strawberry-blood orange marmalade

Okay you guys. Get out your canning jars. I’ve got a treat for you. For months, I’d been meaning to make a batch of marmalade, it just never happened. On multiple occasions I went out and bought all of the ingredients, only to realize that I didn’t have quite enough time to devote to a two day project. I also didn’t really feel like dealing with my canner. And now that citrus at the market is becoming less abundant with every passing week, I figured that I had missed my marmalade-making window for the year. This made me sad.

And then something fantastic happened. While I was at the market on Saturday, I picked up my usual kale and carrots and few baskets of strawberries. My original plan for the strawberries was a roasted strawberry balsamic ice cream. But as I was making the rounds, I noticed that one of the vendors had blood oranges, which was surprising considering how late in the season it is. Almost immediately, my wheels started turning and a recipe from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook popped into my head: late season blood oranges + early season strawberries = strawberry blood orange marmalade. I couldn’t wait to go home and get started.

I’ve got nothing but love for the The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. I’ve been a fan of Blue Chair Fruit Company ever since the first time I stopped by their booth at the Grand Lake farmers’ market. I think it might’ve been the vintage scalloped cake stands on which they display their jams that first caught my attention, but their unique flavor combinations is what won me over. The book is chock full of gorgeous photos and important jam-making information. Just about every single recipe sounds too good to resist, like rhubarb-kumquat jam and fig jam with sherry & fennel. And there are more than a dozen different marmalade variations to choose from.

What literally sealed the deal for me was the book’s recommended oven processing. No ginormous kettles of boiling water required. Just a warm oven and a stash of jars is all you need to get your jam on. And a really excellent recipe doesn’t hurt either.

This is the prettiest batch of preserves I have ever made. The combination of strawberry juice and blood orange pulp produces the most beautiful garnet hued marmalade. Imagine your favorite orange marmalade and your favorite strawberry jam hooking up. It’s everything you love about the two – sweet strawberry jelly and that sticky, chewy, slightly bitter orange peel goodness. And there’s a hint of rosemary, which makes it extra special.

strawberry-blood orange marmalade

from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders

makes six or seven 8-ounce jars

2-1/4 pounds hulled strawberries

1-1/2 pounds seeded Moro blood oranges, halved crosswise, each half cut into quarters lengthwise and sliced crosswise medium-thin

2 sprigs rosemary, 8-inches long 

2 pounds 10 ounces white cane sugar

2 to 4 ounces strained freshly squeezed lemon juice

Day 1

First, prepare the strawberry juice: Place the strawberries in a medium stainless-steel kettle and add enough water to just cover the tops of the fruit. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook the fruit for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until the berries are brown and shapeless and the liquid has become syrupy.

Strain the strawberry juice by pouring the hot fruit and liquid into a medium-fine-mesh strainer suspended over a heatproof storage container or nonreactive saucepan. Cover the entire setup well with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to drip overnight.

While the strawberries are cooking, place the orange slices in a separate nonreactive saucepan with water to reach 1 inch above the tops. Cover tightly and let rest overnight at room temperature.

Day 2

Place a saucer with five metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer for testing the marmalade later. Rinse the rosemary under cold water, pat dry between two clean kitchen towels, and set aside.

Bring the pan with the orange slices to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to medium, and cook, covered, at a lively simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the fruit is very tender. If necessary, add more water during cooking; the fruit should remain submerged throughout the cooking process.

While the orange slices are cooking, remove the plastic wrap from the stawberries and their juice and discard the berries. Strain the juice well through a very fine-mesh strainer to remove any lingering solids.

When the orange slices are ready, place them in a large mixing bowl with the sugar, cooked strawberry juice, and 2 ounces lemon juice, stirring well. Taste, and slowly add a little more lemon juice if necessary. You should be able to taste the lemon juice, but it should not be overpowering. Keep adding lemon juice only until you are just able to detect its tartness in the mixture. Transfer the mixture to an 11- or 12-quart copper preserving pan or a wide nonreactive kettle. If your kettle is smaller than 11 quarts, cook the mixture in two batches.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cook at a rapid boil until the setting point is reached; this will take a minimum of 35 minutes, but may take longer depending on your individual stove and pan. Initially, the mixture will bubble gently for several minutes; then, as more moisture cooks out of it and its sugar concentration increases, it will begin foaming. Do not stir it at all during the initial bubbling; then, once is starts to foam, stir it gently every few minutes with a heatproof rubber spatula. As it gets close to being done, stir it slowly every minute or two to prevent burning, decreasing the heat a tiny bit if necessary. The marmalade is ready for testing when its color darkens and its bubbles become very small.

To test the marmalade for doneness, remove it from the heat and carefully transfer a small half-spoonful to one of your frozen spoons. It should look shiny, with tiny bubbles throughout. Replace the spoon in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove and carefully feel the underside of the spoon. It should neither be warm nor cold; if still warm, return it to the freezer for a moment. Tilt the spoon vertically to see whether the marmalade runs; if it does not run, and if its top layer has thickened to a jelly consistency, it is done. If it runs, cook it for another few minutes, stirring, and test again as needed.

When the marmalade has finished cooking, turn off the heat but do not stir. Using a stainless steel spoon, skim off any surface foam and discard. Place the rosemary into the mixture and let it steep for a few minutes off the heat. Stir and carefully taste the marmalade. Remove the sprigs or leave them in for another moment or two, keeping in mind that their flavor will be slightly milder once the marmalade has cooled. Using tongs, discard the rosemary. Pour the marmalade into sterilized jars and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Shelf life – 1 year.

To process jars in the oven:

Place clean jars upright and clean unused lids on a baking sheet in a preheated 250F oven. Leave in the oven for a minimum of 30 minutes to ensure that they are heated through. Remove them from the oven right when you need to fill them. After filling the jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace, wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth . put the lids on, being careful to screw the rings on just until they are snug. Place the jars back in the oven for 15 minutes to ensure that they are completely sterilized. They will seal as they cool.

Upon removing your filled jars from the oven, place them 1-inch apart on a drying rack to set overnight at room temperature. Do not jiggle or disturb them during this time. As the preserves cool, you may hear a few little pops as the lids seal. Before putting your preserves away, be sure to feel the top of each lid to verify that it has sealed; it should be curving in very slightly in the middle. If any jars have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator for safekeeping.

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