Greeks are absolute masters at making homemade jams. This artistry extends to just about any fruit or vegetable for that matter. I remember going to visit family friends as a young kid, and almost always, a spoon jam accompanied whatever other delicacies the host chose to serve along with some Greek coffee.
Most spoon jams are made to use up leftovers of something else and are generally not pasteurized to keep for long periods of time, but I’ve met many jam makers who patiently await the availability of grapes, cherries, quince, figs, chestnuts — you name it, to make their special jam.
During the holidays, I like to make candied orange peel and roll it in sugar or dip it in dark chocolate. I use the fruit segments in the remaining syrup to make a delicious orange spoon jam. Most people would probably just juice the oranges, but the remaining syrup from the candied orange peel is so flavorful, that it’s a shame to throw it away. Once i remove the rind, I remove the segments from the casing in the orange and then toss these segments into the syrup and cook it down to make a jam. I also slice any broken pieces of candied orange peel and add it in with the fruit.
This was something I began to make years ago for my mother who spoke so lovingly about real English orange marmalade that she enjoyed as a young woman while working as a governess for the Mosseri family in Egypt. Mrs. Mosseri was British, so they would travel back and forth to the UK for vacations, and my mother was lucky enough to go with them on many occasions. It was there that my mother fell in love with a bitter orange marmalade that was full of thick cut peel and gently cooked fruit.
Over the years, I bought just about every English marmalade that I would come across in my travels and would surprise her with them, hoping that one of them was similar to what she remembered — but none of them were. She described these wonderful marmalades as being slightly bitter but very chunky. So, other than the bitter part (which requires a special kind of orange), I worked on getting the right level of chunky.
After making this the first time many years ago, she told me that she loved it and found it very close in texture to what she remembered. She would enjoy it on her toast or pancakes and as a topping on her yogurt or ice cream. I have used it in the batter for my double chocolate fruit and nut cakes, and I have also used it as a jam filling in between cake layers.
This stuff is incredibly delicious and usually doesn’t last very long. Now that I’ve figured out the right level of chunky, all I need to do is find the right kind of oranges to impart the perfect level of bitterness. If bitter oranges are not a must in your orange marmalade, then you will be very, very happy with this.
Orange Spoon Jam (Portokali Tou Koutaliou)
Reserved syrup from candied orange peel
Any broken pieces of candied peel, sliced into very thin slices
Reserved orange segments removed from their fibrous sheaths
This recipe was really created to use up the remaining syrup that is left over from the candied orange peel I make. The syrup is so delicious that I never have the heart to throw it away. It has a beautiful citrus orange flavor and simply begs to be made into a marmalade. If you are not making the candied peel, but still want to use the fruit and perhaps some orange zest to make some jam, you can still use the same recipe. The only thing to keep in mind is that the syrup will have to be cooked down much further along before you add the fruit. If you add the fruit too early, it will not maintain its integrity and break down completely.
If you have decided to make the candied peel, then remove it and add the orange segments to the syrup. Continue to cook this on low heat until the fruit wilts slightly and the syrup thickens. This is really very easy to do with just about any kind of citrus fruit. Once it has cooled, place it in a small bowl or jar, cover and refrigerate.