Beyond toast

Orange cake with touches of marmalade.

Wade Spees

Frequently when friends and neighbors have too much of a good thing, they will drop off their excess, leaving it on our piazza, sometimes without even a note, under the assumption that it will not go to waste.

In the case of the 20 Seville oranges, my friend Steve Hoffius emailed first to see if they were wanted, with assurances that these Lowcountry oranges indeed had a long pedigree and were guaranteed to be the real thing. Since the last time I had made orange marmalade with true Seville oranges was 1970, I leaped to the challenge and welcomed the oranges last week. (Some sources say they are on occasion available at Whole Foods and some other grocery stores, but I have not seen them there.)

Looking in my refrigerator and on pantry shelves came the realization there was another case of too much of a good thing. The holidays left a preponderance of jams and jellies, homemade and the finest store-bought, including three jars of orange marmalade. Was I sure I needed to add to the larder? Certainly not for toast. With what we had on hand, we would have to eat five pieces of toast a day or two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for years to come.

But jams and jellies have pulled me out of many a tight culinary spot. In my first stint as chef, in Majorca, Spain, the owners had a favorite recipe allegedly from the Jockey Club in Madrid, Spain, which mixed a goodly portion of dry Maderia or Port with a touch of red currant jelly and Dijon mustard, making a sauce to be served with lamb. Their other idea was to brush roasted duck with orange marmalade or red currant jelly for the last few minutes of roasting.

Famed chef Paul Prudhomme even made the sauce for his famous coconut shrimp using orange marmalade. Making a list of what to cook to use up my jams and jellies justified making the new batch.

After making the list, it was time, with the help of my new assistant, Daniel McKnight, to finish the marmalade.

Oh, and the marmalade on the shelves was used to make three recipes dance in the mouth rather than be the same old thing.

There is a wide variance of types of jams and jellies. If thick and clogged with fruit, it might be better used as a filling for a cake or as a tart, to maximize the fruit. If needing as a glaze, bring to a boil with some water or wine in a small pot, strain and use the glaze when hot. If a thin jelly, such as many apricot jellies, heat and use as is. Adapt the recipe to the product at hand. Do not put any leftover fruit or glaze back in the jar as it will tend to mildew the whole jar. Instead, move to a small plastic bag or container and mark well for the next time.

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 boned chicken breasts

1 to 2 tablespoons oil and butter, mixed

1/4 to 1/2 cup orange marmalade per chicken breast

Freshly chopped herbs (optional) or red chili flakes

Directions

Pound the breasts slightly to lay flat. This will also enable them to become glazed faster, making sure the jam won’t burn before they are ready.

Heat the oil and butter together in a large frying pan until sizzling. Add the chicken breasts in one layer to the pan and cook on one side 3 minutes. Turn with tongs and continue to cook until the internal temperature is 165 or 170 degrees. Remove from stove top and brush or spoon over marmalade and optional herbs or chili flakes.

This may be cooked, covered and refrigerated for a day or two or frozen. When ready to cook, bring to room temperature and put on a pan in hot 400-degree oven a few minutes, until warmed through and the glaze is melted. Can also be reheated in the microwave, time depending on the amount being heated. (If using right away, wrapping pan handle in aluminum foil to protect it and heat in hot oven as above.)

Serves 2-4

Ingredients

1 to 2 tablespoons oil and butter, mixed

1 pork tenderloin, approximately 1-1/4 pounds

Salt

Freshly grated black pepper

1/4 to 1/2 cup orange marmalade

Freshly chopped herbs (optional)

Directions

Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan until sizzling. Meanwhile season the tenderloin with salt and pepper. Add the tenderloin to the pan and brown on first side. Turn and brown as needed to brown all over. Cover and cook until a thermometer registers 135 to 140 degrees. Remove lid and brush with orange marmalade and optional herbs.

This may be made ahead and refrigerated covered up to two days. When ready to serve, recover and let cook on stovetop a few minutes, until the marmalade is melted and meat is finished cooking to 140 degrees or desired temperature.

Variation: If desired, add 1/4 cup Dijon mustard to 1/2 cup of the marmalade before mixing with optional herbs and brushing on tenderloin.

Variation: For oven-cooked pork tenderloin with orange marmalade, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season meat with salt and pepper. Move to a small baking pan, tucking the thinner part (the “tail) of the tenderloin under the end of the meat. Move to the hot oven and cook 20 minutes,or until a thermometer registers 135 to 140 degrees. This may be made ahead and refrigerated covered up to two days. When ready to serve, brush with marmalade and optional herbs and return to oven until marmalade is melted and meat is desired temperature.

Making orange marmalade in the United States is quite a different thing than making it in Spain or England. For one thing, we don’t have the traditional Seville oranges. For this reason, we use Valencia (Florida) or other thin-skinned Florida oranges.

I’ve tried many marmalade recipes, and wound up with this compromise. Valencia oranges are juice oranges, and frequently have green blemishes. They should be used “as is” with no concern for their exterior markings. It’s a messy business to slice them so small. A small cutting board that enables you to catch the juices is a help.

The pith (the white part) of the orange may be scraped off or not, depending on your taste and how thick it is. The thicker the white is, the more bitter the marmalade will be. When less than a 1/2 inch, I leave it on as taking it off is arduous. If the pith is removed, it should be added to a square of cheesecloth and used in the cooking of the marmalade, along with the seeds, which aids the marmalade in gelling.

Ingredients

6 Valencia oranges

11 cups water

8 cups granulated sugar

Directions

Scrub the oranges, cut in half and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Remove and save the seeds before moving to a large pot. Cover with the water. Drape a tea towel over the top, and weigh down the oranges by positioning a heavy lid on top of the towel and let the oranges soak overnight.

Remove the oranges from the water, reserving the soaking liquid. Cut into small shreds, about 1/4-inch pieces, again saving the seeds. Scrape away the pith if you don’t like a bitter marmalade. Wrap the seeds and any rind and/or pith in a piece of cheesecloth, tie and return with the oranges to the pot with the soaking liquid. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook for 1 hour. Add the sugar and continue boiling until the mixture is a dark caramel color, thick and jelly-like.

Meanwhile, move two or three small plates to the freezer. To determine if the marmalade is ready, spoon a small amount onto one of the cold plates. With a spoon, or your finger if it is cool enough, make a line through the center. If the line remains and doesn’t join together, then the marmalade is finished. (Remove the other plates!)

Many recipes called for boiling the oranges whole for an hour, before slicing them and continuing to cook the sliced oranges. I found it every bit as satisfactory to slice the oranges, soak them overnight, and then cook them with the sugar. But do what is easier for you.

The sugar, like any sugar syrup, needs to be dissolved before the mixture starts to boil to prevent crystallization. The large amount of acid helps in preventing crystallization, however.

Use a heavy wide pan. I use an old copper jelly-making pan I purchased years ago, thinking it would be too big, but in fact it was just right.

Never double a jam or marmalade recipe unless you are willing to experiment. Jams “change” when made in large amounts.

The marmalade thickens as it cools, and even gets thicker once in the jars, so don’t over cook.

To distribute the fruit evenly, continue to turn the closed jars until cool.