It’s no longer an obscure, yet mild, declaration. Actually, it never was, but I’m going to make it a thing. True story*, in Gone With the Wind, Scarlet originally uttered, “for the love of sweet, Georgia peaches, I’ll never go hungry again.”
I’ve gone through a lot of food blogs lately and, refreshingly, even the pros aren’t afraid to admit that there are some foods, even fairly common ones, that have only recently crossed their palates. Check out Thursday Night Smackdown‘s (not one, not two, but) three make-believe scenarios in which she first embraced pho, my favorite of which involves the Highlights magazine. With this in mind, (deep breath), here goes, before a few weeks ago, I had never had a blood orange. No Sunday brunch mimosas jazzed up with a little blood orange juice, no salmon with blood orange glaze, nothing. A while back, a friend passed on a great website to me, Food in Jars, where canning expert Marisa McClellan shares her wit, wisdom and recipes for all things pickled or preserved. Over the past few weeks, she’s posted several recipes using the seasonal citrus including this one for a small batch blood orange marmalade which I selected as my initial foray into canning. Knowing that I would be hard-pressed to find a blood orange a few months down the line and finally benefiting from the full use of MY OWN kitchen, I resolved to stock up on supplies.
My mother, LeeLee, stopped into my new West Philly pad for a brief visit on her way down to family in Atlanta. I took her to Chestnut Hill, a quaint, upscale neighborhood that benefits from a main street lined with specialty as well as practical boutiques and shops. It doesn’t matter how well-manicured a town is, if there are fifteen home decor showrooms within a stone’s throw, but no walkable post office or grocery, it’s not a place in which I’d care to spend my disposable income. We dropped into a few stores, hitting quite possibly my favorite shop in all of Philadelphia, Killian Hardware. This place is stocked to the gills with hardware essentials, restoration pieces, and I’ve been told that the downstairs, which requires special access, houses salvaged items from historic buildings. What I love most about the store, aside from the grandfatherly and extremely dapper proprietor, is the merchandise you couldn’t possibly expect to find within the range of household goods on the shelves. Happening upon a quirky item among cleaners, tools, and gardening paraphernalia is akin to finding an Easter egg. The Christmas before last, in search of seed packets for a stocking stuffer, I found the perfect vintage glass tree topper for my 3-footer tinsel tree, right next to a hand-held gardening hoe. This time around, in addition to stocking up on canning supplies – a canning rack, a jar funnel that fits regular and wide-mouth, and a jar lifter – I found this uniquely Philly showerhead that LeeLee purchased for me as a housewarming gift.
Before heading back to West Philly, we patronized the Weaver’s Way Co-op where I purchased an arms load of blood oranges. I got down to the business of blood orange trying my hand at this shrub, also known as a drinking vinegar. When it comes to finding appeal in ingesting a drink made of equal parts sugar, juice, and apple cidar vinegar, I seem to be in a company of roughly one. The health benefits are marvelous however, and mixed with Pellegrino in a ratio of 1:8, it makes for a tangy, fizzy drink. Really, I was just curious to get a look at the insides of the oranges. My hopes were that they would prove to be ruby red like their namesake; in this I was not disappointed.
The morning LeeLee left, I had every intention of serving english muffins with my homemade spread. In reality, a time efficient cook I am not, and I ended up funneling my jars roughly ten minutes after LL pulled away. As it was my first attempt, the jam turned out less runny then I’d prefer, having left it to reduce a little longer than I should. After removing the jars from their hot water bath and taking off the rings, probably a little prematurely, I only had one half-pint that sealed correctly. I immediately put the two half-pints that failed to seal in the fridge and ended up serving the contents of one of the failed jars with peach preserves, white wine vinegar and a bit of ground ginger as a delicious dipping sauce for awesome homemade baked coconut shrimp.
But I wasn’t nearly done with the blood oranges. Through my Tasteologie robot feed on twitter, I stumbled upon this recipe from Domestic Fits for brûléed blood orange and ricotta mini cheesecakes. To save time, energy, and word count, I’m not reposting any of the recipes but I’ve linked to all of them. If interested, click through. Some things to note with the cheesecakes: not in possession of so much as a lighter let alone a torch, I opted to skip the brûlée. Also, the recipe calls for 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed blood orange juice. Really? Only a quarter cup? After the cheesecakes had cooled enough to consume, aka a brief and impatient journey to the freezer, the general consensus was that they were okay but didn’t have much in the way of a citrusy flavor. I ended up juicing enough blood oranges to fill a cup and poured the juice over the congealed cakes. This added a burst of flavor and created beautiful patterns on the skins. Next time I make these, as they were certainly a hit after altering the recipe a bit, I will include a full cup’s worth of juice within the cheesecake mix as well as a half cup extra to spread over the top.
As the blood orange season winds down with the winter, I’ll once again walk the stalls of Reading Terminal and haunt the booths at the farmer’s market in search of a new seasonal ingredient to obsess over. For the love of blood oranges, I will.
*I lied, but it’s certainly makes for as good an exclamation if not better than “fiddle-dee-dee!” After all that talk of blood oranges, do you even remember that call back? I’ll help you out, the reference is in the first line of this long-winded narrative.