Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook: Bergamot Marmalade

Since it's the peak of citrus season, I took a stroll through my local fancy grocery to see what I could find.  In among the mounds of oranges and lemons and pomelos, I happened across a basket of bergamots.  They smelled absolutely heavenly, so I bought a whole bag.  Once I got home, I flipped through my jam books until I found one that suited my purpose and spent the next couple of days prepping and cooking.  When I finally got to taste my masterpiece, I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor.  The marmalade is sour and sweet like other citrus preserves, but the bergamots give it a strong floral note that I've never experienced in marmalade before.  Definitely worth seeking them out.

Note: Use citrus bergamia for this recipe, which is a true bergamot.

Bergamot Marmalade
Adapted from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders

3 pounds bergamots, cut into eighths
2 pounds halved and seeded bergamots, each half cut lengthwise into quarters and sliced very thinly crosswise
5 pounds granulated sugar, or more to taste
2 ounces strained freshly squeezed lemon juice

Day 1
Place the bergamot eighths in a non-reactive saucepan where they will fit snugly in a single layer.  Add enough cold water for the fruit to bob freely.  Cover lightly and let rest overnight at room temperature.

Day 2
Prepare the cooked bergamot juice: Bring the pan with the bergamot eighths to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium.  Cook the fruit at a lively simmer, covered, for 2 to 3 hours, or until the bergamots are very soft and the liquid has become slightly syrupy.  As the bergamots cook, press down on them gently with a spoon every 30 minutes or so, adding a little more water if necessary.  The water level should stay consistently high enough for the fruit to remain submerged as it cooks.

When the bergamots have finished cooking, strain their juice by pouring the hot fruit and liquid into a medium strainer or colander suspended over a heat-proof storage container or non-reactive saucepan.  Cover the entire setup well with plastic wrap and let drip overnight at room temperature.

Meanwhile, prepare the sliced bergamots: Place the slices in a wide stainless-steel kettle and cover amply with cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.  Drain, discarding the liquid.  Repeat this process, then cover the blanched bergamot slices with 1 inch cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to medium, and cook at a lively simmer, covered, for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the fruit is very tender.  As the fruit cooks, stir it gently every 15 minutes or so, adding a little more water if necessary.  The water level should stay consistently high enough for the fruit to remain submerged as it cooks.  Remove the pan from the heat, cover tightly, and let rest overnight at room temperature.

Day 3
Place a saucer with five metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer for testing the marmalade later.

Remove the plastic wrap from the bergamot eighths and their juice and discard the bergamots.  Strain the juice well through a very fine-mesh strainer to remove any lingering solids.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, lemon juice, cooked bergamot juice, and bergamot slices and their liquid, stirring well.  Transfer the mixture to an 11- or 12-quart copper preserving pan or a wide non-reactive kettle.

Bring the marmalade mixture to a boil over high heat.  Cook it at a rapid boil until the setting point is reached; this will take a minimum of 30 minutes, but it 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 it starts to foam, stir it gently every few minutes with a heatproof rubber spatula.  As it gets close to being done, stir it every minute or two to prevent burning, decreasing the heat slightly if necessary.  The marmalade is ready for testing when its color darkens slightly and its bubbles become very small.

To test the marmalade for doneness, remove it from the heat and carefully transfer a small representative half-spoonful to one of your frozen spoons.  It should look slightly shiny and may have a few tiny bubbles scattered throughout.  Replace the spoon in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove and carefully feel the underside of the spoon.  It should be neither 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.  Pour the marmalade into sterilized jars and process for 10 minutes.

Makes 10 half-pint jars

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