Full disclosure: I wanted real bad to be a goth in high school. It never really happened, for reasons almost entirely based in my lazy approach to fashion; I am hopelessly lo-fi when it comes to clothes. I mean, I still wear a lot of black…
And 80’s goth music is part of the scaffolding of my heart. 🖤
But full-on goth-hood takes commitment beyond the occasional punk hairdo and Christian Death album; that ship sailed long ago, and I have way too many mom-leggings to change my style now, but I still get all dreamy about moonbeams, and blood makes me giggle in certain settings.
All of which is a roundabout way of explanation why I have a particular fondness for blood oranges. Their ruby colour is not actually blood, but comes from a large amount of anthocyanins – the flavonoid pigment responsible for the blues, red and purples in the plant world – odourless but slightly astringent, a protector against diseases…. and humorously bloody-looking, especially when unsuspecting people slice open their orangey-fruits to find the shocking hues within. And it’s been known to happen that they then get thrown away under suspicion of being demon-fruit! Please don’t throw them away. Really they’re quite innocent.
Actually, they will give any recipe they jump into the most pleasing shade of pinky-orange, naturally dyed and all the more delectable for skirting the dark side. Vegans and vegetarians may join the joke as well, and suck the juices with no compunction or moral distress.
Speaking of distress, when I have a special fruit I sometimes fret a little bit about how to best appreciate it’s unique character. My bounty of blood oranges brought me to the same quandary, but when in doubt, I seem to often choose a preserve of some kind. To me that’s the ultimate pedestal, and it’s a way to make a short season fruit last all year, ready to be spread between cake layers, or on fresh scones, or just eaten off a spoon, which I certainly do.
This marmalade is good enough to spoon-eat. The extra bitterness of blood oranges is accentuated with a large splash of angostura bitters, making for a complex and not-too-sweet marmalade with buttery soft peel pieces and a deep colour that makes a perfect gift for the post-punker in your life. Or for anyone with naked toast.
Bitters Blood Orange Marmalade
Adapted from Marguerite Patton’s Jams, Chutneys, Preserves, Vinegars and Oils
Makes 48 oz. of marmalade (6 half-pint jars)
- 2 lb. (908 grams) blood oranges, washed and dried
- 6 cups (1500 grams) cold water
- 6 cups (1200 grams) sugar
- 4 tablespoons (60 grams) fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) Angostura Bitters
Remove any stem pieces from the oranges. Cut them in half and juice them. Reserve the juice in a covered container, and put the pips and pith into a clean muslin or cheesecloth bundle.
With a sharp knife, slice the orange peel into fine strips, then turn them 45º and cut them into pieces no larger than 1 cm. Put them into a large container with all of the water and the bundle of pips, and soak for 8-24 hours (this softens the peel and removes excess bitterness).
In a heavy-bottomed non-reactive saucepan that is large and wide, dump in the soaked peel and water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer energetically on medium heat until peel is as soft as you want it to be (once sugar is added it will not soften further). This could take up to 60 minutes.
Turn off heat and add the sugar, stirring until it’s dissolved. Bring the heat back up to a boil and cook until the marmalade is reduced by half and thickened. Stir across the bottom to make sure it doesn’t stick. A good way to tell that marmalade has reached it’s set point is that it will stop being foamy and the bubbles will slow down and be more “bloop-y”. Be careful not to overcook – I find that marmalade will still seem ‘too’ liquidy when it’s ready, and overcooked marmalade will be rubbery.
Add the Angostura Bitters at the end. Let marmalade cool slightly, then stir it to disperse the fruit. Spoon into hot sterilized jars and seal down. Properly canned marmalade will keep for at least a year.