There’s not two ways about it. People either love marmalade, or hate it. I love it.
My mom used to buy bitter orange marmalade at Eaton’s basement epicurean shop in the sixties. It came in large metal cans. She, too, not only enjoyed it at breakfast, but over game meat, pâtés and sharp cheddar cheeses, as we would, today. She must have picked that up in one of her trips abroad.
Since then, I have had to look long and hard to find brands that were as bitter, as good. The British have the monopole for bitter marmalade, at least in this town. Well, that is, until I heard about Camilla Wynne and her Preservation Society. Her fancy? Home-made preserves, with a twist all her own. This Montrealer leaves no one indifferent. She’s beautiful, lovely, funny, quacky and deliciously devilish, what with her alcohol-laced concoctions, savory and sweet.
Camilla Wynne’s Vanilla-Infused Grapefruit Marmalade
Yield: about 5 eight-ounce Mason jars
2.1 pounds of white grapefruit (about 3)
5 cups of granulated sugar
6 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
NOTE: Since this recipe uses whole grapefruits, it is better to have a little more than to have less.
Scrub grapefruits clean. Place them in a large pot and add enough water so that they float freely. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer two hours until very soft.
In the meantime, prepare the Mason jars and lids. Easiest is to clean the jars with soapy water, then to put them in the oven at 325 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes. Make sure the rubber seals are intact and there is no rust on any of the covers. Scrub clean and soft boil for 10 minutes. Let sit in water till ready to seal.
Drain the grapefruits. Transfer them to a cutting board and let cool until you can handle them. Cut them in half. Discard the stem end and any seeds. Slice the grapefruit in half, then in two-inch by 1/4 inch strips, or however thin or rough cut you fancy your marmalade. (Like me, some of you may prefer to discard the fleshy interior and keep only the squeezed out juice.) In a large pot with heavy bottom, combine the sliced grapefruit, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean. Bring to boil over medium high heat, stirring often. Boil hard stirring often until the setting point is reached, approximately 30 minutes.
The best way to check for doneness is the freezer plate method, which works well not just for marmelade, but for jams and jellies, too. Put a small plate in the freezer when you start cutting up your fruit. When the foam on top of the marmalade subsides and starts to thicken and »sheets » off a spatula held aloft, and the bubbles enlarge and look like fish eyes – this is Camilla speaking – then, put a teaspoon of marmalade on the freezer-cold plate and return to the freezer for 2 minutes. (Remove the marmalade if it seems very close to being done. You can always return it to the heat, but overcooking is next to impossible to undo.) After two minutes, » if the jam wrinkles like a silk shirt on the floor when pushed with your finger, says Camilla, it is ready. If not boil another 5 minutes, then try again. »
Once the setting point has been reached, remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will prevent separation (a layer of fruit sitting unattractively atop a layer of jellly). Remove the vanilla bean but don’t throw it out, Camilla says, it still has lots of flavour. Rinse it, leave it to dry out completely in a warm place (like on top of the oven), then tuck it into granulated sugar to make vanilla sugar, or save up a bunch and use them to infuse rum or whatever.
Laddle marmalade into the hot jars carefully up to 1/4 inch from the rim. Insert a stick to remove any air bubbles and wipe rims with a clean cloth. Place the lids on the jars and screw the bands on until fingertip-tight. Place jars on a surface covered with cloth and cover with yet a double layer of cloth to keep warm. You will hear the »pop » of sealed jars.
Camilla Wynne is a singular Montrealer, the founder of Preservation Society (www.preservationsociety.ca),
with a ‘penchant’ for slightly drunk concoctions, like her famous Caesar Celery (Oh, my God!).