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As a child, I remember having Russian spice tea around the Christmas holidays, as that was the only time we had an over-abundance of citrus fruits. It seems like such a waste to just throw out the oranges and lemons after the tea is finished, so I tried making marmalade from it. I now have an exceptional jam to give out for little gifts!
What is Russian Spice Tea?
I wondered why the drink was called "Russian" tea, since I did not think there were any citrus groves in the cool zones of the country. I learned that it is the method of making the drink, not necessarily the ingredients, that gave the tea its name. The Russians were introduced to tea in trading with the Chinese in the 1600s. Traditional Russian tea beverages are a mix of two or more flavored teas. A type of Chinese or Indian black/dark tea is used that allows for extended brewing in a samovar (a specially designed stacked tea pot) without becoming bitter. A little of the strong tea is served with an additional amount of hot herbal and/or fruit flavored tea to dilute the concentrate, and is sweetened with honey or jam.1
To learn of the beneficial medicinal properties of herbal and spiced teas during the cold and flu season, read ". . . What's for Dinner?".
The following recipe might be considered Russian with the strongly brewed black tea, and the heated citrus fruits, spices, and sweetener, combined to form a very flavorful, hearty, and healthy drink.
Russian Spiced Tea
Brew 2 quarts of strong black tea sweetened to taste, and set aside. Mix the following together in a large pot:
1 quart of water
1-1/2 cups sugar
3 oranges, thinly sliced (I used navel oranges)
2 lemons, thinly sliced
12 cloves, whole
6 allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat; strain the juice away from the fruit and spices into a 1-gallon pitcher.
Pour the prepared tea into the citrus mix and stir to blend.
Sweeten, or add more spices, as desired.
Additional fruits and spices could be used according to your family's taste.
Some may chose to use the tea as a punch and add 'spirits'.
Normally the tea is consumed hot, but it tastes great cold too.
Before I discarded the citrus fruit I strained away from the Russian spice tea, I thought I would use it to try my hand at making marmalade. I had no idea of the complexities of making marmalade and had somehow done everything right, although quite accidentally. I was extremely pleased with the results, but upon researching additional information for this article, I discovered many people have problems with the marmalade not properly setting, or gelling, or unhappy with too much bitterness in the flavor. So, the following is the recipe and steps that I used for my Russian spiced tea marmalade, in hopes that others may have the same success.
What is Marmalade?
Marmalade is a type of jam, preserve, or soft jelly, with finely chopped pieces of fruit suspended in the translucent gel. Any fruit or vegetable can be used, but citrus fruits require little or no artificial pectin for the process. The seeds (pips) and rinds of citrus fruits help with setting the gel, while also imparting a slightly bitter flavor which is desirable, and necessary, to those of us who love the taste.
A list of marmalade "musts" (a general consensus found among cookbooks and Internet):
The sliced fruit should have a preliminary heating then allowed to soak in water 12-24 hours prior to the final cooking (helps release the pectin and flavor).
For a traditional bitter orange marmalade, the Seville orange is necessary.
The rinds need to be precooked before adding to the sugar syrup (prevents marmalades from becoming stiff).
Artificial pectin must be added if not enough citrus, apple, or other tart fruit is used.
Marmalades are cooked "almost" to the jellying point.
The jarred marmalade should sit on the shelf for a few weeks to allow the flavor to properly manifest, as well as to "set up" to the proper gel consistency, if it had not already.
This marmalade requires equal parts fruit to sugar.
I added a little of the spiced tea to give more liquid and flavor to the fruit that I had strained out of the Russian tea, which had been soaking in the fridge for a day.
This is what I used:
the chopped fruit and enough tea to make 10 cups
10 cups granulated sugar
After removing the whole spices and seeds, I removed the pith from between the rind and the pulp of all that once-cooked fruit (not difficult, just time-consuming). Some recipes are not concerned with this step.
Dump fruit & tea mixture, along with the sugar into a big pot on the stove over high heat.
Once the sugar is dissolved, I used a stick blender to chop up the fruit into smaller pieces.
Bring the fruit and sugar mixture quickly to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue to boil and stir until thickened, about 40 to 50 minutes.
The fruit mixture needs to get 9° F above the boiling point (for your altitude).2 The marmalade should have the same consistency as jam.
Remove from heat, skim off any foam if desired.
Pour into sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/2" head space, and apply two piece screw band lids.
Process in a boiling water bath canner for 5 minutes.
Cool, then label jars.
The marmalade has a fabulous taste and is very pretty in the jar for gift-giving. I printed a few quick recipes to attach to the jars for uses other than spreading on bread. A recipe gift tag can be made by printing a block of recipes then glueing (or taping) scrap gift wrap to the back. Fold like a book and punch a hole in the corner of the fold to run a ribbon through. Tie the little recipe gift tag around the top of the jar (refer to photo above).
The following are a few of the recipes I will consider. (Here is a link to an image of these recipes you can download, print, and cut out for yourself: Recipes Using Marmalade)
Recipes Using Marmalade
Dipping Sauce (would do well for shrimp)
1 cup orange marmalade (1/2-pint jar)
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1-1/2 Tablespoons horseradish
Mix together and serve. Amounts can be adjusted per your taste.
I will definitely make marmalade from the Russian spiced tea again next year and believe this will begin a new holiday tradition for me! I wish you much success with your marmalade making, too! Happy Holidays!
Endnotes:  Linda DeLaine. "Tea Time in Russia". Russian Life. 15 Mar 2007. http://www.russianlife.com/article.cfm?Number=193 . 5 Dec 09.  "Ball Blue Book of Preserving". 2003. Altrista Consumer Products Company.  J. Greene, R. Hertzberg & B. Vaughan. "Putting Food By". 4th ed. 1991. A Plume Book. Stephen Greene Press, Inc.
Image Credits: All images are the property of the author, with the following exceptions: A Russian Samovar, Wiki Creative Commons ShareAlike 3.0
About Bev Walker
I was a serious organic gardener and composter 30 years ago, then my life took me in a new direction with kids and career. I am just now returning to gardening and learning new techniques, and loving every minute of it. I hope to share my experiences with you from my shady yard.