Thursday, December 31, 2009

Yuzu Marmalade - Tastebud Joy

Yuzu is a citrus fruit unique to Japan and unique in flavor - stronger than a lemon and with a bit of a punch. About the size of the mekon oranges also in season at the moment, the yuzu is sunny yellow rather than orange. It is used both in its green state as well as its fully ripened yellow primarily as a flavoring for various dishes, especially fish.

The Marmalade Experiment

Inspired by my first batch of marmalade earlier this year, it seemed like something worth giving a try. The Takashi's were a bit skeptical, but I decided to go for it anyway especially after reading about this successful attempt. (I'm also quite inspired by the yuzushu recipe, too.) And after stopping at a favorite fruit stand where we've bought kiwi and kaki (a.k.a. persimmon) before, those golden globes just seemed irresistible. Throwing caution almost entirely to the wind I bought two bags.

I cut up the fruit and removed the seeds of probably 14 or so yuzu. I didn't remove the pith out of, well, sheer laziness and the fact that I didn't do it for my previous batch. The original recipe only called for steeping the water and fruit for 24 hours, but my schedule recently has been mad. The mix steeped for about three days. (It didn't seem to do any harm.)

The sugar I used was again what I had on hand, which was not Okinawan sugar but one similar to brown sugar found in the US. I used the minimal amount - 1 cup for every two cups of fruit - as I wanted to maximize the potential flavor of the yuzu. I then boiled the mixture for about 40 minutes or so to get the consistency I wanted. (The mix pre-sugar seemed a bit more watery than I remembered my first batch being.) I tested the consistency by dipping a metal spoon chilled in the refrigerator into the hot mix and watching as it slid off and back into the pan.

Meanwhile, I heated up jars and lids in another pot to sterilize them. Once the marmalade was ready and the jars sterilized, I filled, capped, and popped them back in the pot of water. I kept the marmalade on low simmer while filling the jars to make sure things were hot and fresh. The filled jars boiled a good 15 minutes, and then were set to cool.

The Result

I came away with 14 small jars of tastebud joy. The Takashi's, my ultimate test of success for this experiment, loved it. Our Christmas Eve guests quickly emptied the jar I set out with some local bread, and another friend reported it a success at home. The flavor is definitely yuzu - lemon with a punch - with a nice hint of sweetness. I'm looking forward to sharing this taste of Japan with family and friends at home, too.

Next Time

Since I'm new to the taste and concept of yuzu, I was originally a bit concerned that the flavor would be too strong. If that turned out to be the case, I pondered the idea of making it with mekons, too. The mix of orange and yellow peels would be lovely, and the flavoring would be a bit more subtle.

I've also thought about adding ginger for a little extra spice. And I still would like to try it with Okinawan sugar, too.

More on Yuzu

This mildly dated article about yuzu offers some interesting ideas about how it is used in contemporary quisine, and a series of articles discussing its use and flavors. This page also gives some more scientific as well as historical information about yuzu with the added bonus of some fine photos of the fruit and tree.

Yuzu is also traditionally added to the Japanese bath on Toji, the winter solstice, which the Takashi's also recommended to us. We weren't able to do this, but I imagine they must look like little suns floating there. Add to that their pungent aroma, and it sounds like a perfect winter bath to celebrate the now ever-increasing light.


Joan Lambert Bailey said...

I just spotted a great blog post by Martin Frid over at Kurashi about yuzu in the bath. This post, like the rest of his blog, is well worth checking out.

Here's the link to the post:

And here's a link directly to his blog:

MA said...

Hey Joan! You are the runner up for the Why I Garden Essay. You will receive a $50 gift certificate to the nursery or plantsman of your choice. Tell me where and how to get it to you. Thanks so much for entering. Congratulations. Loved the essay!

Unknown said...

Joan, you inspire me! I've gotta make some preserves this year. I've been meaning to forever!

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Right on, Zen Badger! It's not difficult, although it feels intimidating at first. This marmalade recipe is easy, but I do recommend getting the Ball Blue Book. It's full of solid recipes, good advice, and it won't steer you wrong. Let me just say though, that once you start down the road of food preservation, it's difficult to turn back. It's addictive!

Emma said...

Does the yuzu grow wild? I would love to get my hands on some seeds :) since plants don't seem to be available here.

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Emma, I can't say I've seen it wild. More often than not it is simply one of the many citrus that are part of the landscape for homes here. Usually older homes have multiple citrus trees and other edibles, while more modern homes lean toward the ornamental. (Now that I've typed that I'm thinking I should pay more attention to that notion...) I can see about gathering up some seeds and what the process is for saving them. Yuzu are, apparently, notoriously difficult, but your Grow Dome might be just the spot to at least experiment.

Emma said...

It would certainly be fun to try :)