For the last several days I have visited my mom at her home near Phoenix, Arizona. Friday night I made her Cioppino for dinner. It was a success. My orange marmalade, however, turned out well but making it proved to be one of my worst nightmares.
My mom has a moderately well equipped kitchen with REALLY sharp knives. I had no problem locating the tools I needed. She had a really nice size orange; perfect for creating just enough marmalade for one person to enjoy – not so much that the thought of another piece of marmalade toast drives you screaming from the kitchen.
I peeled the rind off the orange, being careful to remove as much of the pith as possible. Then I sliced the orange and quartered the slices. I had selected one of her few sauce pans for the job but quickly realized its size would not handle the boiling syrup. So I “upgraded” to a larger pot (a dutch oven to be exact). I measured the water as I added it to the orange and peel mixture to make sure I would have an exact measure for the sugar. The pot with the water, orange peel and flesh went onto the range.
Before I go any further I must say in my defense, that I am not used to cooking on an electric cooktop. You know the kind I’m talking about – a sheet of glass with elements that heat up. In addition, we were going through old photographs, some of which featured people from four generations ago, so my mind wasn’t as focused on my cooking as it could/should have been! It took significantly longer for the orange and water mixture to come to a boil but once it did it seemed to reach volcanic temperature within moments. This should have been a warning sign to me but I was too busy with other things.
After about an hour the peel and pulp were soft and it was time to add the sugar. I added the sugar and turned the element up to reach a boil. Then I lost my mind and returned to picture sorting and identification. And that’s when it happened – you guessed it – the pot boiled over.
Horrors! Remember when I mentioned in my original marmalade post don’t let the orange and sugar mixture boil over as cleaning THAT off a stove is never pretty and usually involves some well chosen curse words.
I jumped up from the table and pulled the overflowing bubbling pot off the element. That’s when the fun started. I tried using water and a plastic spatula – it took some of the bubbling lava-like mass off the cooktop. Unfortunately most of it remained in place. Oh, and by the way, did I mention my mom is selling her house. All I could think of was “What if I can’t get this off and how much does a new cooktop cost?” My mom suggested we try using razor blades; it is what her cleaning woman uses when removing stuck on food. I grabbed a razor blade and started in. Hoping it would begin to remove the cooked on mess, I was quickly disappointed. Grasping for straws I suggested to my mom that perhaps we needed sharper razor blades. I jumped into the car and after a quick trip to CVS was back with two packages of new blades. The mess appeared to be so monumental I figured I might need two packages of ten blades, and didn’t want to make another trip to the store.
I opened the package of new blades and set to work. WOW – a difference of day and night. Five new blades and about ten minutes later we had a clean cooktop. Lessen Learned.