Why I Boiled a Grapefruit
As I was running errands the other day, I was listening to a podcast of NPR's The Splendid Table (one of my favorites, despite the fact I can never disassociate it from the famous SNL “Schweddy Balls” sketch). Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the host, was interviewing a cook and author who described a fabulous citrus marmalade made with pink grapefruit and lemon. I love me some pink grapefruit, and since I had one in the fridge, I decided that making a batch of marmalade would be just the thing to do on a freezing January afternoon while trapped at home with two small children. When I got home, I dug my grapefruit out and looked up the recipe.
Although I feel confident that the Lemon and Pink Grapefruit Marmalade recipe Lynne was discussing makes excellent marmalade, I have much too short an attention span to make any recipes that include the phrase “Day 1 …”, so I poked around on the net until I found this simpler recipe for Pink Grapefruit Marmalade, Nigella Style from learntopreserve.com. It’s adapted from recipe by Nigella Lawson, and since Nigella is a registered Brit, clearly she knows her marmalade.
The first thing to do, according to this recipe, is to throw a grapefruit in a pan with some water and boil the m-er f-er for about two hours. Then, you chop the whole thing up, mix it with sugar and lemon juice, and cook it down. After 15 minutes of bubbling, the ingredients meld in the pan, and voila, you have beautiful jewel-like bits of grapefruit rind in a lovely, pungent pink jelly that you can now put in a jar and spoon on toast. Now, if you start with a perfectly ripe, succulent, sweet ruby red grapefruit, I am sure that is what you would get. What I started with was a questionable grocery store grapefruit that had been sitting in my fridge for two weeks. Then I boiled it for two hours.
I really should have known from the smell that it emitted, that this was going to be a fail. Unflagged, I chopped it up anyway. I took this stinky, bloated, body-temperature, inside-of-a-taun-taun-looking grapefruit and minced the holy hell out of it, hoping that the large quantities of sugar I put in next would magically cure whatever was wrong with it. It didn’t.
I put in more sugar, more lemon, and I even went so far as to put in one of the fat Madagascar vanilla beans from my pantry stash (which will usually fix nearly anything thanks to their magical vanilla powers) in an attempt to fix it. It didn’t.
What I made may have been pink, and it may have had the sexy little vanilla caviar specks in it, but whatever it was still tasted mostly like two-week-old boiled grapefruit. In the end, I did put the "marmalade" into a jar, but it was purely ceremonial. Eating it was like smearing the back of an envelope on toast.
So, grapefruit marmalade, I have learned a valuable lesson, one I am sad to say that the boys in 8th grade may have had right: When a girl has good grapefruits, it makes all the difference. I will plan to see you again another day, my friend, preferably when I can score some high quality Indian River ruby reds.
3/17/2014 09:07:33 am
I identify completely with this type of fail, particularly suited to unused produce and high hopes for a miraculous transformation that would justify its having been purchased. My mother's voice saying, "It's perfectly good" and Kirstie Alley envisioning John Travolta peeling away the outside leaves of a half-head of iceberg he found in the garbage in "Look Who's Talking"-- these are the things lurking in my subconscious that prompt my forays into produce-saving recipe searches. Thank you for giving me validatation outside of my family and embarassingly bad comedy films of the 80s-90s.
3/18/2014 08:54:03 am
Try adding star anise! Broil with star anise and a little sugar. Maybe maple sugar. Beautiful.
3/18/2014 08:54:41 am
Oh, and in this case I mean broil, not boil. Ugh.
3/18/2014 10:04:18 am
Amanda, love your blog and the grapefruit misadventure made me laugh. Failure has it's own special rewards!
3/18/2014 03:09:48 pm
Glad the grapefruit fail has made you smile, guys. Will try that star anise thing next time!
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Hi. I'm Amanda Dobbs.