Blood Orange Confiture
Blood Oranges, an intriguing name for an intriguing fruit. I remember the first time I saw them being offered on the fruit tray at a hotel’s buffet breakfast spread, I was totally captivated by their appearance. Sanguine-coloured juice bleeding from the sides as one gives the fruit wedge a gentle squeeze, dyeing the white pith into a brilliant ruby pink. The only other fruit which had given me the same vibes is probably pomegranate.
They can be found in our local supermarkets when they are in season, but usually are rather pricey and thus unpopular compared to their Navel and Valenica cousins. But blood orange, in my opinion is such an underrated fruit. They are not sweet, and had never been known for their sweetness. In fact, they are quite the contrary, bitterness seem to be their key tone while being acrid follows quite fiercely in second place.
How can they be eaten then?
For me, using them to make a conserve or jam of some sort seems to be the best option, prolonging their enjoyment period and at the same time, intensifying their flavours! Looking around some books I have, I found a recipe for “Seville Orange marmalade” in David Lebovitz’s “Ready for Dessert”. But the cooking process is two-tier in the recipe, spanning over 2 days to prepare. I don’t have that kinda patience, quite frankly. Lebovitz’s blog offers a similar but easier recipe which has the confiture made in one seating. However, I’m still wondering if there are better recipes around. And I found an entry by Elise here! The moment I saw the photo of her filled jars by the window sill, I’m sold!
Rind removed using a vegetable peeler and then carefully juilienned into strips. I want to be able to bite into the rind and thus left them quite thick.
Our trusty mechanical citrus juicer.
Boiling the freshly squeezed orange juice together with the juillienned orange rind and sugar. I only added a cup of water compared to the proposed quantities as I’d hope for a more intense flavour. Likewise, I’d cut down on the sugar as I really want the acridity to bite through!
Remove the scum from the surface. Some website I’d read explained that the scum is produced from the remnants of white pith from the underside of the skin. But I’d tasted it after scoooping it out and found that it had none of the bitterness I was anticipating from the pith. But one thing for sure is, removing the scum greatly improves the clarity of the confiture making it almost see-through!
A mesh bag containing the pulp and membrane from the oranges. The moro blood oranges used were almost seedless and thus no luck in getting much pectin from them.
Having a candy thermometer around is really useful to allow me to monitor the temperature to check for the readiness of the confiture. Otherwise, the “wrinkle test” , where one drop of jam is added onto a pre-chilled saucer to see if it wrinkles when pushed with the index finger, make also be used.
And finally, the finished product! Ruby red translscent texture. Absolutely alluring…
Here’s Elise’s receipe in completion. Modifications follow later.
- 3 lbs of seville or bitter oranges (about 12 oranges)
- 4 cups water
- 2 lemons – 1 regular lemon and 1 Meyer lemon
- 4 to 5 cups white granulated sugar
- 1 wide 5 or 6-quart pan (stainless steel or copper with stainless steel lining, not aluminum which will leach, hard anodized is okay)
- An electric or mechanical juicer (you can juice all the oranges by hand but it is much easier and less time consuming with a juicer).
- A sharp chef’s knife
- A candy thermometer
- A large (8 cup) measuring cup pourer
- 5 to 6 8-oz canning jars
- Potato peeler
- A muslin jelly bag (for the pectin), or a large (18″ diameter) round piece of muslin, or several pieces of cheesecloth that you can tie up into a bag
1 Scrub the oranges clean. Discard any that are damaged or moldy.
2 Cut the oranges in half and juice them, one by one, until you have 2 cups of juice. Set aside the juice. As you juice the oranges, also save the seeds and the membranes – put them in a separate bowl and set them aside. The seeds and membranes will be used for making pectin.
3 Taking a clean juiced orange half rind, use a spoon to dig out as much of the white pith as you can. The pith is bitter, so the more you can get out the better. But don’t worry if you can’t get it all out. What is pictured is the end result of one of my scrapings. It’s okay if there is still some pith. Use a sharp chef’s knife to thinly julienne the peel. Once you julienne all of the oranges that you juiced to make 2 cups of juice, you should have about 4 cups of peel. Set these julienned peels aside.
Note that another way to remove the peel is to use a vegetable peeler on the orange before you juice it. That can be an effective way to remove the flavorful outer peel without also including too much of the bitter rind. If you use this method, you may need to peel a few extra oranges to fill up 4 cups with julienned peel. You may also have more separation of peel from the jelly in the finished product.
5 Put all of the citrus seeds and membranes into 4 layers of cheesecloth, tied up tightly with string, or into a muslin jelly bag.
First stage of cooking
1 Place the orange and lemon juices into a large thick-bottomed pot, either 5 or 6-quart. Add the julienned orange peels and Meyer lemon pieces and the water.
2 Place the cheesecloth or muslin bag containing the citrus seeds and pulp into the pot and secure the string at the other end to the pot handle. As the mixture cooks, the pectin from the seeds and membranes will be extracted into the mixture.
3 Bring mixture to a boil. Let boil, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, or until the peels are soft and cooked through. Remove from heat.
4 Remove the pectin bag and place it in a bowl to let cool until it is comfortable to touch.
Measure the fruit and add sugar and pectin
1 Pour out the mixture from the pot into a large measuring cup. Measure how much of the mixture you have. Depending on how hard of a boil and how long the cooking time, you could have anywhere from 4 to 5 cups. Return the mixture back to the pan.
2 Add to the mixture 7/8 cup of sugar for every cup of mixture. So, if you measured 4 cups of mixture, add in 3 1/2 cups of sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, taste the mixture. Add more sugar depending on how sweet you want your marmalade to be. Note that the jelly mixture will reduce further, intensifying both the flavor and the sweetness of the jelly. I typically use 4 cups of sugar for every 4 cups of fruit mixture.
Once your pectin bag has cooled to the point you can handle it, squeeze it like play-doh to extract extra pectin. Grasp a tangerine size portion of the bag and squeeze, pulling the bag away from you with one hand as you hold firmly with the other hand. Work your way around the bag. “Milk” the pectin until you have released anywhere from 2 Tbsp to 4 Tbsp of pectin. It should take a few minutes. The pectin has the consistency of sour cream. Add it to the orange mixture.
Second stage of cooking
1 Heat the jelly mixture on medium high and bring it to a rapid boil, stirring occasionally, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Secure a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. The marmalade may take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes or so to set. After about 10 minutes, start checking it frequently.
2 There are two ways to test that the marmalade is ready to pour out into jars. One way is to check the thermometer for when the mixture reaches a temperature of 220-222°F (8-10°F above the boiling point at your altitude). Another way is to put a bit of it on a chilled plate and look for signs of it “wrinkling up” when you push it with your finger tip. Depending on how accurate your thermometer is, you might find the wrinkle test more reliable. Put several small plates into the freezer. As the jelly temperature exceeds 218°F, start testing it by placing a small amount of the hot jelly on a chilled plate. If the jelly spreads out and thins immediately, it isn’t ready. If it holds its shape a bit, that’s a good sign. Push up against it with your finger tip. If the jelly sample wrinkles at all, it is time to take the jelly off the heat and pour it out into jars.
When you use a candy thermometer to test the temperature of your mixture, make sure the probe is NOT touching the bottom of the pan. Make sure the indentation on the probe (with modern candy thermometers this is about an inch and a half from the bottom of the probe) is actually surrounded by the mixture. You may have to tilt the pan to one side, to cover the probe sufficiently to get a good reading.
I find the best jelly results from stopping the cooking as soon as the temp reaches 220° (I use a very accurate digital thermometer). At this point the test jelly is just barely wrinkling.
Overcooking a marmalade will result in a caramelized flavor or tough orange peels in your marmalade.
For a step-by-step photo guide, please refer to Elise’s website.
Modifications and Reflections
(1) I added very little water, on top of the orange juice. this is done in anticipation of a richer and more intense confiture.
(2) Moro oranges is the blood orange variety I’d used and they came with very very small seeds, virtually non-descript. So I added two teaspoons of pectin to thicken the concoction to give the desired jelly-like consistency.
This, together with the 金柑甘露煮 Candied Kinkan, is used for the upcoming project! Akan Datang!