Texas Grapefruit & Tahitian Vanilla Bean Marmalade

I had such high hopes for this marmalade: the flavor of the Rio Red grapefruit from G & S Groves was nothing short of amazing; the aroma of the fruit, simmering on the stovetop with Tahitian vanilla bean, was glorious; I was determined to add enough water this time, and enough sugar, to achieve the perfect trifecta of taste, appearance and texture. Well, as they say: 2 outta 3 ain’t bad.

Marmalade set is notoriously tricky: even experienced jammers have difficulties. The ratio of fruit:sugar and the process for this marmalade were almost identical to my Cara Cara marm, yet the set on that one was delightful, while the set on this one? Distinctly rock-like. (Maybe I just need to add tequila to everything?) Well, maybe not quite rock-hard, but definitely not spreadable. Which is a shame, because the flavor is outstanding: a burst of tangy, sunshiny citrus, just enough sugar to balance the bitter edge of the grapefruit peel, and the smooth, warm finish of tropical vanilla. The appearance is equally lovely, if you can get around the <ahem> slightly stiff texture: a lovely deep pink color (that my late-afternoon-winter-light photographs do not do justice), flecked throughout with lots of tiny brown-black vanilla seeds. It’s just that, to get any on toast, you’re going to have to microwave it, because there’s no way this baby is spreading straight out of the fridge. I could just pretend that it’s an aspic, ‘unmold’ it from the jar and slice it with a knife; although I truly dislike the word “aspic.” (It’s up there with “curd” on the list of Food Names that Should Never Have Been.) Maybe terrine? Texas Grapefruit & Tahitian Vanilla Bean Terrine. Say that 10 times fast, I dare you.

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Texas Grapefruit & Tahitian Vanilla Bean Marmalade

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lbs Rio Red grapefruit (preferably organic; I got mine from G & S Groves in Texas)
  • juice of 1 Meyer lemon
  • filtered water
  • 3 Tahitian vanilla beans, split lengthwise (I used the smaller, grade B, beans labeled “extract;” if using Grade A beans, reduce to 2 beans total)
  • 1 and ¾ lbs (3 and ½ cups) sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
  • pinch sea salt

METHODS

  1. Day 1. Scrub grapefruits well. Quarter fruits and trim off middle pith/membrane edge; remove any seeds. Slice each quarter lengthwise into 2 or 3 more sections. Thinly slice each section so that you yield tiny triangles of fruit + peel. Add grapefruit sections, along with as much of the juice as possible, to a large mearsing cup. Measure fruit and add the fruit, and equal volume of filtered water (mine was 4 cups fruit + 4 cups water), the lemon juice and vanilla beans to a wide pot or preserving pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; simmer for 10 minutes, then allow to cool slightly, transfer to a heat-safe bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Day 2. Transfer the fruit mixture to your preserving pan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, simmer for 10 minutes, then cool, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Day 3. Prepare canner, jars & lids.
  4. Tip the fruit mixture into your preserving pan. Add sugar and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Raise heat to high as you reach a boil; boil hard, stirring minimally, until you reach the set point, 220 degrees F on an accurate thermometer (see Options for a discussion on set for this recipe), about 35 – 50 minutes. Remove vanilla beans; snip each half bean into 2 or 3 pieces and reserve.
  5. Add 1 or 2 pieces of vanilla bean to each hot, sterilized jar, then ladle hot marmalade into jars to ¼-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Yields approximately 4 ½ cups.

OPTIONS

  1. While the flavor of this marmalade is outstanding, sadly, the set is much too firm for my liking, and I’m not quite sure why that is. Perhaps there was simply too much pectin and not enough sugar (although the amount of sugar here is close to the standard 1:1 fruit:sugar ratio recommended in most marmalade recipes). Perhaps I cooked it for too long, although I pulled it off the heat before it even reached 219 degrees F on my thermometer; maybe I should have added more water along the way, as the cooking time was quite long at 50 minutes. Maybe one less day of soaking would have produced less pectin and a less robust set.  I’m not really sure: the best I can do is guess. I’m sure I’ll repeat this recipe eventually, as the flavor is fantastic, and if I learn to better manage the set, I’ll report back.

STORE

Canned, in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.

SEASON

Winter.

13 comments

  1. I have read that the most accurate test for the setting point of preserves is temperature. However I completely disagree. I have some preserves I make that are done at 217 and others that need to cook past 220. So long as you are melting it in the microwave, drizzle it over vanilla ice cream.

    -Robin

  2. You know, I always use my thermometer, but at times I also supplement with the frozen plate test, the spoon test, and mostly, just by scraping the bottom of the pot and looking, smelling & listening. I think it is really more of an art than a science; but it’s difficult to write in a recipe “it’s done when it seems done.” You’ve got to give people something to test with and at least temperature is a solid piece of data – even if, I agree, it doesn’t always work the way you want it to.

    I suspect that if the the sugar:fruit:acid ratio is always exactly as it should be, then all preserves would hit the gel point at 220 degrees. But since I am always tweaking, those ratios are rarely constant, so…. I must live & learn. And learn. And learn. 🙂

  3. i would say it’s a marmbrillo…don’t feel bad miss, at least you got the taste down. i don’t know what i am going to do with my ruby red grapefruit marm -made 2 weeks ago. it’s both too sweet and too bitter. and i like bitter and sweet, so go figure.

    i agree with you about the exact ratio and the temperature. and let’s not forget about the differing amounts of fruit sugar. i find i rarely use the temperature method.

  4. Marmbrillo – love it!

    All of my screwed-up preserves end up as a glaze for meat: a little honey here, a little vinegar there, and you can fix most flavor profiles. I don’t know what to recommend for the veg set: glazed portabella mushrooms, perhaps? 🙂

  5. I made grapefruit marmalade and had the opposite problem. I can get the set on jams just fine, but after practically making taffy out of several jellies I bought a digital thermometer. So armed with my new thermometer I made grapefruit marmalade, followed the recipe and got it up to 220 and canned it. It’s peels and pulp in syrup. I’m still holding out for it to set as my kiwi jam took two weeks to get a good set, but I’m thinking I’ll probably have to reheat my marmalade.

  6. Hi Freckled,

    It sounds like a lack of pectin; without enough pectin, you can boil some fruit syrups forever and they will just candy, not gel. I’m not sure what process you are using, but it might help if you hold the fruit + peels overnight in water (or for an extra day) to boost the pectin concentration.

  7. Jyll

    I made blood orange and grapefruit marmalade last summer and a most interesting thing happened with my set. The marm is set in the middle with a protective barrier of syrup all the way around it – top, bottom and sides. It is so bizarre! Once I stir it in the jar, all is well, but the way it looked in the jar was so odd.
    Marm + spicy mustard = AMAZING dipping sauce for chicken or shrimp!

  8. I made grapefruit-habanero marmalade last week and it too was rock solid; it looked just like my first grapefruit marmalade when it was done, and the first one was perfect (well, a tiny bit firm). I pulled the grapefruit-habanero all the way up to 220 though, and the straight grapefruit marmalade just hit 218.

    I did find my grapefruit marmalade nearly too bitter for me, and was wondering what on earth I was going to do with two more jars of it. Fortunately, I had some on buttered toast the other day and that really was the cure. What I’m going to do with a too spicy marmalade though, I do not know!

  9. Sharon

    I just did an orange marmalade, adapted from another recipie, and it’s rock hard too. I informed my husband that I had invented the best EVER orange gumdrops!

  10. having the scientific mind that you do, i can see how the thermometer is your best friend! i try to use one when i’m first testing a recipe sometimes but, honestly, the freezer plate test works great for me: i turn the spoon to see how quickly it runs, then ask myself, how will the consistency end up after refrigeration.

    when all else fails: add a teaspoon to a cup of hot water to make tea, or add a teaspoon to your favorite vinaigrette recipe!

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