Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When Life Gives You Citrus!

About 9 years ago, we moved from sunny California to the big state of Texas. This was a huge shock to our systems and not for the obvious reasons you may think. Take our backyard garden - when we were in California, we were spoiled by the soil and the weather. We could virtually throw seeds into the earth and up would spring a glorious garden or plentiful fruit trees. Of course, the first time we started our garden here in Austin, we had the same expectations. Unfortunately, the results were very different. My dear husband hit that hard Texas clay earth with the shovel and we started to realize maybe we don't have the magic green thumb after all. Still, we persevered and over the years we have managed to start a few gardens and harvest crops not nearly as abundant as we had grown accustomed too (humbling, absolutely!). A few pumpkins (grown from old jack-o'lanterns thrown in the compost pile), lots of peppers (naturally) and a surprising herb garden have been the highlights. Over the years, we have learned what we can and can't grow and what veggies we still need to learn more about as far as growing in this environment.

With all that said, we may not have the fresh and plentiful veggies growing in the backyard garden (there's always the local farmer's market!) but what we do have are 2 of the most prolific citrus trees around. Granted, they are transplants like us and we didn't listen to locals that said citrus wouldn't grow here. We have one Meyer Lemon that we brought in our moving truck from California and my Mom brought us our Moro Blood-Orange tree in her moving van when she moved from California to Austin a few years later. Both are now firmly rooted in our Texas backyard, just like us. Every year, the Meyer produces the most amazing lemons - which I will be writing about soon. This blog, however, is about our beautiful blood-orange tree. If you have never had the pleasure of drinking fresh blood-orange juice, then I suggest you put that on your must-do "foodie list". Having a tree with an abundant supply allows us to try many different recipes and still have plenty left over to bless friends and family.

We started our holidays off with blood-orange mimosas on Christmas morning, a glorious and sweet ruby-colored drink that makes regular mimosas blush in comparison. I have made blood-orange vinaigrette's for salads as well as candied orange peel. My daughter and I baked rich, golden loaves of cranberry-orange bread as gifts for neighbors. We infuse the zest into vodka and make lovely martini's. And this year, I attempted to make blood-orange marmalade. Tonight, we had blood-orange sorbet for dessert and Wow! so yummy! So with all the recipes and new ideas out there, one would think that if life gives you all this beautiful citrus, why just make juice? I'm jus' sayin'!

Blood Orange Marmalade - I found an orange marmalade recipe online from "The Barefoot Contessa" as a base and revised it to make blood-orange marmalade. If you would like to try her recipe with plain oranges you can find it here. I suggest you start the the night before, right before you get ready to go to bed.

In a large stainless steel pot, slice 8 medium size blood-oranges in half and take out seeds. Take each half and slice paper thin half-moons from them. (Ina Garten suggests using a mandolin for the slicing to make this chore quicker - good luck! I tried mine and ended up with a mess and the thought that bloody fingers instead of blood-oranges was enough for me to use just my knife) Transfer all the slices as well as any juice to the pot. Fill the pot with 8 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil stirring frequently. As soon as it comes to a boil, turn of heat and add 8 1/2 cups of sugar to the pot. Stir until dissolved. Put the lid on the pot and let this sit on the counter overnight. The next morning, bring the pot with all the oranges, sugar and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 2 hours. Bring the heat back up and boil gently for about 30 minutes. Skim any foam off the top. At this point, use a candy thermometer and watch for the marmalade to come to 220 degrees F. It should be a thick consistency with a dark, golden-red color. Pour the marmalade into clean mason jars and place in a hot water bath to seal the lids. After they have been canned, they should last in a cool pantry for up to a year - that is, if you have not opened it and put it on a toasted English muffin, in which case I promise that jar will go fast. Enjoy!

Blood Orange Sorbet - Absolutely simple! I followed David Lebovitz's recipe which was very precise and you can too! I find David's work to be clean and clear and it's always a joy to read his blog.