Trijaminal: A Quest for Mulled Wine Marmalade

I've been making a lot of marmalade this "winter." Part of it is because I visited my mother for the first time in two years. We spent most of the time between visits not speaking, so my visit over the holidays was one of making amends. My mother has two very specific comfort items when it comes to food. Those things are orange marmalade and green tea. Naturally, when I visited, I took the time to make large quantities of marmalade in her kitchen. Another part of it is that citrus is cheap, and winter is actually a much more comfortable time to be making jam in a New York City apartment. Stirring jam in front of a hot stove in the summer heat is almost unbearable. I have also perfected my non-cheese cloth technique for marmalade, for those of you who also try to minimize the amount of equipment you use.

Then all this winter jamming got me thinking. I wanted to capture the flavor of mulled wine in a jam. Marmalade is the natural choice, since it already contains two of the ingredients in mulled wine: oranges and sugar. The only missing flavors are spices and booze. First, I experimented with wine and spices. The spices in the first version were good, but subtle. Then I increased the spices, but I wanted to know if the wine actually made a difference, so I made one with all water and one with all wine. After three versions, I discovered the following things:

(1) You cannot capture the flavor of alcohol in jam because it cooks for so long that the alcohol all cooks off.
(2) Wine does special things to food. I found that it toned down the sweetness but brought out the bitterness of the peel in a satisfying way.
(3) It tastes good no matter what, with or without booze. Without booze is cheaper, but with booze is a good way to use up refrigerator wine that you might not want to drink.

In our unofficial taste test officially titled the Trijaminal(in case you aren't in medical school and would like to understand the pun), tasters were split. Some didn't think the wine made a difference. Some liked the less spiced version. My favorite was the all wine and more spiced version.

Basic Orange Marmalade Recipe
I think this makes about 4 pints, but it could be less. I don't can all of my jam. I use old jars and refrigerate, so I never get an exact idea of how much I made. I filled two peanut butter jars and canned 1-9 oz jar.

3 navel oranges
1 lemon

1. Wash the citrus. Thinly slice the lemon and 1 navel orange. Put all the slices into one container.

2. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest from the remaining two oranges. Place the zest with the lemon and orange slices. Remove the pith from the two zested oranges. Thinly slice the orange sections and add to the other sliced citrus.

3. Eyeball the volume of the citrus. You will use this same volume of sugar and water to make the marmalade. You could put the slices into a large measuring cup. I usually use a pyrex bowl because I like the idea of measuring without measuring. Place the citrus in a large pot. I like to use an enamel one.

4. Add an equal volume of water to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Shut off heat, cover, and let sit for several hours to overnight. This step extracts the natural pectin from the citrus peels and membranes.

5. Place a saucer in the freezer. This is so you can check the set of your jam later. Wash and sterilize any jars you are using. I wash my jars with antibacterial dish soap, place them in a 9x13" baking dish, and place this in a 200 F oven. The oven heat will keep the jars clean, and they won't crack when you pour hot jam into them. I clean the lids by washing them with soap and water, placing them in a heatproof dish, and pouring boiling water over them when I think my jam is about to be finished.

6. Measure the appropriate volume of sugar (same as your volume of citrus slices). Bring the citrus mixture back to a boil. Add sugar about 1/2 cup at a time. Stir after each addition. Adding the sugar in a stepwise fashion keeps your jam from boiling over.

7. Continue to heat with stirring until the jam starts to thicken. This will probably take about 45 minutes. Check the set by removing the saucer from the freezer, smearing some jam on it, and letting that sit for about a minute. Push on your jam streak. If it wrinkles when you push on it, the jam is ready to be canned. If not, put the saucer back in the freezer and keep stirring. This is the earliest time when you can taste your jam.

8. After your jam passes the cold plate test, fill jars up to 1/4" of the rim, wipe down rims, and place lids on. If you are canning, completely submerge the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Let all jars sit at room temperature overnight before you refrigerate. This allows the jam to set properly.

Mulled Variations:
Use Basic Orange Marmalade Recipe with the following changes:

V1: Add 5 cloves, 3 cardamom pods, and 1 cinnamon stick in Step 4. Replace half of the water with Madeira wine. Remove the cinnamon stick before proceeding to Step 6.
V2: Add 10 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick in Step 4. Remove the cinnamon stick before proceeding to Step 6.
V3: Add 10 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick in Step 4. Use Cabernet Sauvignon instead of water. Remove the cinnamon stick before proceeding to Step 6.


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