Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tasting The Bitterness Of Life...

Hassaku Marmalade

One of the students of the language school I work for gave me a few hassaku oranges the other day. Now, I hate to say this but I'm not too crazy about hassaku. It's not easy to peel it like tangerine, and the white part can be quite bitter. Unless the fruit is very ripe and sweet, the bitterness from the pulp can really ruin the overall taste, and I often get disappointed.

So, instead of eating them right away, I decided to make marmalade with them. That way I would be able to do something about the bitterness, I thought. It was not my first time making marmalade out of citrus fruit with bitter rind and pulp, such as konatsu. I had a great success before, and the key was rubbing the shredded rind with salt thoroughly before boiling and soaking it in water. That should work for hassaku oranges, too, I thought.
How naive of me.

I spent so much time doing this:

... and this:
I rubbed these rind strips with salt, then boiled them, drained them, boiled again, drained again and repeated that for a couple more times. After that, I soaked them in water for at least three hours.

Then added the flesh to the rind and cooked with a good amount of sugar.

The result was...

Gosh it was DARN B-I-T-T-E-R!! :O WHY????

I didn't get it. The rind didn't taste bitter very much when I tasted it before cooking. But for some reason, the marmalade turned out VERY bitter.

Now how can you save bitter marmalade? I know something fatty can make bitterness milder, but I don't want any fatty stuff in my marmalade. Maybe more sugar and ... alcohol? Because in my hometown we use distilled spirit to remove astringent taste from persimmons... Finally I ended up cooking the marmalade again with more sugar and generous amount of leftover Myers's Rum.

You know what? It helped!! The rum really added pleasant flavor and the bitterness became tolerable. But still it takes some courage to eat this hassaku marmalade on toasted bread or with yogurt.

And I even tried combining it with something fatty, i.e. butter. I baked some into buttery pound cake.

This cake certainly smelled heavenly with the butter and the rum. If the aftertaste of the hassaku rind did not ruin the harmony at the end, I could have called this cake a great success.
- Sigh -

So what did I learn from this experience? Often hard work does not get rewarded? That's Life? Or it is always sugar and booze that reduces the bitterness of life? :P



K and S said...

glad you were able to save the marmalade!

Amelia said...

"sugar and booze reduces the bitterness of life?"
That sounds really true!

Anonymous said...

easy- pack it up with a ribbon, and give it as a homemade gift to someone who has been unpleasant to you when you move away to the country :)

Anonymous said...

My german grandmother always topped off her home-made marmelade with rum, too. For preservation, she said. Makes me all nostalgic, especially since I can't cook marmelade.
I think your lesson is: You knew you didn't like the fruit from the start, trust your instincts!

Anonymous said...


I'm sorry to hear about your futile attempts, but you've managed to make everything better in the end! That sounds a lot of satisfaction to me! =D

Sugar and booze eases the bitterness? Too much of both increase bitterness! Come, here's rubbing your back. =)

Anonymous said...

Looks delicious as usual!
It make my mouth water!


Anonymous said...

Obachan, I've been wondering why you are moving to your parents home town, and what you will do there, will you live with your parents too? It sounds very relaxing, and wonderful, I wish you all the best in your move!

rokh said...

life is bittersweet :)

obachan said...

K & S
Yeah, Saved...maybe... but not quite.

Amelia Yap
Hahaha. ;)

:D !!
Best advice ever!

So my using rum for marmalade was not a strange idea. Good!
Maybe instincts are often right, but I think it's also true that cooking can do magic and turn the ingredients you don't like into something tasty. I'd rather believe in the magic and keep experimenting with different ideas.

I don't know if I can call it "satisfaction" but yeah, I felt much better after my attempt with more sugar and rum.

And you are right about too much sugar and booze. That's very true!

Thank you. Actually some people may like this much bitterness in marmalade (but not me).

Thanks. I wrote about the reason in my previous post, and still I'm asking myself, over and over, "Was it a right decision?" But I know it's time for a change.

Oh, it's so very true, too.
Isn't it amazing how something like marmalade can make us this philosophical?

Anonymous said...

maybe you can use it to make a glaze for chicken. do a search for ORANGE MARMALADE CHICKEN.



obachan said...

Thanks, Mura.
I did a google search and yeah, orange marmalade chicken must be a good idea. I don't know how the bitterness would affect the taste of chicken, but it does look worth trying. :D