12 January 2008
This isn't supposed to happen. Around the holidays your counter is supposed to be filled with tins of cookies and your refrigerator should abound with roasts and braised cabbage and all sorts of homemade goodies both sweet and savory. And then the holidays pass and we clean the house for New Years and after all that indulgence we settle into a January of salads and asceticism. So could someone please explain to me why, in the second week of January, I am so besotted by produce, our kitchen overflowing??
First, my aunt sent us home laden with a caramel cake and a pie and all sorts of commestibles (sorghum molasses! beans! fruit!), some of which have been relegated to the pantry and the freezer, some of which (ahem, cake) were consumed with alarming alacrity. Second, there is the issue of the crate of ruby red grapefruit my uncle sends every year, don't get me wrong, we love them, but eighteen of them, EIGHTEEN is quite a lot. And then, then, only a few days after the grapefruit arrived, a whole box of pears from our neighbor. Did I mention the leftover soup that's packing our freezer from a soup party we had? I'm drowning in the onslaught.
The pears have slowly, lackadaisically ripened themselves into possibly the best pears I've ever eaten, but I feel as if I've eaten a gallon of them, sliced alongside my breakfast or in a pear and blue cheese tart. As for the grapefruit: six went to the postman who delivered them, another two into the Christmas salad, a few went to breakfasts, but that still leaves seven grapefruits piled haphazardly on the counter. Since the grapefruits are an annual event I am pretty familiar with just about every grapefruit recipe out there: salads, sorbets, compotes, candied rinds, I even made a grapefruit and Riesling terrine once. But the one thing I usually end up making is pink grapefruit marmalade.
This year, as I padded about the kitchen in the quiet dark, slicing grapefruit peels and blanching them twice to remove any bitterness, adding the fruit and sugar to the pot, I did a couple things differently that made this the best marmalade I have ever produced. First, I added a touch too much water to the pot, which meant I had to set the marmalade to a long slow simmer in order to cook it down. It took over an hour in the end, but that long cooking gently caramelized the grapefruit pieces into sweet translucent slices, with only the slightest hint of bitterness. Second, I scraped in the seeds from a vanilla bean, which not only speckled the pink jam with pleasing black flecks but added to the subtly sweet scent.
When I say that this is the best marmalade I've ever made, I mean it's the best marmalade I've ever eaten or tasted. The kind of jam you want to eat straight out of the jar, standing by the fridge door, almost like spoonable candy, except with a pleasant hint of bitterness. The only problem is that it uses just three of my grapefruits and produces a rather large amount of marmalade- four jars, which doesn't really help me with the onslaught around here. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.
Pink Grapefruit Marmalade with Vanilla
3 large ruby red grapefruits
3 cups water
4 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
2 tablespoons rose water or lemon juice
1. Set a large pot of water to boil. Cut off the peel of the grapefruits, working to get good thick slices, but leaving the inner white pith closest to the fruit still attached to the fruit. Cut the peels into strips. Blanch the peels by submersing them in boiling water for about three minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under running water. Bring a fresh pot of water to a boil and repeat the blanching process again, this removes any bitterness. Drain and rinse again.
2. Place the peels in a large pot. Cut off all the white pith from the remaining fruits then, working over the pot, cut between the grapefruit membranes so that the fruit sections fall into the pot. Squeeze juice from the membranes and discard them. repeat with remaining fruits.
3. Add the water and sugar to the pot and bring to a boil, stirring to combine. Lower the heat to a very low simmer. Simmer until the marmalade is thick and translucent, about one hour. The marmalade may still appear a touch watery- keep in mind it will thicken as it cools.
4. Add the vanilla bean seeds and simmer another five minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the rose water (or lemon) and set aside to cool. You could can this and process in a hot water bath or simply store in jars in the fridge.