Olives, olives, everywhere, and nary a one to eat.
The great olive-curing experiment continues: Old brine has been replaced with fresh, and makeshift containers have been replaced with large, homey Ball jars, now neatly stored in a box at the side of the kitchen. It will be months before they are edible, a moment I optimistically assume will come to pass.
During our frequent discussions of the olive situation, talk naturally turns to other produce, but when my father mentions Seville oranges, I get excited. I have been told that marmalade made from Seville oranges is magical.
Maybe I should learn how to make marmalade, he says.
It’s easy, I tell him. I email him a series of recipes for Seville orange marmalade. He emails me a shipping notice: A crate of Satsumas should arrive by Christmas.
Satsuma, or Seville?
Satsuma, he says. A crate of them.
Satsumas are lovely, of course, but as oranges go, they are pretty much the opposite of Sevilles. I say that like I’m an expert on oranges, which I’m not, although I’m well on way given the amount of research I did when I discovered vast quantity of them on my doorstep the day after Christmas – too large an amount for two people to eat before they go bad, especially given that the two people in question had bought a small box of tangerines at Whole Foods while shopping for the correct type of sea salt for brining olives.
No less an authority than Alton Brown claimed I could make marmalade from the Satsumas, so I followed his recipe, increasing the lemon and cooking the marmalade to the oddly specific temperature of 223 degrees fahrenheit, then testing it on a chilled plate.
It didn’t set.
I let it simmer some more, while the temperature held at the 223 degree mark, and tested again on the plate: Not set.
I simmered. I repeated. I tested again.
The marmalade got a bit less runny, but the temperature began to increase, and when it finally hit 225 degrees and seemed semi-jelled on a plate, I poured it into nine small glass jars, sealed them, and processed them.
The next morning, I discovered that in following the most precise jam instructions I’d ever seen in a recipe, I had, for the first time, made jam that failed to set. The little bit that I’d set aside in the refrigerator was chilled, but also runny.
It’s tasty, to be sure, and I’ve mostly forgiven Alton Brown, because failure is nothing if not inspirational: I bought a book on jam-making that was once recommended to me by a jam-seller at a farmer’s market (Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber), and then invested in a snazzy French jam making pan. I educated myself on sugar-to-fruit ratios. I read extensively on the topic of pectin.
I’m sure it will all result in some extraordinary jam, sometime in the not-too-distant future, but as things currently stand, I have an abundance of first-rate Satsumas that I have no hope of finishing before they turn. Something would have to be done, and my usual solution – bake it into a cake of some sort – was off the table, so to speak. After all the excess of the holiday season, I don’t want cake. I want things that taste light and clean.
I found this recipe for sorbet on the Serious Eats website, which in turn gives the source as Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. It’s absurdly simple – all you need is a juicer and an ice cream maker, although you could squeeze the juice by hand if you wanted to, and if you follow the instructions on the original recipe, there is no mention of an ice cream maker, so I may be overstating the amount of equipment you need by quite a bit.
I used both, though, and I’ve amended the instructions accordingly. The lime adds a refreshing, tart twist to the light sweetness of the mandarin, and the flavors stay fresh because the juices aren’t cooked – only the sugar syrup is, and only briefly. It’s a nice treat for those who began the year with resolutions, and those who didn’t, alike.
And something to enjoy while the olives brine.
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 2½ cups fresh satsuma juice (or tangerines, if you prefer)
- 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
- Make a simple syrup: whisk together the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, whisking, until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is clear. Remove from the heat and cool completely.
- In a bowl, stir together the sugar syrup, and juices. Taste and add more lime juice, if needed, to create the sweet-tart balance you prefer. Strain through a sieve. Cover with and refrigerate overnight. Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.