I was so pleased with the taste of my Sweetie-based three-citrus marmalade from earlier this month that I rashly decided to enter it in one of four competitions at last week’s Mad for Marmalade celebration, organized by the Culinary Historians of Canada. It’s an annual event, but this is the first time I’ve managed to attend, despite frequent pleas from fellow blogger/jam maker at Eat Locally, Blog Globally. And it’s certainly the first time in my life that I’ve entered a cooking competition.
Of course it might have helped if I had read the instructions before deciding which marmalade to enter, as there’s a lot of emphasis on the clarity of jelly and the texture of the final jam. “Do not add dry pulp,” the judges’ comments said firmly in the section that gave me just 1 out of 5 for texture. (I like adding dry pulp. I like the taste, and I like the extra fruitiness in what was, after all a made-up recipe.) I also lost points for leaving in a couple of seeds, although my peel scored well, which means it was “cut into attractively fine, even pieces, evenly distributed, good proportion of rind to jelly, translucent to clear, tender; not chewy.”
But the judges gave me 4 out of 5 for taste, which is what really matters to me. And I didn’t come in last.
The event itself was a lot of fun, if only because it was so good to be in the company of a whole group of women and men (mostly women) who think it’s quite normal to transform oranges into marmalade, and who can talk knowledgeably about the amount of pectin in a strawberry, and whether blueberry apricot jam is a good combination. I happen to be one of those who think it isn’t; the dark purple of the blueberry jam completely drowns out the beautiful golden apricot and the two flavors fight with each other. But one jammer said it was the best thing he had ever made.
Among a series of morning workshop options, I signed up for Italian Marmalade, which turned out to be very similar to non-Italian Marmalade, except that the chef used a mandolin to slice the fruit and then simmered it away for the whole of the seminar. We got to taste lemon gelato, made with cream, which was seriously yummy, and enjoyed a lunch of chicken, salads and pasta. I’m even inspired to try candied peel again, if the historical method outlined wasn’t quite such a long and painful process.
I’ll update the blog when I get a chance to taste my Italian marmalade, but I have a lot of made-by-me stuff to get through first. The latest experiment — blood orange, regular orange and lemon, which has red streaks from the pulp. I guess that would have scored even fewer points.
And I’ve found new uses for my marmalade, which opens the horizons well beyond the marmalade-peanut butter sandwiches I take on the bicycle rides.
1. A very small spoon of marmalade adds a tang and a chew to my morning slow-cooked oatmeal
2. I’ve never liked marmalade in yogurt (the sourness and bitterness just don’t seem to go together), but it works like a charm mixed in with cottage cheese. Try it. You’ll be surprised.