I grew up with a mother who loved orange marmalade. In her travels as a young, adventurous and untethered Japanese woman in the 1970s, a short stint traveling through Europe cemented her curiosity and love for croissants, marmalades and pastries. She sought the jams that were slightly less sweet and a touch more tart, a criteria that seemed elusive in the American grocery store shelves of my youth.
While my mother cooked many things, we always got store-bought marmalade and bread. For example, baking a loaf of bread was not something I grew up with — we were more of a rice household. I didn’t even try much baking at all until my late 20’s. And now, here in 2020 in the midst of this extended shared quarantine, all the no-knead bread recipes circulating inspired a new round of experiments. Eight months in, I’m baking a loaf or two a week. Fresh bread is ::heart emoji::.
It did not occur to me until this autumn that one could also make the marmalade to eat with, say, this freshly-baked homemade bread.
[Enter: A mediocre batch of clementines in October.]
(I ate some of them anyway, though.)
Cooking, as any artistic practice, is a form and a process of transformation. Changing seven or so uninspired on-sale clementines into a gooey, spreadable, glistening sweet thing was incredible. Did I just make a $3 bag of bad oranges into a $7 jar of complex artisanal marmalade? By adding in sugar and water, and letting it simmer? This is legit magic. As though I needed any more reasons to love preparing food.
In a year that has been full of sour, strange fruits — of every variety, some familiar and others newly acknowledged, in so many facets of daily life — it helps me reflect on how lucky it is to be able to transform, collaborate with and share whatever it is we have in front of us. To make one’s own mix of tart, sour and sweet.
Lemons to lemonade.
Sour oranges to marmalade.
Wishing for a balanced 2021.
A combination of citrus. [i.e. a handful (5-7) of not-so-spectacular to mediocre clementines worked for me; I recently tried with one big grapefruit, one satsuma orange and one tiny yuzu fruit, and that combination worked well]
A significant amount of sugar (around 1.5-2 cups)
Approximately 2 cups of water (enough to cover the fruit in the pot)
A decent kitchen knife
A heavy-bottomed stovetop pot
A wooden spoon to stir
A silicon scraper
A couple of glass jars for storing the marmalade