Introduction – Marmalade and the Gift Economy
Like April McGreger in her Grist article below, I’ve been experimenting with marmalade as a way to process the quantities of grapefruit and Mandarin oranges given me by friends. Marmalade is not that hard to make, as the Mad Scientist article shows. By following the suggestions of June Taylor, you can create batches that are of gourmet quality.
I suppose it’s hard to justify jams and marmalades from a strictly survival point of view. It does teach you to make the most of what you have on hand, and the result is so much better than what you can buy in the store. (I note that June Taylor can get $13 for an 8-ounce jar of marmalade. Maybe all that slicing and boiling.) Preserves make wonderful gifts.
From a community-building point of view, it’s a way to build the Gift economy
In the social sciences, a gift economy (or gift culture) is a society where valuable goods and services are regularly given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards (i.e. no formal quid pro quo exists). Ideally, simultaneous or recurring giving serves to circulate and redistribute valuables within the community. The organization of a gift economy stands in contrast to a barter economy or a market economy.
Last but not least, it’s a treat. There’s nothing on a cold winter morning like marmalade on toast with a cup of tea. Try it with yogurt, or just by itself as a dessert.
Here then are some articles to whet your appetite.
How Hurricane Katrina turned me into a citrus fanatic and marmalade maker
April McGreger, Grist
For a long time, I never really saw citrus fruits. Lemon, limes, oranges, and even grapefruits were just fruits I often had in my fridge—nice, but unremarkable.
All of that changed in 2005. That’s when I realized that, like so much else, the citrus varieties we have available to us are the dull tip of a spectacular iceberg of biodiversity and deliciousness. Like the red delicious apple, I learned, most supermarket citrus, both conventional and organic, offers but a shadow of the fruit’s true glory.
That fall, I was given the chance to offer communal support—something so elemental, yet, sadly so rare in these days of frenetic consumption. In the weeks following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans native Poppy Tooker, champion of the self-styled “Eat-it-to-Save-it” Movement, found out that the L’Hoste Organic Citrus Farm in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, had escaped Katrina with only minor damage. But the infrastructure and outlets for selling the farm’s produce had been devastated. Through her contacts with Slow Food USA, Tooker got the word out and took orders for the L’Hoste’s prized citrus. I signed on to receive my first 5 boxes.
When my Satsumas arrived, their skin was tinged with green, but what lay beneath it was the sweetest, juiciest, most ethereal oranges I had ever eaten. The following year when I contacted the L’Hostes to order more, it was Lester L’Hoste himself who answered the phone while manning his booth at the Crescent City Farmers Market. I found that they were also the growers of Meyer lemons, both sweet and sour kumquats, two varieties of grapefruit, and more. I ordered some of all of them, and have come to anticipate the first Satsumas and Meyer lemons of late fall just like I do the first sun-ripened tomato of summer.
My citrus epiphany led quite naturally to a marmalade conversion. Turns out you don’t have to be British to be endlessly enchanted by the stuff! I’m inclined to believe there is no better defense against the winter doldrums than marmalade, toast, and tea. The concentrated burst of sweet, bitter, and tart feels like warm sunshine on my face and sand between my toes.
(5 February 2010)
Obsessives: Marmalade (video)
Meredith Arthur and Eric Slatkin, CHOW
Jam maker June Taylor has a rabid following in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she creates and sells her preserves. Here, she explains how she makes marmalade, including the mysteries of natural pectin, the importance of instinct, and the economies of scale in artisanal production.
(retried 7 Feb 2010)
Original video at CHOW (see other Obsessives there.)
June Taylor Jams
Jelly’s Last Jam (NY Times)
”A lot of what I do is sorting,” Taylor said. ”The best-looking fruit goes into jars, the next into marmalade, the next, juicing.” Taylor cooks her jams in small batches in large pots so they cook rapidly and reach the gel point before they taste cooked. She uses only the fruit’s natural pectin and adds less sugar than most recipes.
Backstory: A passionate scholar of cooking history, Taylor taught herself to make preserves and fruit confections many years ago. She and her assistant, Magali Hernandez, make hundreds of jars of unusual treats by hand in the style of long-forgotten country cooks. Her fruits, such as Rangpur limes, are sourced from local organic farmers, and she grows many of her own herbs.
Vibe: As if you were in Paris and stumbled upon a tiny, out-of-the-way speciality shop with floor-to-ceiling shelving and a limited selection of merchandise; classical music is playing and there’s a hidden gleaming industrial kitchen in the back.
Marmalade is way easier than it looks
Lenore, Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
While trying to figure out what to do with about 75 pounds of fruit that our citrus trees bestowed upon us in January, we came across an interesting fact: marmalade is really easy to make. People of older generations may know this already, but so far as we knew, marmalade was one of those mysterious things that strictly comes from a jar. It turns out that all you need is citrus fruit, water, sugar and some time on the stovetop.
The first step is to peel the fruit. We’ve made lemon, lemon-orange, and orange marmalade, but you can use pretty much any citrus fruit.
We looked around a bit and settled on this recipe primarily because of its simplicity. It scales well. For a large batch, just keep peeling and cutting fruit until the pot is full or your hands were tired. You can also scale down–grab a couple of oranges from the cafeteria and you’ll make a lot of friends in your dorm kitchen.
(13 January 2010)
Marmalade is a fruit preserve, made from any of the citrus fruits, sugar, and water. Some recipes include some amount of peel and zest, which imparts a sharp, bitter taste from the bitter citrus oil.
Scottish marmalade is made from oranges and contains more peel and zest than most other marmalades. Central European and California-style marmalade contains less peel and zest and so are less bitter.
In languages other than English, marmalade can mean preserves made with fruit other than citrus. The recipe includes sliced or chopped fruit peel simmered in fruit juice and water until soft; indeed marmalade is sometimes described as jam with fruit peel (although manufacturers also produce peel-free marmalade). Marmalade is often eaten on toast for breakfast.
The traditional citrus fruit for marmalade production in the UK is the “Seville orange”, Citrus aurantium var. aurantium, thus called because it was originally imported from Seville in Spain; it is higher in pectin than sweet oranges, and therefore gives a good set. Marmalade can be made from lemons, limes, grapefruits, oranges or any combination thereof.
(retrieved 7 February 2010)
Marmalade instead of butter
The King’s Breakfast
… The Dairymaid
And went to
She curtsied to the Queen, and
She turned a little red:
For taking of
But marmalade is tasty, if
The Queen said
And went to his Majesty:
“Talking of the butter for
The royal slice of bread,
Would you like to try a little
The King said,
Demand substitution sometimes doesn’t work. Suggested by westexas (Jeffrey Brown)