A “guest” blog from our friend Christopher Brown one of the best bakers I’ve ever known. His products were incredible, including award-winning marmalades and it was a big loss to the food scene in Vancouver when Chris located to Japan to open a bakery.
A cautionary tale on the best tool for the job being the only way to excel.
Although we’re well past marmalade season I continue to plug along making a few batches a week with the supply of Seville oranges I’ve put into cold storage. A couple of weeks ago I happened across a steal of a deal on a pro-quality all copper marmalade kettle. Serious copper pots and pans are always heavy duty -and for jam making – the best (or so they say) are only made with thick copper -no nickel or tin lining.
When I travelled to England a couple of months ago for the Marmalade Awards I was repeatedly encouraged to try copper kettles for my marmalade vs the sturdy stainless pots I’ve been using. I took this under advisement as I have just about every useful kitchen utensil a guy could ever really use and space limitations being what they are I really needed a great excuse to add to this scenario. Enter a trip to HomeSense where to my great surprise they had the above mentioned pro-quality all copper marmalade kettles on clearance! Not just their everyday great value but Clearance! I had to have it as it was about 1/3 the price of one online. It really is a thing of beauty, sitting on my stove gleaming like a copper Ferrari -the size of a bassinette- with its rustic cast iron handles. Just right for one of my regular marmalade batches.
I’m one of those people who need to spend a couple of days admiring my new acquisitions before using them. I handled it and took pictures of it, all the while dreaming of the phenomenal increase in quality that it would surely bring my marmalades.
Finally it was time and I started the final process of my marmalade making. I measured the sugar vs the volume of cooked peel and poured it into “the prodigy”. My main concern… was all that copper would conduct heat so well that I’d end up with caramel in no time at all or it would boil over before I could react. I turned my burner to high and stood there waiting for the hard boil that is best for making a quality marmalade and I waited….and waited….Finally it got to what I’d call a hard simmer. Far below what was required and there it stayed, the elements on my apartment sized electric stove obviously no match for the mass of the pot (my only rule for a pot or pan by the way is that it fits my sink and this one passed that test). So, with a huge feeling of betrayal, I poured the mixture back into my faithful stainless pots (2 of them) and finished the marmalade the old way.
Sigh, if it ain’t broke……
My next trial will be using a modern pressure cooker to cook the peel in minutes rather than the hour or so it now takes. Stand ready for that report.