Citrus Preserves

The making of citrus preserves is a rite amongst the Tunisian ladies.  At work, various names pop up as the ‘divas of marmalade’ and when I get gifted a sample, from time to time, I am intrigued that they do vary in style and reflect the taste of the cook or likely several generations of cooks in that family.

There are two basic formulas for marmalade:

  1. Cook equal parts citrus to sugar until it thickens.
  2. Cook equal parts water and sugar with ½ as much fruit until thickened.

Method number one will produce a fruitier jam-like marmalade and number two will give you more jelly, which is beautiful.

We only eat a piece of toast with jam on occasion so I wanted to basically jar citrus puree that I can use for a lot of preparations in the months to come.  I used about 4kgs of sliced citrus to 2 kgs of sugar and cooked it down until thick.

Where the art comes in here, is in the selection of the citrus.  I do apologize to my friends who can’t get anything but basic grapefruit, oranges, and lemons at your local grocery store, but try to appreciate the diversity of some of these varieties that exist.  My friend, Fatima, gave me the insider combination for getting a range and depth of flavor.  Through some comical inquiry, I was able to round up all six of these at my market yesterday.

Beginning at the top, right, there is pink grapefruit, bergamot orange, blood orange, navel orange, bitter orange and finally, there is a strange-looking lemon that she only knew the Arabic name for: trong.  You can combine these in any proportion you want.  I wanted to emphasize the bitters in these preserves so I went easy on the navel and blood oranges and pumped up all of the others.  Bergamot is going to add a bit of mystery, contributing an Earl Gray tea essence, which is also a bitter.

Here are the final gems.  You can see that they contain a lot of fruit which will work well for a number of uses such as the following:

  • Puree one jar of preserves with 3-4 roasted green chilies for a salsa or marinade for braised or grilled meats, thinning as desired with chicken or vegetable stock.
  • Puree one jar to use in citrus cakes, muffins, or pies.
  • Use as a topping for panna cotta or shortbread cookies
  • Add to a chickpea soup or chile
  • Thin and then use to glaze a garlic-roasted chicken
  • Serve as a chutney alongside a roasted tomato/ricotta/roasted onion tart

 

Back on the Juice

My husband has been gone to the US for a week.  He got back last night, on Valentine’s Day.  It was alright having some time all to myself.  I’m working on some big projects and it was fun to have some endless days, especially on the weekend, to work and think and only stop to put a few bites of leftovers in my mouth.  But I very much missed Allan’s juicing routine.  I think I made it clear in Two Ways with Turnips that produce, all produce, is really inexpensive and organic in Tunisia.

We had a handy citrus juicing attachment for our food processor last winter and started the habit of making citrus juice everyday.  This year, we made the investment in an extraction juicer so we could take advantage of the beets, carrots, ginger, pears, and apples we have available all winter, in addition to citrus.

Allan has taken this practice on almost like a form of meditation.  We have a great produce shop just a block from our house and every few days we stop by, often after school.  When we get home, Allan heads to the kitchen and while I work on dinner and we listen to news, he washes produce and then starts juicing.  He used to make it every morning, but it involved quite a bit of clean up so he has taken to filling two or three Nalgene bottles and putting them in the fridge and then we have enough for two or three days.  This juice is so electric and vitamin packed I almost worry sometimes what it can do to a body to consume the equivalence of an entire bunch of beets in one glass, but I’m taking my chances and so far, we are both super healthy.

I think Allan is almost as proud of the bucket for the compost as he is of the juice.

My blood orange aperatif.  Notice the frothy crema on the top.