Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When Life Gives You Pomelos, Make Marmalade

Life handed me a pomelo in yesterday's yoga class. Literally. One moment everything was the same as usual. A few minutes later there was a large pomelo lying next to my bag.

I figured this was the work of my yoga friend Amit, who knew I had been scouting round for pomelos a few weeks ago, with little success. And now, when I was least expecting it, here sat this large, round, extremely bitter-sour fruit, waiting for me to take it home.

So of course, yesterday was devoted to pomelo cutting and cooking. I had been growing curiouser and curiouser about jams in general and marmalades in particular. They sounded so tedious to make, yet what if the process was really not that bad? I wondered how proper home made jams would taste, especially because the jammy kind of fruit are expensive and short lived in India and commercial jams are often too sweet. I read several recipes and realized that one had various options in jam making - one could choose high pectin fruit, use apples as a natural pectin source, lemons as a source of acid and unsealed bottles would also last a couple of months in the refrigerator. After thinking about it for some time, I figured that pomelo would be a good place to begin.

Pomelos (as I wrote earlier) are making a come back in Bangalore. However, this variety of pomelo is not easy to eat - it's extremely sour and dry compared to many other kinds. It's also very large and there's only so much pomelo one would like for breakfast! Anyway - when I went looking for them, they were elusive but when I finally put the thought of pomelos out of my mind, I promptly received one!

Yesterday I put together a couple of recipes and began work by peeling the rind, removing the flesh and chopping the bitter, pectin-rich pith (which comprises about half of the fruit) into chunks. Everything was thrown into a large pan (the pith was tied in a muslin cloth) along with a specific amount of water and left to slowly simmer, soften and thicken. Then I removed the pith and added some sugar (about 80% of the weight of the fruit), stuck a thermometer to the side of the pan and calculated that I would need a temperature of 215 degrees F in Bangalore to reach setting point. The mixture finally began looking and smelling like jam though it took a while for the temperature of the syrup to rise. Once the jam was cooked, it had to be cooled and then bottled.

At this stage the pretty pink shades were replaced by a beautiful glowing orange and the jam tasted bitter-sweet - just the way I would describe life! I have put it into small jars to distribute; the first jar of course is kept aside for Amit and Tracy, in thanks for their thoughtfulness. The rest we shall eat in small amounts everyday.

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