I’ve been reading a lot of Joan Didion lately, something that I avoided doing for a long time. I’m a white lady with two writing degrees who moved to New York City to be a writer, interned at Conde Nast when Conde Nast still kind of mattered, etc. I’m also nothing if not contrary. Precisely because it seemed a foregone conclusion that I would spend at least few years of my life wanting to be Joan Didion, I stayed away from Joan Didion.
Until, I didn’t. And of course she’s incredible. Really, really good, but because of how good she is I want her to be better. It’s complicated with Joan and me. I bristle at her treatment of race, gender, and class in her early books (White Album and Slouching Toward Bethlehem), but ,my god, she can write an essay.
Anyway, in “Holy Water,” she quotes historian Bernard DeVoto, who says, “The West begins where the average rainfall drops below twenty inches.” SO GOOD. I thought of that line when I was making this marmalade, with these grapefruits that were grown probably just a mile from my house. This fussy marmalade is made in the style of California marmalade master Robert Lambert who replaces all of the water in his preserves with fresh squeezed citrus juice. The result is exquisite, but also costly and labor-intensive–a marmalade that you might not consider making unless you had an embarrassment of citrus, but never enough water.
I have a few notes on technique here, since we’re getting pretty deep into marmalade nerd territory. I used organic sugar, which I usually avoid in preserves because of the flavor it imparts, simply because I realized too late that I was out of white sugar. I’m going to try it again soon with white sugar. Also, I overcooked it, so the set is a bit stiff for my liking. Grumble, grumble. I selected white grapefruits for this recipe because I had so many and I figured a larger fruit would be advantageous in that it has more juice than, say, a lemon. Because I was already making a pretty prissy preserve, I decided to cut the peel quite small and dainty, which I was really happy with. I used about 8 grapefruits, which are from a backyard tree not on irrigation, so are definitely on the small side and gave me a lot less juice than I expected. I wondered about adjusting the amount of sugar in the recipe to account for the sugar in the juice, but decided against it and am glad I did. I regret not taking some process shots here! I’ll do that next time too.
All that said, I’m really in love with this technique and the next time a box of citrus shows up on my doorstep (this is a crazy thing that happens here in the desert), I’m jazzed to try it with other fruits.
White Grapefruit Marmalade with Bay
yield: 4 quarter pints
- 1 white grapefruit (about 12 ounces)
- 2 cups fresh squeezed white grapefruit juice (from 6-8 white grapefruits), seeds reserved
- 2 cups organic sugar
- 3 bay leaves
1. Cut the ends off of the grapefruit and set it on its now flat end. Cutting from top to bottom, cut the peel off in one-inch thick strips, leaving as much white pith behind as possible.
2. Layer 3 or 4 strips of peel on top of one another and cut them lengthwise, making them half as wide.
3. Now, slice the stacks of peel and julienne them as thin as you can crosswise. Place the finely chopped peel in a medium saucepan.
4. Again slicing from top to bottom, remove the remaining pith from the grapefruit and discard.
5. Hold the grapefruit above the pan, using your knife to finish supreming the fruit, letting the sections and any juice fall into the pan. I find that it’s pretty easy to work around the seeds doing this, but if any seeds fall in the pot, simply pick them out and reserve them.
6. Squeeze the rag (the remaining membrane and pith) into the pot to extract as much juice as possible. Again, pick out and reserve and seeds if nay sneak through.
7. Take the seeds that you reserved when juicing your grapefruits, tie them up in cheesecloth or a scrap of clean tea towel, and place them in the saucepan with the chopped peel and flesh.
8. Add the 2 cups of juice and the bay leaves to the pot. Bring just to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and refrigerate overnight.
1. Transfer the mixture to a wide, high-sided pan. Remove and squeeze the seed packet to extract as much pectin as possible.
2. Add the sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil, stirring frequently
3. Begin testing for doneness at around 8-9 minutes using the plate test. The marmalade is done when a dollop placed on a plate and cooled in the freezer, wrinkles when you run your finger through it and doesn’t run quickly back together. I cooked mine for about 11.5 minutes and that was a bit too long, but my pot was very wide, so it cooked up fast.
4. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as needed.