When I first thought of adding alcohol to jam, I thought about using sweet liquors such as spiced rum to give the preserved fruit a mysterious boost. I made a few jams and they were incredible; the smack-you-upside-the-head liquor flavor cooks off, leaving only an interesting—and often unidentifiable—complexity of flavor. When you add liquor to jam and keep your pouring hand under control, you'll undoubtedly be asked questions by anyone who tastes your preserves. "What is that I'm tasting?" they'll wonder. "I can't figure it out, but it works!"
A few weeks ago, it occurred to me to try adding not-so-sweet liquors to preserves. My mind started racing with ideas of pucker-y gin jams, piquant vodka compotes, and yes, maybe even a tequila marmalade.
I've not had a great relationship with tequila, since we've butted heads a few times in the past. (The tequila won every time, in case you were wondering.) But after a lovely tequila tasting in Mexico, I've learned that tequilas can have a range of complex qualities, and that this frighteningly boorish liquor might actually have culinary value in the sweet pastry space.
The key here is to not go overboard. Booze is booze, as they say, and your liquor-flavored preserves will taste unpalatably boozy if you add too much. Practice self control when adding liquor to jam. Ideally, alcohol will give your jam just a nudge in the flavor department without knocking your tasters on the floor.
I like sweet-tart jams, and this marmalade is one of the best I've tried. Tangy orange accepts a sweet hug from bright-red pomegranate, and the whole thing is given a happy, drunk kiss from a touch of tequila. The alcohol mostly boils off, leaving a complex flavor, a touch of bitter orange, and the autumn depth of pomegranate. Little bits of orange and orange zest add a lively texture to this tenderly bitter marmalade, which goes well on toast with a cup of tea. Make sure to strain your pomegranate seeds out of your juice before cooking with it—they don't add anything positive to the texture!
Note: This recipe involves cutting oranges into segments, a method also called supreming an orange. Click here for a tutorial on how to segment citrus.
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About the author: Stephanie Stiavetti is a writer and cookbook author in San Francisco. Stephanie's cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, celebrates America's favorite dish by recreating it with small production, specialty cheeses. Her food blog, The Culinary Life, is a repository for all things comfort food related, from savory dinners to transcendental desserts.