Orange Marmalade

Do you ever get to the end of the day and find sticky things in your hair? I do. Regularly. Being in the kitchen all day will do that to a girl. This is that kind of recipe. Making Orange Marmalade is a two-day process and there’s sticky most of the way. So put on your hair net and try this out. It’s a great way to enter the world of home canning and a wonderful Christmas gift!

As far back as I can remember, we had citrus fruit at Christmas. I grew up in rural central Virginia and someone from the FFA was always selling citrus fruit at Christmas as a fundraiser. We’d get a great big box of all manner of oranges, tangerines, tangelos, and grapefruits. It was like a little bit of tropical summer in the midst of cold December.

This recipe comes from Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame. You can find the original here.

Day 1

You’ll need:

  • 4 large seedless oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 8 cups sugar
Yield: about 5 pints

I had small oranges so I used five. She suggests you can slice them on a mandoline, but I find it’s just as easy to use a sharp chef’s knife. Slice them super thin. As thin as you can get without losing bits of your own fingers.

Thinly sliced oranges

Then I added the sliced lemons. Again, super thin is the key. You don’t want big chunks of orange to gnaw on with your toast.

Thinly sliced lemons

Put all this in a pot with eight cups of water. I just dumped the contents of the cutting board right into the pot, make sure you get any juices that have run out of the fruit. Bring to a boil, stirring often.

Everything in the pot

Remove the pot from the heat and add the eight, yes, eight cups of sugar. What do you think makes the pith of all that fruit so yummy and good?

Pull off the heat and add the sugar

Cover the pot and allow it to stand at room temperature overnight. Wait patiently. Paint your nails. Watch your favorite shows. Catch up on Google Reader. Whatever. Make sure you’re free the next morning for a few hours.

Day 2

You’ll need:

  • canning jars (I like 1/4 and 1/2 pint, but bigger jars are okay, too)
  • a canner if you plan to seal the jars for long-term storage/giving

Some notes on home canning: If you have never canned before, I wouldn’t recommend going out and buying a bunch of stuff. All this can be done (with small jars) in a large stockpot. In this case, the canner doesn’t do anything but cover the jars with boiling water. You can also borrow a canner from a friend or family member. Walmart carries most all of the supplies you’ll need to get started. If you do plan to process foods at home, you MUST buy a copy of Ball’s Blue Book. Go ahead, snicker, it’s funny. Anyway, this book has just about everything you need to know about home canning and keeping your food safe. It’s worth the investment if you’re going to do more than a project or two. Otherwise, give it a try! It’s not hard and you’ll be so proud of your results!

Bring your mixture from yesterday back to a boil. Stir it thoroughly to make sure all the sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about two hours or until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches about 220º. Periodically skim off any foam that rises to the top.

Day 2, one hour into the simmer

Hour two. You can see the color changing as it cooks down. If you plan to process your marmalade in a canner, now is the time to heat the water in the canner, sterilize your jars and lids in boiling water, and get everything in place. You’ll want hot marmalade in hot jars in boiling water kind of all at the same time.

After two and a half hours

Mine took about two and a half hours and I had to get it to a decent boil for it to break the 220º mark and start to gel. Just hitting 220º isn’t enough. You have to be sure it will gel. A simple test will tell you if it’s ready. Put a few drops of marmalade onto a small plate and put it in the fridge until it’s cool, not cold. When you pull the plate out of the fridge if the drops are firm, not hard, it’s ready to put in jars. If it’s too firm, add more water. Too soft, keep cooking.

*If you don’t plan to process them in a water bath, you can seal them with lids and rings and give them away at this point. They should be used soon and refrigerated after opening.

Boil your lids and jars

Take your clean, dry jars and lids and set them aside. I like to have mine on a dishtowel. It keeps things clean and I don’t have so much sticky everywhere afterwards. Use a canning funnel and carefully ladle the hot marmalade into the jars leaving about 1/4 in headspace in the jars. Everything is HOT. Be careful. Remember, safety third!

Full jars of marmalade

After the jars are full, take a wet paper towel and wipe the rims of each jar clean. This is a super important step so don’t skip it. A clean rim ensures a good seal with the lid. Again, the jars are HOT so you might want an oven mitt on one hand and the paper towel in the other. Once you’re sure the rim is clean, place the lid on top and screw on the ring. Make them snug, but don’t overdo it. The pressure of the ring on the lid helps ensure a good seal. Now place them in the canner full of boiling (or nearly boiling) water. The tops of the jars must be covered with water.

Into the canner!

If the water is not boiling, raise the heat and cover the pot until the water comes to a full, rolling boil. At that point you can start a timer for 12 minutes. Try not to peek. When your 12 minutes is up, cut the heat and remove the jars from the canner. Again, I like to put them on a kitchen towel so there’s no slippage or watery mess.

Sealed and ready to be gifted!

You’re not quite done. The jars need to seal. Mine started to do this immediately. You might hear a little “plink” sound as the top of the jar gets sucked down in the middle. Great! If not, don’t sweat, sometimes it takes time. As they cool the tops will suck in. After the jars have cooled enough to touch, press down on the middle of the lid. If it doesn’t bounce back, they’re sealed! Congratulations! Some may go in and stay when you press them, that’s okay. If you end up with a jar that doesn’t ever seal, you can either start the process over or stick it in the fridge and eat it. I recommend option B.

Now all you need is some biscuits! Or a nice pork tenderloin. Or both.

What food brings back holiday memories for you? Was there someone in your family who made something extra special just once a year?

Great Soups From Thanksgiving Leftovers

I don’t know about you, but every time I’ve opened the fridge this last week the Thanksgiving leftovers are staring at me accusingly. “Why are you cooking something NEW when you have so much food to eat in here?” They mock me. So I shut the door and leave them in the dark. But, since they’re right (technically) I’ve beaten them into submission and freezable things I can enjoy now or later.

My friend is having surgery on her mouth in a few weeks and won’t be able to eat real food for a few days. So, with her in mind, I started with cream soups. Sooo super easy. All you need is a blender. Really.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Broccoli Cheese Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I grabbed a Broccoli & Gruyère Gratin I made for Thanksgiving. You can find the original recipe here. It was very good and very rich.

Broccoli Gruyere Gratin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also grabbed some chicken stock and low fat milk. If you just have broccoli you could certainly use cream, whole milk, whatever. Really any dairy product will do. If you have steamed broccoli you might want to add some cheese and some sautéed onions if you like.

I sliced the gratin into blender-sized pieces and dropped them in with enough liquid to get the blender going. Don’t overdo it with the liquid. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out! I also added a dash of salt and pepper. Since the dish tasted great there was no need for more seasonings. Then I hit purée and whizzed it until it seemed smooth.

Pureed Broccoli Gruyere Gratin

Testing it with a spoon, I found it to be a bit thick, so I added a bit more liquid, tasted it for seasonings (you can add more here if needed), and hit purée again.

Pureed Broccoli Gruyere Gratin

You can see it’s a pretty spring green color. It tasted great (for cold soup) so I poured it into some jars I had handy (while I waited on these perfect containers from Cassandra’s Kitchen). On to the next soup!

Cream of Potato

Some of my leftover mashed potatoes had already been repurposed into potato pancakes so I didn’t have too much left to use. But, a little potatoes go a long way. When making this think about what flavors you enjoy in a baked potato. You could certainly fry up a few pieces of bacon, use the rendered fat to sauté some onions to add to the soup and then top the soup with crumbled bacon.

Leftover mashed potatoes

I sautéed up some onions, also leftover, grabbed some bagged shredded cheese, and more milk and chicken stock. You could also add sour cream or cream cheese if you have some left in the fridge. Into the blender with all of it.

Potatoes in the blender

Give it a couple of pulses until it’s smooth, check the consistency and you have another soup! I used these amazing containers which I LOVE from Cassandra’s Kitchen. If you’ve ever watched Ina Garten on Barefoot Contessa you’ve seen her gush over these containers. And she’s totally right to do so! They come in perfect sizes, are tough enough to go in the dishwasher, and can be used over and over. Perfect for the freezer. I often put soup in zipper bags but I find that they never freeze flat enough to stack. These stack perfectly.

Potato soup in container

Turkey Noodle Soup

You may have noticed that I haven’t used any actual turkey yet. But I didn’t forget it. The title says turkey noodle, but you can put virtually anything into this soup and it will be great. Leftover beans? Sure. Broccoli? Why not? Mushrooms? Sure, slice ’em up and drop them in at the end. Deviled eggs? Um, no. You should just eat them. In fact, why do you even HAVE leftover deviled eggs? That’s an oxymoron in my house.

Diced onions and celery

I foraged around and found most of an onion and all the celery that was left. I like celery in things, but I don’t just stand around gnawing on it during the day so I’m always glad to get rid of the extra. I also diced up some leftover carrots and sautéed everything in a tablespoon or so of butter.

Softening the onions, celery, and carrots

While those were cooking I diced up all the leftover turkey. It was a hefty pile.

Diced turkey

Don’t worry if your turkey is a little dry. Some of mine was, too. The broth and simmering will bring it right back to life. I used my most awesome dutch oven for this, any soup pot will do.

Turkey in the pot

Now it’s time for the stock. I had canned stock leftover. There’s nothing wrong with using canned stock. I recommend the low sodium, all natural kind if you can get it. Of course, you’re welcome to make your own, I often do, but use whatever’s easy and on hand.

Chicken stock

I used this whole can plus a little I had left from the other soups. You want to cover all the things in the pot with some to spare. I like a super thick, chunky soup. You might prefer yours a little soupier. You can always add more if it cooks down. I also popped out to the garden and cut some thyme sprigs and grabbed two bay leaves. I dropped them on top of the soup. No need to tie them, I prefer to fish them out at the end. Simmer this for about 15 minutes. Simmer means a low rumble, don’t turn it to high and walk off. Not that I have ever done that.

Turkey soup with herbs

After the simmering it’s time to add your other ingredients. I added spinach which I chopped roughly. I also added egg noodles and some leftover ditalini pasta. Who knows where that came from but it was in the pantry. This is a good time to take a quick look in the dark corners of your fridge and pantry. Ferret out things that need to go or you don’t know what to do with. Ask yourself, “would this be good in my soup?” and then dump at will.

Bring back to a simmer until newly added ingredients are hot and cooked through. Serve warm or put in your containers for dinner or the freezer!

Finished turkey noodle soup

What do you like to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers?