Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Seville Orange Marmalade

I love citrus: all things lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit - you name it, I am all about it. Living in California has only increased the adoration for all the bright and tangy flavors of citrus fruit - and it has introduced me to lots of new types to try!

As my palate has matured (gosh, hello, that sounds pretentious, but whatever) I've gained a greater appreciation for bitter things like Campari (which we now go through by the liter) and marmalade. Marmalade has wonderful bitter and sour notes that balance the sweetness of ordinary jam.

Seville Orange Marmalade
Mmmm, marmalade

I knew, of course, that real marmalade is made with something called a Seville or sour or bitter orange, but I'd never seen such a thing. Lucky for me these things exist in California, if only seasonally, and finally I got my hands on some last week at the Milk Pail Market, our wonderful produce and cheese market. [They also have incredibly delicious bake-your-own croissants.]

Having had good luck with his recipes in the past, I used pastry chef David Leibowitz's recipe for Seville orange marmalade. Please go read his recipe and look at his gorgeous photos, as I didn't get many while I was chopping.

Essentially, you juice the oranges, keeping the zillions of seeds aside, and then slice up the rest of the orange, pith and all. Boil it all together with water and sugar and eventually it cooks down into something that will gel. Throw in a little Scotch and pour it in jars and ta-da, marmalade.

Of course, because I'm spectacularly clumsy in the kitchen, I managed to carefully slice up 6 1/4 of my 7 oranges before slicing a teeny tiny bit of the end of my finger off. After a brief interlude, I channelled my internal Anthony Bourdain, said lots of cuss words, and got back to finishing the marmalade. [Thankfully, the end of my finger has since grown back.]

Seville Orange Marmalade
My very full stockpot (beginning to cook)

I was a little concerned when my big stockpot was full past the 4-qt mark when the recipe indicated the yield was only 2 quarts of marmalade. But because marmalade relies both on the natural pectin found in the orange seeds and on cooking the mixture down to thicken it, it takes a while - for me, nearly two hours - to cook. For those of us who are used to using supermarket pectin and boiling for "just one minute!" this takes some getting used to.

I tested my marmalade with the cold-plate-in-the-freezer test as well as with my handy Thermapen, and when it was ready, I ladled it into clean jars and sealed them up. I'm a lazy canner and don't have a pressure-canning system, so the jars live in the fridge for now (although most of them vacuum-sealed on their own). It's a sparkling golden orange and so tasty!

Seville Orange Marmalade
Marmalade on crumpet

Besides eating it on crumpets for breakfast, I'm planning on trying to make my own version of Jaffa Cakes. Orange and chocolate and cake? Yes please!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Stitches West

So I've evidently fallen off the face of the earth for the past month. There's a good explanation: the Stitches West convention.

I work with Miss Babs throughout the year, knitting samples and trying to think up new things. Because she's in Tennessee and I'm in California, though, I now only work one or two shows a year with her (yes, I love to work shows. They stick me on the cash register and I get to smile at everybody). Stitches West is the big one! And lucky for me it's just down the street.

I spent most of February knitting up two big sample sweaters for the booth. First off was a Simple Cardigan in Yowza. The color here is called Blackwatch. It's a size or two bigger than I need, so I'm not the best model for it. I found an excellent shiny shell button at Green Planet Yarn for it.
Simple Cardigan

The other sweater, which became famous in my regular Thursday night knitting group for 'feeling like kittens' was Jaina, featured on the cover of the recent Twist Collective. This is in Tierno, a very lovely alpaca-silk blend, and the color is Forever. Soft, snuggly, warm... a very nice sweater (but boy, it was a lot of uninterrupted stockinette stitch for me!) Sorry for the headless shot but I was very sleepy when the photos were taken.

I also sewed a new apron similar to the one I had made for Sock Summit and then passed on to one of my co-workers.

Setup in the booth went faster than ever this year due to really good planning (not by me). We had lots of yarn and kept very busy all weekend! After a day and a half of setup, 4 days of sales, and the frenzy of teardown and pack out, I spent Monday on the couch under a blanket to recover. I may have even started a new knitting project that's just for me.
SW 2012 booth
A view of part of the booth before we opened for business

I didn't have much time to walk through the show floor and was very, very restrained in the yarn I took home. I did get one lovely skein of Penny Farthing Sock from Little Red Bicycle (the color is Deirdre) and couldn't resist this skein of Miss Babs Northumbria fingering in a not-to-be-repeated color called Deep Sea Jellyfish. Not that I know what I'm going to do with either of them, but they're gorgeous and will make something beautiful. (And can you believe it - I didn't buy anything green?!)

Little Red Bicycle Penny Farthing Sock in Deirdre

Miss Babs Northumbria fingering in Deep Sea Jellyfish
Did you make it to Stitches? Get anything fun? Or if you're not local... are you planning to go to a yarn/fiber show near you soon?