honey marmalade

Amy's favorite flavor, Royal Blenheim Apricot Navel Orange Conserve Recipe

Equal parts marmalade and jammy conserve, you can make this preserve year around, substituting Valencia oranges when you can’t find Navel oranges. Because the recipe uses citrus juice and the delightful tart and dried Royal Blenheim Apricot, the preserve’s finished flavor reminds me of drinking fresh squeezed orange juice. The cinnamon gives body and length to the flavor, but using Ceylon cinnamon keeps the flavor perky and doesn’t draw down the conserve’s vivacity. Do not substitute dried Turkish apricots! The flavor will be completely different. Dried Royal Blenheim Apricots are sometimes called California Apricots. Check your local grocer. I’ve noticed that Trader Joes consistently carries sulphered and unsulphered dried Royal Blenheims. I like to use the unsulphured apricots, but if you want that bright orange color go for the sulphered fruit. If you are still having trouble finding the Royal Blenheim Apricot (a very possible problem as this apricot variety is on the Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, meaning it’s an endangered variety), head online and look around. Or plan ahead for next year. Here in Seattle, there are two farms that bring these apricots to the University District farmers market. Next summer, late June-early July, look for fresh Royal Blenheims at the summer markets and dry your own apricots for winter. You will treasure them!

The recipe:

1 lb. thin-sliced navel oranges. Some slicing technique: cut the orange into quarters lengthwise. Recreate a half orange by cozying two of the quarters (skin side up) side by side on your cutting board. Slice the two quarters using widthwise cuts. What falls away from your knife should look like slices of pie.

8 oz. dried Royal Blenheim Apricots in halves or pieces

8 oz. fresh squeezed, strained orange juice (8 oz of weight, not fluid ounces)

7 oz. fresh squeezed, strained lemon juice (8 oz of weight, not fluid ounces)

2 pounds 9 oz. blackberry honey

¼ teaspoon ground Ceylon Cinnamon

½ teaspoon almond extract

Day 1

Slice the oranges as directed above. Distribute the slices evenly into a non-reactive cooking pan and cover with cold water to about an inch above the fruit line. On high heat, bring the water and fruit to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Discard the cooking liquid by pouring the orange slices into a strainer. You have now blanched out a good bit of the orange’s bitterness. Return the orange slices to the non-reactive cooking pan and cover with cold water to 1 inch above the fruit line. Bring the pan to a boil over high heat, cover with a lid and lower the heat. Cook the fruit at a simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the fruit slices are tender. To check this, reach a fork into the pop and pick out a slice to sample. If the oranges are tender and finished, remove the pan from the heat and allow to sit covered overnight at room temperature.

While the orange slices cook, juice the oranges and lemons. Find a snug container for apricots, something large enough to allow the fruit to expand as it rehydrates and small enough to ensure the apricots stay covered in liquid. I often use a deli quart containers or an old yogurt tub. Just make sure the container doesn’t have any residual food smells.

I like to rehydrate my apricot halves and then give them a rough chop on day 2 using a food processor but if you don’t have one of those, take a moment now to chop your apricots into pieces roughly the size of ¼ inch by ¼ inch.  Don’t worry about being too precise. You probably won’t mind the occasional big chunk of fruit in your finished preserves. Pour the strained juices over the dried apricots. I press a layer of plastic wrap on the surface of the apricots to assure they are sitting in liquid. Set your hydrating apricots in the refrigerator overnight.

Day 2

If you chopped your apricots yesterday then skip to the next paragraph. Otherwise, get out the food processor and into its bowl place the apricots and any unabsorbed juice. Give 5-8 pulses to the fruit and liquid mixture depending on the power of the machine. It might be necessary to move things about in the bowl using a spatula to ensure a more even cut size. You want manageable, bite size pieces of apricot.

In a large bowl, mix together the blackberry honey, the apricot and juice mixture, the almond extract and the ground cinnamon. Last, add the orange slices and their liquid and give a few more swift stirs. Pour this mixture into an 11-12 quart non- reactive pan like an enameled Dutch oven or—if you have one—a copper jam pan. If you only have a stockpot, I advise dividing your batch of preserves in half and doing two separate cook sessions. This will ensure a quick cook time, giving you a lighter color, freshest flavor, and the greatest integrity to the conserve’s various textures.

Place a couple spoons on a saucer in your freezer. Bring the jam pan’s contents to a boil over high heat. Resist the temptation to stir at this juncture as it slows the cooking process. You will get lots of stirring in at the end of the cooking process. Let the conserve rip, bubble and roar at full heat. We are evaporating off moisture as fast possible here. Run a silicon spatula along the bottom of the pan using 3 or 4 strokes. You are not stirring. You are noting the texture of the pan’s bottom for any roughness or resistance, and then looking at the end of your spatula to see what, if anything, it pulls off the pan’s bottom. Check in like this every couple of minutes. If you start to encounter some resistance with your spatula or you’re dredging up some fruit bits on the end of your spatula, it’s time to attend the pan with your spatula more often. You are still cooking at high heat here, but if the conserve is spitting at you a lot, feel free to inch down the heat a little and put on an oven mitt to protect your hand. As you near the end of the cooking process, you are feeling along the bottom of the pan every 20 seconds or so. Notice how the bubbles of the mixture change; they grow fewer and look less watery. The conserve is done when you see the following: your spatula explorations leave a clearing that allow you to see the bottom of the pan, the surface of the conserve looks like molten bubbling lava with a riotous surface, the conserve moves as a mass, the mixture has a sheen to it, the pan has a low roar for sound, and the bubbles moving up from the surface contain no silvery water color. Instead, the bubbles are the same color as the conserve. When you see these signs, pull the pan off the heat.

To further check for doneness, place a small sample of the mixture onto one of your frozen spoons. Allow the spoon to cool in your freezer until the underside feels “room temperature”. Tilt the spoon. If the mixture has formed a skin and moves sluggishly down the spoon then the conserve is set and done. If the mixture runs down the spoon easily, return the pan to the stove and continue boiling. Remove the pan from the stove each time you check the set. Check the surface of the conserve in the pot after it’s rested off the stove for several minutes. If you notice a skin has formed on conserve’s surface, this is another sign you have achieved a set.

If you are canning the conserve, follow the jar manufacturer’s instructions. Otherwise, place the conserve in clean glass jars and let cool. Store the conserve in the refrigerator and enjoy often.






Bosc Pear, Bearss Lime, Vanilla Marmalade Recipe

For the last several weeks in the jam kitchen I’ve inhaled the steam of lime, pear and vanilla bean condensing into marmalade. I’m deep in producing several hundred jars of my Bosc Pear Bearss Lime Vanilla Marmalade. Say that fast three times in a row! It is a soft, sweet, and warm marmalade with little zaps of sour and bitter interjected when you bite into the lime rind. I love sampling this preserve to people. And it makes a lovely gift, orange jelly dashed with wisps of green lime rind.

Originality in preserves is a fickle creature. It’s easy to end up muddling flavors in the name of creativity. A cook I know has a thing about cinnamon. “Overused!” she cries. That’s usually my sentiment on vanilla in preserves. Vanilla falls so gracefully into so many flavor brainstorms. Oranges with plums and cardamom, oh, and then I’ll just tie the whole thing up with vanilla! But this bossy, know-it-all voice in my head always interjects, hey lady! that’s the easy way to bring a jam flavor together. In my imagination where ingredients have personalities, vanilla is a sound manager type, someone who takes the tart voice of a blueberry and in the name of balance just mutes the fruit’s special zip right out. But sometimes vanilla in a preserve is more than a tidy bow on top of a flavor and sometimes vanilla steps out of character and lets all the ingredients inside sing at the top of their lungs together.  That’s how I think of Bosc Pear Bearss Lime Vanilla Marmalade. The (Persian) Bearss Lime by the way is the very pretty name for the lime you commonly find at the grocery store. Also, Bosc Pear season is winding down here in the Pacific Northwest so grab those pears soon. Allow almost a week for them to ripen in your home so they are drippy with flavor for the marmalade. Lastly, feel free to substitute another pear for the Boscs if they are unavailable.

Bosc Pear Vanilla Lime Marmalade

2 lb 14 oz Bosc Pears (make sure they are very ripe)

1 lb 1 oz Limes (allow them to ripen to a nice gold-green color at room temperature)

2 lb 8 oz Blackberry Honey

5 oz Lemon Juice, strained

1 vanilla bean pod

Day 1:

Make the pear juice. Cut pears into eighths, place in non-reactive pot, cover with water to one inch above fruit. Pears should float freely in water. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low-medium, cover, and maintain a lively simmer for 3 hours. Check on the fruit every hour. Use a spoon to press on the cooking pears. When the liquid has become slightly viscous pull the pot off the heat. Place a metal mesh strainer over a non-reactive bowl and pour pears and water through the strainer. Cover straining fruit with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to drip for 12 hours.


While the pears cook in water, prepare the limes. Working lengthwise (as though you were making lime wedges), cut limes into quarters. Working widthwise, cut each quarter into thin slices. Your slices should look like tiny pie slices. Place sliced limes in non-reactive cooking pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to lively simmer and cook limes for 5 minutes. Drain and discard the lime cooking water. Return the lime slices to a non-reactive pot and cover with water to one inch above the limes. Bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat, cover and cook the lime slices at a lively simmer until the fruit is softened, about 35 minutes. Pull the pot from the heat and let rest 12 hours.

Day 2:

Cut the vanilla pod in half lengthwise. Scrape out the bean’s contents and deposit them along with the scraped pod, strained pear juice, lime slices and their cooking liquid, honey, and strained lemon juice into an 11-quart, non-reactive and wide preserving pan like an enameled Dutch oven or—if you have one—a copper jam pan. If you do not have a large pan, split the mixture in two and cook in your standard stock-pot in two rounds.

Over high heat, bring the pot to a boil. The mixture will cook at a high heat until it sets. I like to determine set by having several spoons ready on a plate in the freezer. Cooking times vary depending on the pan and your stove. The cooking mixture will proceed through several cooking stages. When it reaches the foaming stage start to run a heatproof spatula along the bottom of your pan. Don’t over-stir! This slows the cooking process. As the foam disappears, the bubbles get smaller, and the sound of the pot changes to a low, dull roar, stir more often to prevent sticking.

Test for doneness by pulling the pot off the heat and placing a small bit of the mixture into one of your frozen spoons. Allow the spoon to cool in your freezer until the underside feels “room temperature”. Tilt the spoon. If the mixture has formed a skin and moves sluggishly down the spoon then the marmalade is set and done. If the mixture runs down the spoon easily, return the pot to the stove and continue boiling. Remove the pot from the stove each time you check the set. Check the surface of the jam in the pot after it’s rested off the stove for several minutes. If you notice a skin has formed on jam’s surface, this is another sign the marmalade has set.

If you are canning the marmalade, follow the jar manufacturer’s instructions or if you want to eat your marmalade right away, simply extract the vanilla bean from the mixture and place in glass jars and let cool. Store marmalade in the refrigerator if you aren’t canning it. You can eat the marmalade immediately, but I recommend waiting a couple weeks. The flavors continue to develop and will be in full display several weeks after you make the marmalade.