Sunday, March 10, 2013

How do I love thee, Blood Orange, Let me count the ways

In a previous blog post, I talked about 'foraging' at the local grocery store.  Some will simply give you questionable produce, with the idea that you will feed it to livestock. Others, such in my area, will package it up, and sell it at a much (much!) reduced cost.

So I've taken to watching the reduced shelves whenever I head to the store.  Scores included limes (which were made into limeade concentrate...yum.) Lemons--the same, and this last trip had me getting 2 3lb bags of blood oranges.

Blood Oranges  are famous for their deep ruby hue.  This color can only mature when there are cool nights.   The particular variety I had, if you're the curious sort was Moro; the newest of the varieties, and also the one that has the most pigment.  Wiki says it has a taste like raspberry, but I don't think I'd go that far.  They are available from late December to March, if they're Texan fruits, and a bit earlier if they're Californian.

So here I am with my two bags. My husband ate one, said it was a bit more sour than he liked, and didn't have any use for them.  So now it was time to find some new things to do with them.

I went to my canning groups on Facebook, asking for ideas-and boy was I given some ideas!  Marmalade was a common one, and I like marmalade; but I have 6 boxes of jellies, jams and marmalades right now.  Sure I can use them for barter, but, well, I wanted to try something new.  Then, someone mentioned curd.

Curd is a spread, a bit like a custard.  It is used with citrus fruits and includes butter, sugar and eggs.  YES! It is safe to can curd, because the high acid of the citrus keeps everything else safe.  It makes a very smooth texture, and can be eaten in all sorts of ways. The most common curd is lemon.

The recipe wouldn't take the whole bunch of oranges, but it was something new to try!

Flipped through some online recipes, and my canning books.  This one came out of a new book a girlfriend gave me, wittily titled, ' Put 'em Up' (It's a new listing to the right in my 'bookshelf' column.)  It's the lemon curd recipe, just changed out to the blood orange. (Which the author says you can.)

To make you'll need:

a non-reactive double boiler (no aluminum here, folks.)
non-reactive whisk
4 1 c. jelly jars with lids
pot for hot water bath

The Recipe:
1 tbsp. blood orange zest (with a microplane, this was basically one orange's worth of zest.)
1 c. blood orange juice (I strained the pulp out, THEN measured it. It took 4 oranges.)
 1 1/2 c. sugar
3/4's c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cubed.
4 eggs
1/2 tsp salt

Now, I DID play with this a bit. I left out the salt, because I didn't have unsalted butter.

Directions state to dump everything at once into the double boiler, I put everything in, and added the eggs (lightly whisked) once the butter was all melted.

Then you whisk.
And whisk.
And whisk.

This picture is about halfway through the process.  You can tell it is not thickened yet.

Whisk for about 10 minutes, until it has thickened. (you can tell this because as you whisk,it will start to stick and coat the edge of the double boiler.  This will take about 10 minutes, maybe a bit longer. This is another part that I skipped in the regular recipe. It tells you to strain at this point.   Maybe I would've had more flavor, but I felt I'd lose more curd this way. I stand by my decision to strain the juice and be done with it.

Can in your jelly jars, wipe the tops, screw them down all know this part right?

Anyway, boiling hot water bath, for 10 minutes....but here's the change.  Turn off the burner, or pull your canner off the burner. Let the jars sit for an additional 5 minutes.  No, I don't know the WHY of it, but those were the direction, so that's what I did.

Recipe states that it will be good for one year.

However, I still have 3lbs of oranges left. Got a little sidetracked with more than 20 lbs of rendering, and decided against the marmalade....But I've been making a lot of concentrates, so why not?  I still had raspberries in the freezer, so I took 2 c. of these, defrosted them and juiced them.  Juiced the remaining oranges, and added to it.  This gave me just over 2 cups of juice, to which I added 2 cups of sugar.  Brought it to boil, then ladled into pint jars.  It only made 2; but in my finding the ratio is something like 6:1, so that's still plenty to drink!  These are a BIT shy of the top, (usually up to the lip) but they still sealed well.

BUUUTTT you know me.  Waste not, want not....So I have a big pile of squished out oranges.  I did use the peel from the one my husband ate to add to the citrus cleaner vinegar, but, they're blood oranges...shouldn't they have a better life than that?  So, I decided to make candied citrus peels.

Now most recipes will tell you to soak, boil, rinse, boil again, to take the bitterness out of the pith. Even then, I don't like the texture. and who wants to eat pith anyway?
I take the halves and cut them into 4 pieces.

This is where your fish skinning talents come into play.  Slip your knife under a corner, just edging between the skin and the pith.once you get a finger hold on JUST the skin, start moving it away from yourself, holding your knife at about a 25-30* angle.  You can feel the bumps of the skin when you are close enough, though if you are unsure, it is better to take a few passes.  when the backside of your skin looks the the skin of a basketball, you're good to go.  I've done this with my good kitchen knife, but the second batch, I *ahem* 'borrowed' one of my husband's filet knives. OH so much better.

I stacked them up and cut them in half once more. (So one orange would give you 16 pieces.)

In a wide pot (a saucier, or even a fry pan) heat 3 c. water with 4 c. sugar to boiling.

Once it's boiling, add in the peels.  Being sugar, this will boil much lower on your stove; I had this boiling at medium.  You know your stove best.  Just remember, burnt sugar (and having to clean up burnt sugar) sucks.

You don't have to mess with it much. Stir it every 3-4 minutes.  I cleaned up and loaded the dishwasher while they were boiling. As you get close to 15 minutes, start watching the peels. When they start to have that 'stained glass glow' you know they are done.

I'm hoping you can see the difference! These are just right.  Nice and translucent, shiny, and just looking like little jewels.

Take them out with a spider if you have it; if not, a slotted spoon, but take more time to shimmy as much liquid out as you can.  Put on a tray lined with paper towel to cool.

Once cool, but still wet, you want to coat with more sugar.  I did this in small batches, shaking in a container.  As they cool, they will curl a bit, so you need to watch for this.  You want to get the sugar in every nook and cranny, because this helps their shelf life (not to mention, make them taste better!)

Once they are dry (and they won't ever be completely DRY, but when they are as dry as they're going to get) put them in a sealed container. They can stay out on the counter, no need to refrigerate.

Thought I was done?  well, I had a goodly amount of flavored simple syrup after boiling, and besides adding this to seltzer and making a killer soda, you can also use it to make cordials.

Cordials are lovely, and there are two ways to make them. First, you could macerate the fruit in question in straight vodka.  The second way is to flavor the simple syrup.  A cordial, is very easy to make and modify.  Make the densest simple syrup possible.  Flavor one or the other (or go crazy, and flavor both). For each cup of liquor, add one cup of the simple syrup.  See? I told you it was easy.  Since it is liquor, it does not need to be canned or refrigerated.  In this, I added 3 of the candied peels, BEFORE they'd been covered with the final coating of sugar.  You don't want to introduce crystals into it, as it will start crystallizing the whole thing on you. (be fun to watch; not so good to drink. ) Did this for a few reasons, one, purely ascetic, it just looks nice. Second, to continue to add more color to the cordial. If you'd rather not, you certainly don't have to do this step.

Since I had enough simple syrup, I did both; made cordial, and set aside the rest of the simple syrup for soda later. (The sugar syrup I put in the fridge.) (Simple syrup is at the left, the cordial on the right.)

So that is 5 completely useful, completely separate items (6 if you include the peels I put in to make the all purpose cleaner) and not one is a marmalade!

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