Thursday, January 12, 2017

General Tso's Marmalade

On the Asian lunar calendar 2017 is the Year of the Rooster (technically starting on January 28). Over the summer I took this pic of a giant blue rooster to have to show off now-ish, but I didn't record and can't remember any details, which rather limits commentary. Ah well, Happy New Year!

Giant blue rooster

Apropos of the new year and in tribute to the recently departed Peng Chang-kuei, creator of General Tso's chicken, and for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge (January is marmalade), I put up a half-batch of what I'm calling General Tso's marmalade. I love its deep orange color and intense orange flavor.

This was my first attempt at making marmalade. I blithely tweaked the original recipe which calls for Tabasco sauce by subbing red pepper flakes for a more Hunan-style flavor. Because it's a cut rind recipe, which eliminates much of the natural pectin in citrus, I was concerned about overly soft set and instead misjudged its done-ness, even with the aid of a thermometer. The set turned out so hard, the marmalade stays in place even if the jar is inverted. Oops. Initially the cook's share had very little fire, but as time passes it's getting hotter and hotter! Next time, I'd cut the peel into bigger pieces than the fine julienne I used this time, include more pith, and work for a softer set and corresponding higher yield.

General Tso's marmalade

The plan is to use the marmalade as a meat glaze. I tried the cook's share on lamb chops and like the flavor better than mint jelly. That texture, though, and the challenge of prising it out of the jar. Happily, the Food in Jars can-along community has suggestions (no crowbar needed!) – gentle warming in a water bath softens the marmalade nicely. The group also has historical perspective: in the Middle Ages, hard set was the standard. So my marmalade isn't too hard, it's medieval! Er, maybe that's not entirely positive either?

I'm not very fond of marmalade, or perhaps I should say I haven't been. Now that I've concentrated and preserved the essence of orange I will readily agree with Maggie Smith as the trenchantly snobbish Constance, Countess of Trentham, in Gosford Park: "Bought marmalade? Oh dear, I call that very feeble." Homemade is so much better than anything storebought that I've tried, there's truly no comparison.

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