Food is the ultimate connector. Whether it’s a weekly Sunday supper or an annual Thanksgiving meal, food keeps families and friends in touch over the years. Like many New Yorkers, I work too much and don’t see friends as often as I should. A few summers ago I had dinner with a friend of several decades along with his young family. We enjoyed a dinner and the warm exchange that develops between friends over a lifetime.
When you’ve been friends with someone for many years, especially in New York where many of us are separated from our families, friends become your family. You get to know their parents and their siblings and they become a part of your personal history. Over dinner they reminded me of how much their father Milton had enjoyed a batch of preserves I sent him a few years ago. I make different preserves and jams for our breakfast buffet at the hotel and sometimes package them in Mason jars as gifts for friends.
Now that Milton has been gone for so many years, I still think of him when I make orange marmalade. He was a self made man: an accomplished lawyer, businessman, husband, father and grandfather, friend and lover of simple things like jam and toast (along with percolated coffee).
When I make jam, I think about how excited he would be to know I made the jam from leftover orange peels that would have otherwise ended up in the trash or compost (in best case scenario). Making marmalade is about more than preserving. It’s about making something out of nothing. It’s a nod to the past when people like Milton were working hard and saving every penny to get ahead. Making conserves is about honoring our heritage and the struggle of those who made our paths so much sweeter.
-This is for Milton.
Tahitian Vanilla and Orange Marmalade
Save the peels of 4 oranges
Slice thinly so as to have at least one cup of sliced peel
You will need a medium size, heavy sauce pan.
Boil the peels in 4 cups of plain water for 20 minutes. Then strain and boil again for another 20 minutes and strain again. This boiling process will purge the bitter flavor from the peel and soften them to receive the sugar and other aromatics.
Then add 1 cup of sugar to your one cup of the cooked rind along with two tablespoons of Grand Marnier and cook on very low heat for about 45 minutes (checking along the way). If you like it spicy, you may add a few whole cloves or whole black peppercorns but fish them out before canning or they will dominate the flavor.
You may need to add a few teaspoons of water or orange juice to moisten if it appears to by drying out without being finished. You will know it’s finished when the natural pectin of the peel creates a thickened, glossy appearance.
After your marmalade has cooled, add two to three drops of Tahitian or Mexican (or other high quality Vanilla).
Add a pinch of salt at very end and stir. Set aside and taste again in another 15 minutes.
You may also “can” in Mason jars and keep for months or just place in sealed container in refrigerator for up to one month.