Monday, February 27, 2012

The gift of food and Blood Orange Marmalade

Why do I cook? 

There are many different answers to that question, but my reason usually varies depending on the day and my mood. Mostly, I truly love being in the kitchen. Of course, when life gets in the way, making a dinner can seem like an impossible task to conquer. These nights are deemed “date nights,” which make us feel better about eating out…we’re being romantic, not lazy!

I find that even on the days when I’ve declared a hiatus in the kitchen though, it calls my name. Take-out menu in one hand, phone in the other, I’ll suddenly decide instead that I’ll just make a “quick” sauce with the tomatoes and peppers sitting in the fridge. Once that first onion is chopped, I’m in another world, suddenly relaxed, relishing the time it takes to make what has turned into a not-so-quick sauce after all. To me, there is such comfort in cooking that it only takes moments to turn a bad mood around. I’m amazed to find myself singing and dancing along to music mere minutes after I’ve been ranting to Andy about my “awful” day. Perhaps it’s that my day wasn’t actually so bad? In the grand scheme of things, no, it definitely wasn’t, and cooking somehow gives me that perspective.

What else do I like about cooking? 

I like the look on someone’s face when they really love something you’ve made. My sister is notorious for this face. Her eyes roll slightly back and her mouth turns up in a Cheshire Cat-like smirk. She gets “the face” when she eats Cadbury eggs, chocolate or bacon, among other things. Turns out, she also gets “the face” when she eats my blood orange marmalade.

My sister has recently taken up residence in another state. Her move didn’t come as a big shock, and due to her travelling the past few years, I’d already gotten used to her not being just down the street. With technology being what it is, we get to “see” each other often and are up-to-date on the current goings-on in each other’s lives. But she was here visiting last week and seeing her face-to-face made me miss some things more than usual. I miss our after-work happy hour meetings where we’d dish on our day, nothing too inconsequential to mention. I miss our inside jokes that would leave others looking at us like we were insane. I miss stealing her clothes and then blatantly lying about it, sometimes while wearing said item of clothing. I miss throwing cashews in her eye. (Really, who doesn’t close their eye when a cashew is coming towards it?) I miss our Spock-like mind meld, where all we’d have to say was one or two words to get our point across. But mostly, I just miss my sister…period.
So when she tasted my marmalade and made “the face,” I promptly made an extra batch to send home with her, under the guise of wanting to tweak the recipe a bit. Why the guise? I’m still not sure…the best I can come up with was that I wasn’t quite ready to admit how much I miss her; wasn’t ready to shed the tears that accompanied that admission.    

As I was making the second batch, I thought about the look on her face when she tried it, how much I appreciated that look, and how I hoped she would make that face every time she ate it. And also, how I hoped that every time she ate it, she would think of me. After all, the gift of food is a powerful one…hopefully as much for the recipient as for the giver.

Whether you're cooking to relax, cooking for yourself, or cooking for others...enjoy.

Blood Orange Marmalade with Clove and Vanilla

Makes about 4 cups

1 pound blood oranges
1 Meyer lemon
4 cups water
3 cloves
1/2 vanilla bean
3 cups sugar

Trim the ends off the oranges and lemon. Thinly slice fruit, then cut slices into small pieces. Split vanilla bean in half and scrape out seeds.

Combine citrus, water, cloves, vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a heavy simmer. Let simmer for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rinds are very tender.

Remove cloves and vanilla bean from mixture. Stir in sugar. Return to a boil, then reduce to a heavy simmer. Let simmer for about 70 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour into glass jars. When cool, refrigerate to set completely.

I’m not normally a big fan of orange marmalade, but the floral notes from the blood oranges, along with the clove and vanilla, make this a marmalade I can get behind. It doesn’t have that overt bitterness that I usually associate marmalade with, which is why I like this one. It’s perfect on toast, and might even make an appearance in cheesecake soon…hint, hint.


  1. People ask why I love cooking so much and I think this blog post captures it perfectly!

  2. What a sweet tribute to your sister. I don't have much of a relationship with mine so this is especially poignant.

    I'm glad you mention the fact that your recipe removes the bitterness from the marmalade. That's my main reason for never buying or making it. I may just give this a try.

    The kitchen is definitely a therapist's office for me. Saves me a lot of money. :)

  3. What a beautiful tribute! As the sister who left (I've got two little sisters across the Atlantic that I miss dearly every day), I can say that we love hearing how much we're missed. Hopefully she reads this blog and sees how you feel!

  4. Orange marmelade is simply divine!!

  5. Orange marmalade is right up there on my top five list of favorite jams, jellies, etc. I've never tried it with blood oranges... if I can still find any in the stores, I need to try this. Buzzed you!

  6. I have some blood oranges now that are just begging to be used for this! Wonderful recipe, Karen. Thanks for sharing! You have a great blog and I'm glad to have found you.

  7. Oh Karen! This looks perfect. Love your pictures too!

  8. I've never been a huge marmalade fan, but yours does look lovely. And I get a kick out of the description of your sister's cheshire cat face!

  9. I love marmalade - thanks for making it look so easy!

  10. I do love Blood oranges; never would have thought to make marmalade with them; they sure turned out great.

  11. This is such a beautiful post :) I agree completely!
    And the marmalade sounds delicious, I've never had blood oranges in this.

  12. I know that face and I too love it! :) I actually have all the ingredients to make this right now - though I would need a few more blood oranges. This looks beautiful Karen!

  13. Gorgeous marmalade, Karen! I have 3 sisters and we have such a blast when we get together....which isn't often enough~

  14. This looks gorgeous! I love the colors and I bet this goes with SO many things. The other day at Whole Foods I saw some people sampling sliced up blood oranges in the produce section. Some of their reactions were hilarious!

  15. This looks beautiful and delicious and would love to make that face myself after I make this marmalade :)

  16. Yum yum yum yum yum...get the picture?!?!? My sister lives far from me as well...we talk via phone and facebook, but it's not the same as being together in person. I get that...

  17. Orange Marmalade is great, but blood orange marmalade is even better !

  18. I have never been a fan of marmalade, but I may try this. It looks so beautiful in jars too. I'll give some to my Mom, she loves marmalade. Thank You for the lovely post Karen :o)

  19. Do you "can" the marmalade? Or do the hot bath affect the recipe?

  20. This looks great - blood oranges are in right now here in Australia (as it's winter) so I want to try this recipe very soon.

    A few questions though - as someone that has never made jam before are there are general hints or rules I need to remember so I don't mess up my first attempt?

    Also, could you just put the vanilla and cloves in a cheesecloth bundle so they are easier to fish out?

    Finally, it is really vital to get a jam pam? The only big enough pot I have is a pretty good, thick bottom aluminium pan (at least I think it's aluminium - not 100% sure). What are the most important things to look for in a jam pan?

    Sorry for all the Q's - I know jam looks simple but often isn't!