I'm so lucky to live in a neighborhood filled with mature, lovely fruit trees. All kinds. Pomegranate, tangerine, lemon, lime, persimmon, avocado, you name it. But this is a story about me and my Phillipino next-door-neighbor, and the orange tree that brought us together.
Since I moved to this neighborhood, I've tried to get to know as many people as possible. I love pretending like I live in a small town, where we all know each other's business. That's really not how it works in Silicon Valley. Not at all. Often times people are so busy you might not know them at all. Other times there's a language barrier, as is the case with my next-door-neighbor.
We've always been friendly, he has a huge smile, always waves at me when I come out of the house with the kids. He likes to come up to the baby and uses hand gestures to express how much she's grown.
For years now, I've watched his lush orange tree from over our backyard fence, filled with more oranges than one family could ever dream of consuming. Every year I watch as orange rot and fall from the tree. It actually pains me. I've considered several times just sneaking over the fence in the middle of the night…but you know…I don't really want to be an orange-burgler.
I finally got the nerve to find some way to bridge the communication divide in hopes of arranging a citrus swap. His oranges for my tangerines. I saw him in the front yard, ran back through my house, into my backyard, grabbed a tangerine from the tree and sheepishly approached him. I pointed at his orange tree and then pointed at my tangerine. Trade? I said. He seemed to understand. I went and picked a bag of tangerines and brought it to him. He was happy. I love that smile. I had errands to run so I left from there. When I returned home there were two giant bags of oranges on my front porch, and ever since, they've appeared weekly. Much more than I could even consume myself. And I have to admit my guilt over the fact that his oranges were far superior to my tangerines.
So I decided to make it up to him, and put those oranges to use by making some orange habanero chili marmalade. When I presented him with it, he seemed amazed. He later attempted to ask me how I was able to do that – as though I were a magician! I began to explain but he quickly shook his head and waved me off. Obviously making marmalade is a little too complicated to attempt to explain in hand gestures. So I'll just continue to leave little jars on his porch and let him think me quite clever.
Orange Habanero Chili Marmalade
2 1/2 lbs oranges, unpeeled, scrubbed, thinly sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
6 cups water
3-5 dried habanero chili peppers (3 for mild, 4 medium, 5 spicy!)
9 cups granulated sugar
In a stainless steel saucepan, combine oranges, lemon zest, lemon juice and water.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, reduce heat to maintain a gentle boil and stir occasionally for 40 minutes. Add chili peppers, continue to stir occasionally for another 30 minutes. Remove chili and discard peppers.
Increase heat to medium-high and boil, stirring constantly. Add sugar. Boil hard until mixture begins to gel. Test for the gel point by inserting a candy or jelly thermometer into the mixture (be sure not to touch the pan). You want it to reach 220 degrees F. Begin testing for the gel point after 10 minutes. If it gets too hot, your marmalade will be harder than preferred.
Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars leave a quarter inch headspace. Process in a canner bath for 10 minutes.
What to do with your marmalade
- Add it to an antipasti platter
- Serve it with wedges of good salami
- Pour it over a block of cream cheese and serve with crackers
- Take a slice of salami, add a bit of cream cheese and a dollop of marmalade. Roll up salami and put a toothpick through it. Super cute appetizer platter!
- Use it as a glaze for pork and poultry
- Use it as a dip for coconut crusted prawns
adapted from Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving