Embracing DIY: One Small, Sugary Step At a Time

Marmalade | Photo: Buttontree Lane/Flickr/Creative Commons License

For the past few years, I've harbored vainglorious notions of attaining a certain level of self-sufficiency. No, I don't have a sugar mama. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the kind of self-sufficiency that would allow me to roam the woods and eat wild boar every night when the zombie apocalypse strikes. Survival skills, hunting skills, self-preservation skills, fighting skills: those kinds of things.

So far, it hasn't gone very well. I can't hunt, can't fight, can't fish, can't do much. I'm a part of the supposed DIY generation, but I'm certainly not very adept at DIY-ing. There are reasons I became a writer.

But yesterday I took a small step in the direction of basic human competence--I made some marmalade.

I know, I know. Not exactly the stuff of Conan. But it was huge for me.

I have a kumquat tree in my backyard with about 40 pounds of fruit I had no idea what do with. So I got in touch with SQIRL gourmet preserve-meistress Jessica Koslow, who agreed to come over and give me some lessons.
Right off the bat I learned that marmalade is different from jelly in that the preserved fruit still has the rind on it.

So there you go.

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I also learned that pectin is substance that makes jelly gel, and that it can be made from simmering citrus seeds in water. I learned that citrus and sugar aren't just delicious, they're preservatives--which explains so much about colonial history. Here I thought sugar was a bourgeois conceit, something Englishman wanted so they could have proper tea four times a day. But it actually is quite functional and an important part of food storage. I also learned that 221 degrees is the magic number where fruity, sugary water transforms into jelly.

Very interesting.

I'm not sure I want to bore all of you with the actual details of marmalade making. There are ample sources online who can describe the process and how to repeat it in far more detail than I. In short: Slice, add water, add sugar, add citrus, simmer, then boil.

In all, the process took about three hours. I'm told, it can take upwards of three days if you really want to do it like a gourmand. I'm all set with that. I just want to be sure that when the zombie apocalypse strikes, my brain will plenty fatty and sugary for the undead hordes when they overwhelm my front door. DIY never tasted so delicious.


The L.A. Vitamin Report is a column about quality of life issues by Matthew Fleisher. It is brought to KCET's SoCal Focus blog in partnership with Spot.Us, which receives support from the Cailfornia Endowment.

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