Marmalade skies

The theme for this month’s Mixology Monday, Preserves, could not have arrived at a better time. A few weeks ago, armed with a good knife, a very large pot, and a lot of patience, I made a traditional British marmalade.

It’s been a few years now that I’ve been trying to track down the elusive Seville oranges. They are not commonly found in stores and have a short season. So I was quite excited when I saw them appear at Specialty Produce, my local source for produce. Bumpy, thick-skinned and full of seeds, with an intensely bitter juice, they are not the friendliest of fruit. But under the right conditions, they can become sublime.
Seville oranges

To make the marmalade, I used the juice of six bitter oranges together with one navel orange. I saved the seeds and placed them in a muslin bag (the seeds are a good source of pectin for the jam). I cleaned the rind and cut it into thin strips, before cooking them in a large pot with the orange juice, 2.5 liters of water, the orange seed bag, and a pinch of salt. The orange rind became translucent after about 30 minutes, at which point I added 1.7 kg of sugar and continued cooking at a gentle boil. I had some apple pectin (~ 120 g) from another jam project so I added that to the pot as well. I cooked the marmalade until it reached close to 220F (the gelling point), which took about 2 to 3 hours (note to self – it’s not a good idea to start a batch of marmalade on a weekday evening…). At that point I filled the marmalade into jars, which I closed and turned upside down to cool.

Homemade bitter orange marmalade for breakfast

The next morning, I was able to enjoy my marmalade at breakfast on buttered English muffins. And then when the theme of MxMo was announced, I started using the marmalade into cocktails. A very simple one is the Omar Bradley, an Old Fashioned variation. The main difficulty is to blend the marmalade well enough so it mixes well with the other ingredients. Some recipes call for lemon juice and shaking the whole thing, but I thought that it defeated the purpose of an easy-to make cocktail requiring no fresh ingredients. So I added a spoonful of marmalade (avoiding the peel) into an old-fashioned glass, muddled, added a few dashes of Angostura bitters, and gradually poured the bourbon while mixing with a spoon. Then I added a large ice cube and stirred some more. The bitterness of the orange was a great match for the spice and citrus in the Elijah Craig bourbon. An easy-to-like cocktail.

Omar Bradley: Elijah Craig bourbon, bitter orange marmalade, Angostura bitters
Old-fashioned glass | barspoon marmalade | Angostura bitters | 2 oz bourbon | muddle | add ice | stir | orange peel garnish

For my next cocktail, I revisited the Paddington from the PDT Cocktail Book, a creation by David Slape. Named after the famous bear and his love of marmalade sandwiches, the Paddington reminds me of the Corpse Reviver No.2. It’s a sour with three different types of citrus: lemon juice, grapefruit juice, and orange marmalade. Lillet blanc and the marmalade provide the sweetness, while an absinthe rinse creates an intoxicating sillage. For the rum, I selected J.M rhum agricole , which has enough flavor to stand up to the other ingredients. The result was a cocktail that was crisp and light, and therefore very accessible, while being complex and interesting. The marmalade added a bitterness that gave depth to the drink.
Paddington (David Slape): rhum agricole, Lillet, grapefruit & lemon, Seville orange marmalade, St. George absinthe
Paddington | 1.5  oz rum | 1/2 oz Lillet | 1/2 oz grapefruit juice | 1/2 oz lemon juice | barspoon marmalade | shake | strain into absinthe-rinse coupe | grapefruit garnish

Thank you to Fred for moderating MxMo and Craig at A World of Drinks for selecting an inspiring theme this month!


References and further reading:


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