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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Day 3. Prepare canner, jars & lids.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Canned, in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.