Just a seed
I expected grow lights and hydroponic watering systems when we walked into Helen and Bernie’s house. They were known in the neighborhood for their tree growing prowess. Apparently 7 years ago Harriet had a seed in her breakfast fruit that was beginning to sprout, and instead of tossing it in the trash she stuck it in soil and the resulting tree was now sporting hundreds of ripe yellow grapefruit.
Grow lights must not have been necessary because there were none in evidence. Floral print upholstered furniture, cross stitch, and cat toys were all around, but not one single gardening book was on the coffee table.
As my niece, Wrenn, played with the cat, Reid and I asked Helen the history of the grapefruit tree (we’ll call it G-Tree) in the front yard. She explained that she was good at growing things and when she had seen that little sprout coming out of her breakfast bowl, decided to try her luck. It thrived on the window sill and got planted on prime real estate in the front yard after a year indoors. In three years of vigorous growth the bush began to set fruit and they got 20 or so fruits from G-Tree that year.
Not only did this tree start in just the right person’s breakfast bowl but it survived a raging fire at age three. As luck would have it, the next door neighbor tossed a lit cigarette in the bushes and caught his house on fire. G-Tree was in the midst of the fray with flames and fire trucks all around, and survived with only a burn scar on the trunk. What doesn’t kill you may make you stronger because G-Tree was now 25 feet tall and more prolific than the rabbits in the yard where the neighbor’s house had stood.
Bernie said he didn’t even like grapefruit so we should take as many as we wanted. He showed us where the ladder was in the garage and we commenced to picking.
Reid climbed up in the tree, I picked from the ground and Wrenn counted. After about 10 minutes we had 135 fruits in our bags and baskets. Helen looked a little worried and asked us to leave some for her daughter who would be coming later. There was no reason to be concerned because there were still hundreds of yellow globes hanging in G-Tree.
We packed the car, thanked Helen and Bernie and headed home so the real fun could start.
My sister-in-law, Kristin gave me a recipe for grapefruit ginger marmalade, but I didn’t have the pectin that the recipe called for, so I decided to make my own version the old fashioned way. Grapefruit has tons of natural pectin; it just needs to cook for a good long time to release the pectin and “gel” the marmalade.
My woodstove is the perfect place for just about anything to cook for a good long time, so I cut up the fruit, pureed it with sugar, and ginger, and set it on the stove for about three hours. There is nothing special about my woodstove. Anyone who has one can cook on top of it. Beans, soups, stocks, and stews are particularly suited for long slow woodstove cooking. Now we can add jams, jellies and marmalade to that list.
I tested to see if it was done by putting a small spoonful on a cold plate and letting it sit for several minutes. I stuck my finger in it and sure enough it had gelled and the sticky consistency was perfect for spreading on toast. Now I just needed to can it using a waterbath to make it shelf stable.
Half an hour later, I had my first of many batches of marmalade sitting on the counter waiting for toast.
Three batches later I tried adding some cranberries for a little variation. It turned out deliciously tart and perfect with turkey or chicken.
Next year when I go visit my family in South Georgia I am going to check on the G-Tree and in the meantime everyone I know gets marmalade.
Grapefruit Ginger Marmalade Recipe – makes 6 - ½ pint jars
4-5 medium grapefruit
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger
2 Tablespoons peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
With a sharp knife cut, peel the white pith off all the grapefruits. If possible use a plastic cutting board so that you can capture grapefruit juice as you cut.
Cut out the core of the grapefruit and remove the seeds. You should have about 5 cups of grapefruit chunks.
Put chunks of grapefruit in the blender or food processor, and process until no large chunks remain (small chunks are okay).
Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottomed sauce pot and bring to a boil. Simmer on low for 2-3 hours.
Test for doneness by putting a small spoonful of marmalade on a cold plate and let it sit for about 5 minutes it should be sticky and not runny.
To make marmalade shelf stable water bath can marmalade by putting in 6 sterilized half pint jars, putting jars in a large pot of boiling water that covers the lids of the jars by one inch. Boil for 15 minutes. Remove jars from the water and allow to cool before storing.
Cranberry Grapefruit Marmalade Recipe
Follow the above recipe and substitute 12 ounces fresh cranberries – finely chopped – for the crystalized ginger and fresh ginger.