Sour Orange Jelly (Waste Not Want Not Challenge)
A delicious recipe for the tastiest, sweet and zingy citrus jelly!
And at the bottom, some final, honest thoughts on what unexpectedly became a four post journey into slow living and reconsidering our relationship with food and food waste.
When last we left our colossal basket of Seville oranges (which have a flavor somewhat of a Meyer lemon), I had asked you to peel 10 of them to make an absolutely addictive Sour Orange Limoncello, leaving you with 10 bald bitter oranges. That is a lot of bald sour orange, my friend, particularly when the goal is using all of the oranges.
And that's where orange jelly comes to the rescue! It has all the bright zesty citrus flavor of marmalade, but none of that bitter bite that comes from the pith and peel. It's been a crowd favorite this holiday season, and I'm keeping several small pots on hand as hostess gifts, since it will last quite a while.
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3 cups sour orange juice
2 cups navel orange juice
5 cups sugar
1 packet powdered pectin
Place plate in freezer. Combine sugar and orange juices in large non-reactive pot. Watching carefully to prevent overflow, bring to boil.
Cook until juice mixture is greatly reduced, add pectin. Stir. Continue to boil for additional 5 minutes.
Spoon small amount of jelly onto chilled plate from freezer. Tilt plate to test consistency. Continue cooking until desired consistency is reached.
Spoon into prepared jars and can, or store in clean jars in fridge for up to one month (or if you're like me, until mold shows up. I have homemade raspberry habanero jam in my fridge that was never canned and is well over a year old. I eat it regularly, it is still amazing. But do your own research and make your own choices!)
Viola! That's it! Super simple, right? Enjoy on toast or a melty ham and cheese sandwich!
And now, for my final thoughts...
When I received that basket of sour oranges and challenged myself not to waste any of them, during a season where so many are without, I had no idea how much of an impact this would have on my thought process and approach to food. It was serendipitously timed with reading the first couple chapters of Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Eating Animals. (Two disclaimers: I haven't finished this book quite yet, and I have no plans to become a vegetarian or vegan. We may delve into that later on the blog, but today is not that day.)
I had never realized how much of a commodity food has become, and reading the chapters about the author's grandmother surviving both the Holocaust and near starvation struck a chord. How often do we ask each other "What do you feel like eating?"
Think about that for a long moment.
We eat what we feel like, and throw out or leave behind what we don't. Eating is subject to our whims, not our needs. I had never thought of the preciousness of food, because we live in culture swimming in it. I've never had to. I thought about the nutrition and certainly the calories, the food miles, and disposing of it. Composting my waste was enough. I didn't worry about food. That's not the American way.
And then came this massive basket of sour oranges. Their bitterness posed a challenge, but it made me think of oranges as more than just food. The potpourri caused me to realize how important small pleasures are to my wellbeing - I am notoriously terrible at self-care. It also made me realize that food past its prime still has incredible value outside the kitchen. So often we throw it away because it's ugly or scares us. We don't know our food unless it's perfect, it becomes something foreign and to be feared once it is past its picture-perfect prime.
The sour orange marmalade was delicious, and helped me rekindle my love of decompressing in the kitchen. I love playing with my food. I love preserving it, and most of all I love sharing it. Biting into that candied peel on my morning toast made me contemplate how little we consume of the edible parts of foods, which led to some serious trial and error involving radish greens, which are not on the blog for a dang good reason. Let's keep it honest.
The sour orange limoncello was easy, scrumptious, and festive. But then came the leftover bald oranges.
Frankly, I was exhausted.
I have a lot on my plate without this blog, my dog was heading into surgery, and this journey into zero food waste and slow living during the holidays almost brought me to tears by the end. Slow living in a hyper-speed world is an incredibly hard transition, and it's best done in bits and pieces, I hear. But then I had a moment in my citrus-hurricane-swept kitchen on the verge of a stress cry when I looked around and realized exactly how far that basket of homegrown, backyard-farmed sour oranges had taken me.
This humble basket of not-quite-pretty and not-quite-easily edible sour oranges completely changed the way I look at food and consumerism. It brought delicious nourishment into my home, and the homes of others, and will continue to do so in its preserved form. It took work, sure, but this one basket of Seville oranges ended up having such a massive ripple effect. Why couldn't each of us do the same in the world?
And that - and the lingering smell of citrus oil that seeped into my skin - made it all worth it.