned how to make marmalade, it’s time to get serious. Habañero chiles are still running less than ten cents apiece around here, so I grabbed a dozen or so when I bought the citrus for my next
evil experiment batch of Christmas presents. Nice, bright orange firebombs this time. Combined with some great-looking navel oranges and a lemon or two, I knew this would be a killer batch of jam. (Figuratively, I mean.)
I started with five nice-sized oranges and one large lemon. I chose to go with sliced everything; I could have used only the zest and juice of the lemon, but that didn’t appeal to me. (Get it? A-Peel? Man, I’m almost ready to quit my day job.) I tried to slice the fruit using a mandoline, but it was a bit tough for some reason. Even those ultra-sharp blades have a bit of a tough time with citrus rinds, I guess. So I got out my trusty ceramic-bladed knife and had at’em. No problem! Okay, the slices are not as uniform as from a machine; still, they’re nice and thin, all under a quarter inch thick. After I had all the citrus into rounds I took out the lemon seeds (no orange seeds!), quartered the flats and dumped them in a pot (a deep-sided, stainless steel Dutch oven) with water. About six cups. I set the heat to high, and once the liquid began to boil I covered the pot and adjusted the burner to a smooth simmer.
Time to get the canning station and supplies ready. I knew this would be a big batch, so I sterilized a dozen half-pint jars and then stored them on a baking sheet in the oven at 200° F. I got the small water pot ready for the flats and used that to clean the rings, which I then placed to hand on a nearby dishtowel. I’ve moved up to a slightly larger pot for the can processing these days; I’m now using my pasta pot, minus the pasta strainer, as the canner. Very deep so no boilovers; and more capacity too. I put that on the big back burner and got it to simmering. Of course, every so often I stirred the fruit. I made sure my canning tongs and magic wand (magnet-on-a-stick) were ready to go.
At this point I was about 15 minutes into the cooking of the fruit. I got the habañeros out and selected six nice ones. Using a small, very sharp paring knife (and wearing gloves, of course) I fileted the flesh from the seeds and stem. This causes a lot less mess, is very fast, and doesn’t result in agonizing fumes like other methods do. I put the chile flesh into the small processor and added some orange from the cookpot. About two ounces is all, with minimal liquid. I processed that down into a purée and added the mix to the cookpot. Almost ready!
I measured out 7 cups of sugar. I suppose I could have used half-sugar, half-sucralose, but I’m not sure how well sucralose works in a marmalade. Anyway, once the fruit was very soft I added the sugar and stirred to dissolve. I cranked the heat up and got the mix to a roiling boil.
This is where working in a deep pot, specifically a Dutch oven, works wonders. The syrup began to foam mightily, and it took lots of stirring to keep the pot from boiling over. Could you imagine the mess from that? Sugar and citrus on a hot burner; not a pretty sight, I bet. Fortunately, I managed to keep everything under control, if just barely in the beginning.
After a bit the liquid settled down to a more relaxed boil, with large bubbles and only a tiny bit of foam. Such a small amount of foam that I didn’t bother to skim it out, in fact. I got the jam-testing plate into the freezer and got ready to check the jell. Once the liquid became quite syrupy and the mix began to darken some, I started testing. I don’t have a good candy thermometer, so I had to rely on eyeball testing of the jell point.
Once I deemed the marmalade ready I removed the pot from the heat, put the flats into the small pot (and turned the heat off under that too), and started filling jars. I got 10 half-pints, with a wee bit left over for snacking. That meant I had to run the canner through two batches; no big deal. I think I got a nice jelly in the liquid; not too stiff, so it’ll work on ice cream too. Others might like it a bit stiffer, though. If you make this stuff, you may want to go for a harder jell. Your call.
As an aside, you can more easily reach a jell by using some pectin. There’s a thorough process described here for orange marmalade that includes pectin. If you want to assure a good jell point, I suggest using (or modifying) their process.
How’s the heat in this marmalade? Awesome! The first bit of marmalade on the tongue yells “Orange!” and that’s pleasant. Then the fire kicks in, especially as you swallow. It’s not quite like your first slug of cheap whiskey, in that you don’t want to cough and bend over. But it’s pretty zesty. Just like I wanted.
We’ll see who all wants some for their Santa stocking this winter…
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