Monday, January 20, 2014

bergamot marmalade to brighten your winter mornings

Somehow it never occurred to me that bergamot is a citrus fruit. Sure, bergamot flavour, in addition to being rather spicy and perfume-y, also has nice light citrus notes ... but I think I always assumed it was a bark or stem of a plant - not a fruit. And certainly not a bright yellow citrus fruit.

So when I first saw these "bergamot sour oranges" at my local whole foods market, I thought maybe that this was just a special name for a particular type of sour oranges (like "seville bitter oranges" or "lavender tangelos" - the latter taste nothing like lavendar, by the way). So I picked up three and brought them home and did some research. Lo and behold, I was surprised to learn that they're rather hard to come by in markets and that, yes, I could make a bergamot marmalade with them. In fact, I found this recipe from David Leibovitz.

I hurried back to the store and bought five more, so I'd have the eight fruits that Leibovitz calls for in his recipe. Of course, only after I looked at my receipt, which listed the weight of the bergamots I'd ordered, did I realize my bergamots must be a lot larger than the ones Leibovitz bought; though I'd bought the same number of fruits, they weighed more than twice as much!

I ended up making my own recipe. Leibovitz' decision to blanch his fruits first resulted in a brighter yellow-color, but I worried that without their acidic juices, the resulting marmalade wouldn't have a low enough ph. (it wouldn't be acidic enough) to be safe for canning. Also, some of Leibovitz's readers tried his recipe and reported back that their marmalade wouldn't gel properly, so I decided to use a different process to make my marmalade. It's a bit more time-consuming, but I find it results in a better set. I also used less sugar than Leibovitz; perhaps my fruits were sweeter, or perhaps I simply prefer a tangier marmalade. Alright, enough ado: on to the recipe!

Bergamot Marmalade

8 bergamots (approx 3.5 lbs)
4 c. sugar
6 c. water
1-2 Tbs. low/no-sugar pectin (just in case)

To begin, cut 8 bergamots into halves, and cut each half into quarters. Thinly slice each quarter across its width, removing any seeds that you encounter. For an even better gel-set, don't toss the seeds; instead, gather them all together in a bit of cheesecloth or a paper tea bag and save them.

Place all of the slices in a big heavy-bottomed pot and add 6 c. of water. If you have saved your seeds, add the seeds somewhere near the bottom of the pot. Over medium-high heat, bring the citrus-and-water to a boil. Cook for five minutes then cover and turn off the heat. Let stand until cool and transfer to the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight.

This is the process Martha Stewart uses for making her marmalade, and I later learned (when researching apple butter) that there's a good reason for it. Cooking the citrus for five minutes in water begins to break them down, releasing the natural pectins which are found in the peels and the seeds (hence, if you save your seeds, your little seed-bag will help add pectins to the mix as it sits overnight). For the pectin to develop strands, it needs time, and the presence of an acid (which is naturally provided by the sour citrus fruit).  When I make apple butter, I cook the whole apples (skins, cores, seeds and all - I only remove the stems) with some lemon juice in water for five minutes, and then let it sit overnight in the fridge to develop these pectin strands. It generally works like a charm.

The next day, get your pan out of the fridge. Gradually reheat to a gentle boil. Remove the seed packet (if using) and discard, and add 4 c. of sugar. Cook, stirring frequently (to keep those sugars from sticking and burning) until the volume is somewhat reduced and the mixture becomes thick and sticky.

Meanwhile, put a small saucer in the freezer to chill. You can test your gel-set of your marmalade on the saucer: when you think the marmalade is ready, dribble a bit on the plate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Push on the blob with your finger - if a thick skin has formed on the top that wrinkles when you push the blob, it is ready. If not, clean your plate and return it to the freezer and keep cooking.

Now, if you have trouble and it absolutely won't set, mix 3-4 Tbs. of sugar with 1-2 Tbs. of low/no-sugar pectin together and add it to the mix. In order to keep the pectin from clumping into a hard pectin ball you must whisk quickly as you add the sugar/pectin mix, and keep whisking for another minute to incorporate it. In the end, I added 1 Tbs. to my pot to set it a bit more firmly (I think if I'd remembered to save my seeds and used them in the first boiling step, I wouldn't have needed this!).

And voila! Done! This recipe produced 3 quarts of marmalade for me. If you are canning, remember to warm your lids for 10 minutes in barely-simmering water to soften the rubber seals, and to get your canner hot, and to sterilize your jars and keep them warm as you cook your marmalade. You want to pack your jars with the marmalade while it's still hot, then clean the rims, add lids and screw on the bands, then process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes for pints  (if you are 0-1000 ft above sea level), 15 minutes for quarts. I like to pack this in small jars because then I can give it to more people.

The end result? Oh, it's heavenly. If you like bergamot, you'll love this. The taste is rather strongly of bergamot and delicately of lemon. I made up a batch of cream scones from the River Cottage Bread handbook (recipe on epicurious - why isn't their search function working lately?) and slathered on butter and marmalade. Just the ticket for winter mornings, when you want something a bit bright, a bit cheery, to remind you that spring is just around the corner!


Liva said...

This sounds amazing! I want a jar!

StacySix said...

I need to not read your blog after 9pm, since one of my resolutions this year was not to snack after 9pm and your food posts make me SO HUNGRY.

BTW, we used your candied orange peel method and I used the orange water from the first simmering in a chocolate cake and it was fabulous. You couldn't taste the orange, but the cake flavor had an extra richness and depth to it that was just delicious. And then I drizzled it with orange syrup from the second simmering and topped it with a few strips of peel.

Great, now I'm making myself hungry.