Carrot Orange Marmalade
The best way I know to share my love of good food is to make edible gifts, and this Carrot Orange Marmalade is at the top of my list. Marmalade is one of those old-fashioned condiments, used mostly for toast, yet can also be served as a side to baked chicken or on a cheese plate.
An easy recipe that any cook can handle, it is especially welcome this time of year, with carrots still relatively fresh from the garden. The colors are cheerful and the flavor of the orange combined with the carrots makes it both sweet and sour, a great way to start the day.
2 pounds carrots, peeled and shredded (yield 4 cups)
4 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar
Slice the lemons and oranges in half and remove seeds. Keep the peels on, for their extra pectin. Chop halves into smaller pieces, and process in a food processor until fine bits remain.
In a large thick-bottom saucepan over medium heat, combine the lemons, orange, shredded carrots, water, and sugar. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until thick and syrupy. Seal in 1/2 pint clean and sterilized mason jars and seal with clean tops. Invert upside down to seal the top. Process in a hot water bath as follows:
Place in a hot water bath by filling a stockpot with water and bringing to a boil. Add the jars and enough water to cover by one-inch water over the tops of the jars. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Lift from the hot water bath, and cool on the counter until you hear the lid pop. Wipe the jar clean, label with name and date.
PDF Version: Carrot Orange Marmalade
A Recipe for Entertaining: Taking time at the table
I grew up in a family who loved to entertain. Saturday night dinner parties were part of the regular routine. Even though my mother worked full time, she was organized and efficient in the kitchen. Saturday mornings, right after the breakfast dishes were cleared, the iron frying pan would come out of the cupboard and a big batch of sliced onions would begin to simmer in olive oil. “To do” lists would begin on scraps of paper – one for my father and one for me.
My first job was to set the table. To fit enough placements to match the guest list, I’d have to wedge an extra leaf into the center of the table. Granny’s silver would come out of hiding from under the stairs, new candles were trimmed for the candelabra, and fancy wine glasses were lifted carefully from the back of the cupboard. I loved the way my mother included me in her preparations, even though she would not let me near the food.
We would work all day getting ready, and it seemed like everything always took more time to take out than to put away the next day. While she simmered and stirred in the kitchen, Vivaldi music filled the house, my father readied the bar with wide-mouthed glasses, ice cubes, slices of lemons and limes, and a big bottle of Angostura bitters for his favorite mixed cocktail. I made place cards for the table, decorated with a tiny drawing of a daisy or a heart. An hour before guests arrive, the thermostat in the living room would be turned up a few extra notches so the house was toasty.
My parents knew how to cosset their guests, and a successful party meant lingering at the table until almost midnight. Many years later in my own house, I tried to recreate my parents’ efforts, and quickly realized that what looked effortless was actually an enormous labor of love. I spent far too much money on food, buying the best cut of beef or splurging on fresh shrimp. It took several days to plan the menu, seeking out dishes with mysterious spices to impress guests. More often than I care to admit, by the time guests arrived I would still be at the stove in my splattered apron. The table would still need to be set, and I would be exhausted from standing for so many hours in the kitchen. It was hard to relax and enjoy the company, or the food.
But it’s different now.
Over the years, I have relaxed around entertaining, and, like traveling, the more I do, the easier it becomes. One way I limit the entertainment anxiety is to entertain two nights in a row, because the cooking and the set-up are then minimized, and my routine is established allowing me to sit back and enjoy what happens around the table.
I also realized that it is not just about the food; now I focus mostly on making my guests feel welcome. Food is secondary to creating a comfortable atmosphere and inviting guests who enjoy the banter and getting to know each other. This has allowed me to entertain more often.
Entertaining has changed since my parent’s generation, as well as the way we eat meals. Even my parents, who always ate at the dining table, now bring trays into the TV room to watch the news while they eat. Holidays bring out the best in all of us when it comes to food and entertaining, while building a healthy respect for the traditions of coming together at the table. Winter is a great time to invite friends over, because the truth is, once you’ve got out the good china, and the silverware is polished, this may be the best time of year to entertain.