The first challenge turned out to be finding blood oranges. I went to eight stores but only had luck at two. One of the bigger natural food stores in the city told me it was the wrong season. Blood oranges come from Sicily or Spain or more recently are also grown in the US. Mid January, continuing for 3 to 8 weeks, is the only time of year they're available. Six stores wouldn't be carrying them because of the prohibitive cost (up to $2/lb which can be close to a dollar an orange). I finally found a single 2 kg bag at one store and 7 loose oranges at the other. Mission accomplished.
The beautiful carmine red colour of blood oranges is due to anthocyanins, an antioxidant. This in contrast to the red flesh of Cara Cara Navel oranges which is a result of lypocene. The peel is orange but sometimes there is a reddish tint.
Next was choosing a recipe. I always eliminate any recipe that calls for commercial pectin (which requires more sugar than natural pectins and can have less taste of the fruit used). The number of recipes was overwhelming with a great variation in approach. I found the explanation for the different approaches in my mother's Time Life book on Preserving. There are two contrasting styles to making marmalade with equally distinct results.
The first marmalade has firm and chunky fruit and the cooking process is relatively short, resulting in chewy fruit which contrasts with the smooth jelly.
The second marmalade requires two days of preparation. The fruit is whole or sliced and soaks in water overnight. The longer process makes for tender peel which is more a part of the jelly rather than distinct from it.
I don't have fond memories of bitter orange marmalade with thick fruit so I used the second approach, slicing the oranges and soaking them overnight. The ingredients I used came from The Art of Preserving put out by Williams- Sonoma. When perusing recipes I had noticed one which started by making a natural pectin from Granny Smith apples. I didn't do that but I did open a jar of crabapple pectin I had made last summer. Blood oranges have less pectin that Seville oranges. Using a natural pectin allows for less sugar but there is nothing more frustrating than a preserve that doesn't set. So my crabapple pectin was insurance.
|Clockwise from top left; freshly squeezed orange juice, sliced blood oranges soaking in water, lemon juice, seeds, crabapple pectin|
|Everything boiling down with seeds ( for pectin) suspended in cheesecloth|
|Blood Orange Marmalade|