According to jam mistress Rachel Saunders, author of The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, winter can be the perfect time for putting up citrus. As an added bonus, preserves make a great hostess gift for the holiday season. Saunders shares what you can do with your extra lemons, oranges, grapefruits -- and pinecone-bud syrup.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper: What can we do right now with the citrus and the winter fruits that we have?
Rachel Saunders: Citrus is incredibly versatile. Lemon, which is a fruit that everyone has easy access to, is one of the easiest fruits to work with. It combines well both with many other citrus fruits, but also with other fruits. What's nice about it is it's very easy to get good results. It's also very good on its own, maybe in a marmalade.
Oranges are another fruit that everyone has easy access to. There are basically two types of oranges: sweet and sour. For sour, Seville oranges are the most common.
Among the ones that are most commonly available, Valencia oranges make great marmalade. They have a great flavor. I like to combine them with cardamom especially; I have a kumquat cardamom Valencia orange marmalade that is one of my personal favorites. What's nice about Valencia orange marmalade is that it's very beautiful to look at, as well as being delicious. Sour oranges tend to get kind of muddy when you're cooking. Aesthetically Valencias are wonderful.
Navels also can be used. They don't have quite as much of a zip to their flavor, but they work quite well as well. Basically any warm spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger all go very well with orange.
LRK: So you have that tart, sweet quality of the citrus and you can play those warm-tasting spices against them. Thinking about what a marmalade looks like, the fruit almost shines like jewels.
RS: A lot of people say, "I hate marmalade." There is such a range of possible marmalades out there. They don't have to be bitter. They are so exquisite. They are among the most satisfying preserves that you can make.
LRK: What do you do with grapefruit?
RS: Grapefruit is one of the best fruits for marmalade actually. There is a Lemon and Pink Grapefruit recipe in the book. I have three pages of illustrations for it because the technique is quite involved, but it gives great results.
The grapefruits get blanched multiple times in boiling water to rinse out that extra bitterness that they have. Then they get scooped so you end up with thick peel. Then it gets chopped and incorporated into the marmalade. It is multiple steps but the results are wonderful. The lemon and pink grapefruit marmalade is actually one of our best sellers.
LRK: You have a recipe for Pear Jam with Rosemary and Pine.
RS: Yes. Pears go wonderfully with herbs. I had this pinecone-bud syrup …
LRK: I always have it in the cupboard.
RS: I know, it's one of those things you carry with you when you travel. I came across it and I thought, "I have to use this." I bought some, then it took me a while to think of what it would go with. I decided it would go well with pear. It's just wonderful. It's just the perfect accent to pears. It also adds a little warm color to the jam. It's really lovely.
LRK: I'm thinking of how those pine buds smell when you lightly pinch them, when they have sap and they're sticky. That incredible smell, if that were in jam ...
RS: Exactly. You need a fruit where that is going to come through enough, so something gentle like pears is perfect.
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