I was blessed to grow up in a musical family. My mother and her brothers (Mart and Tom) could harmonize like nobody's business. Uncle Mart's kids – my first cousins, Kevin, Kathy and Neil, specifically, are beyond musically talented – and their brother Bobby has a music collection that easily numbers in the high thousands. Then there is Kathy's honey Steve...wow is about the only word to describe his talent...and their children? Suffice it to say, music is in their blood.
Sweet Mary Alice harmonizing with brothers Tom & Mart Curran at her wedding, January 3, 1953.
I remember lounging in the living room on any given Sunday afternoon, learning the finer points of harmony with my mom. But it was around the age of 13 that I decided to teach myself how to play the guitar. Unlike my musically inclined relatives, I do not know how to read music, but I do play guitar by ear and I'm passable, at best. Mostly, it serves as a tool that allows me to break out into song when the proverbial spirit moves me. Of course, as I age, I do that anyway, axe in hand or not!
I am the proud owner of three guitars...a blonde Guild acoustic; a Takemine electric/acoustic; and a forest green Paul Reed Smith electric. The Takemine is by far my favorite, but the PRS is just plain pretty.
My PRS solid body in forest green...she's a beauty.
Music is an amazing unifier. My dearly departed brother, ChrisTurner, was a master at putting the perfect blend of tunes together for any given gathering. You would be sure to sing along, tap your feet or shake a tail feather at some point during one of his epic playlists.
My taste in music is all over the map, but you can rest assured something is playing as I start any cooking project.
This blog's reference is to Tommy Roe's gold record from 1970, "Jam Up and Jelly Tight" – a bubble gum pop tune that I would have sworn someone of renown might have covered by now, but alas, you can only hear his version in genuine hi-fi-mono here.
Back to jam. I've mentioned my stint at Grand Trunk Wine & Cheese, but what I didn't mention was my introduction to Stagg Jams (now named Brins Jams). During the Stagg phase, Grand Trunk carried a host of flavors...Rosemary Grapefruit, Banana Jam, Lemon Saffron...all still available, but it was the Spicy Orange (with red pepper and fennel) that rocked my world. So imagine my dismay when Brins bought the brand, but they discontinued that particular flavor! However, I'm a clever little princess and I have managed to create my own spicy delight...something I like to call "Hot Jams by Cooleen."
The label I put together for my jarred jams.
Being the tweaker that I am, I decided to forgo the fennel and focus on citrus and spice. My take is below.
NOTE: I am still honing my jam skills, so on occasion, even though I think my piping hot mixture has passed the jelling test, it still doesn't set after canning. Arrrgggh. Fear not, just pour all the jars into a large shallow pan and bake off at around 220ºF-250ºF for about 2-3 hours. Sterilize all jars and lids and re-can. Yes, it's an extra step, but it does further concentrate the flavors, providing an even deeper and richer finished product.
Hot Jams by Cooleen
6-8 Navel Oranges
Zest and fruit of all citrus (NOTE: use a strip zester to ensure no pith, and guarantee beautiful orange strands as shown below.)
For 3 cups prepared fruit: 2 3/4 cups water
For 4 cups prepared fruit: 3 1/8 cups water
4-6 cups sugar
1-1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
Supreme all oranges and lemons. To supreme (shown below), cut off all rinds. I start with the ends, then slice off the sides. The end product should look like this:
Then cut out each segment as shown above. Be sure to squeeze all cut rinds (you want the oils in there) and the core from segmenting into your bowl, along with the zested strips and fruit.
Add water and prepared fruit and zest into saucepan.
Heat to simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
Cool, cover and let stand in refrigerator overnight.
Prepare sterilized jars and lids. (https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-sterilize-canning-jars-1327595)
Measure fruit and liquid remaining in saucepan.
Add one cup sugar for each cup of fruit mixture.
Bring slowly to boiling, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Stir in dried chili flakes.
Cook rapidly to the "jellying point" (220ºF), about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. NOTE: some preserves will start to set after only 3-5 minutes at the setting point while others may take 15 minutes or even longer, so it is very important that you start testing for the setting point early so that you avoid over cooking your preserve. I leave several small plates in the freezer so I can test it...once it wrinkles, you are ready to can.
Pour hot marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.
Wipe jar rims and adjust lids.
Process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath (water should rise 1" above closed jars).
Remove from water and let stand overnight.
Marmalade will be shelf stable for one year.
A jar of spicy orange yumminess ready to eat or share.