Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Orange Marmalade

I used to be the kind of girl to get up early every day. I used to go to bed by 9pm and get a full, totally uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep and get up at before dawn. I would go running, take a shower, drink coffee, eat breakfast and have some quiet, reflective time before I had to go to work or school.

For the most part, I now sleep until whenever Mr. Baby wakes me up and I am lucky if I drink a few sips of hot coffee in his first two hour waking period.

But yesterday morning! He woke me up at 5am. And I was looking forward to my first jam-canning of the year. And the sky was clear and fresh. Nothing rivals a beautiful morning.

Except for maybe, marmalade. Isn't that a nice word? Marmalade. Splendid use of the letter "A", keeps the word open and friendly, but then it ends on a silent, introverted "E". I love that. I like that in people too--friendliness without complete give-away, openness with reserve.

Marmalade is a lot of work, more work than my beloved strawberry jam. Maybe it just seems that way because my oranges had some fairly thick rinds. But, good thing, it really did not make a difference in the finished product because you cut the white pith away anyhow. It just took a little more gusto to do it, a little more patience. Kind of like making friends with marmalade people--it just takes time.

Making this marmalade though just makes me want to make more! This time I used the oranges from my gleaning day, and the lemons from my sister's tree. I don't know what varieties they were. The lemons were a little sweeter--so maybe they were Meyer? Important to remember...the fruit you use reflects the end result. So if you really like bitter marmalade, the use a specific bitter orange like Seville, and be sure to not add as much sugar. But just think of the possibilities! Lime marmalade...lemon...blood orange! Endless possibilities.

Orange Marmalade
This is a combination of a couple recipes. The most helpful insight into making marmalade was sugar quantity, how to use the whole orange (for the most nutrition!), the use of natural pectin, and jelling guidelines. My method is a by "feel way". I do not have a candy thermometer. I did not use pectin. My marmalade turned out lovely. Check out Simply Recipes and Pick Your Own for more information, pictures, and ideas.

You will need:
12 whole oranges, plus more if you are juicing
3 lemons
about 4 cups water or juice
6-8 cups sugar
10-12 8-ounce jars with lids and rings
cheesecloth and string for making pectin
gallon pot for marmalade
juicer of some sort
long wooden spoon
glass liquid measure
sharp knife for chopping
table-type spoon
potato peeler (optional)
canner for water-bath processing


1. Wash fruit well. Wash jars well. Keep very warm (in dishwasher or in a boiling water-bath).

2. Slice oranges in half and dig out fruit and set aside like so:

3. See where the wedges gather? Cut the tips off the wedges with a pair of clean kitchen scissors and pull out the tough center. Slice oranges thinly across wedges, then chop all over fairly finely (to break up the membranes). Set aside and save all the juice.

4. Scrape out white pith from the rind with the table spoon with a digging is actually quite easy and incredibly satisfying. (I started out with the peeling and it was just too hard on my hands. I recommend the scraping method wholeheartedly.) Don't be a perfectionist, a little white is OK.

5. Cut rind into thin, julienned strips, about an inch in length.

6. Juice the lemons, reserve the rind, membranes, and seeds for pectin. Add to the chopped orange innards. Do the same with the extra oranges if you are going to use juice not water.

7. Take stock--when I was done preparing, I had about 4 cups rind and a lot of juicey innards. Put all this in your big gallon pot. Add up to 4 cups of water or orange juice.

8. Put all extra pith, membranes, and seeds into your four-layers of cheesecloth and close tight with cooking string. Immerse in the pot with the juicy innards.

9. Place 5 or so small plates in the freezer. We will use them later and they need to be cold.

First Cooking:

1. Bring pot (with marmalade makings and cheesecloth bag) to a boil and cook for 20-30 minutes, until the orange rinds are soft and tender. As this cooks, the membranes and seeds from the fruit will extract pectin, this is what makes your marmalade jell!

2. Take pot off heat and remove the cheesecloth bag and place in another bowl/container to cool.

3. Measure the orange mixture. (For the 10 cups of mix I had, I added six cups of sugar first, then upped the sugar to around 7 1/2 cups.) Add what Simply Recipes suggests: 7/8 cups of sugar for every 1 cup of mix. Let sugar dissolve, then taste and adjust the sugar as desired.

4. When the pectin bag has cooled enough to handle, gently squeeze out the pectin. It is thick, like good yogurt. Add to the orange mixture. (Since I used the whole orange, this pectin bag thing may be a silly step, as the membranes and rind are already in the mixture. But I wanted to make sure. And the texture is nice for the marmalade thus far, so it works.)

5. Put water in canner and bring it to a boil, keep hot for processing.

Second Cooking:

1. Place the sugar-orange mixture back in the pot and bring to a boil. Boil about ten minutes.

2. Begin checking for jell-set. Dollop a little of the cooking orange juice on one of those freezer plates. If it spreads, it is not ready. If it sets up a little immediately, and if you push the side with the tip of your finger and it wrinkles, it is ready. Stay with it, it will boil quite a bit, I stirred often, and stayed near the stove the whole time. The mixture will reduce quite a bit, fear not. Test the liquid every 1-5 minutes. Depending on how close it looks and how many plates you have.

3. When it is ready, take the pot off the heat. Fill clean, dry, hot jars to 1/4 inch from the rim. Cover with lid and screw on ring.

4. Place jars in canner spaced apart. Boil for 15 minutes. (This step is not used by everyone, but I did it because I know I am disorganized enough to not keep things perfectly sanitary. The canner processing takes the pressure off sanitation, so where I messed up and didn't know it, I don't pay with the integrity of my jam!)

5. Remove jars from canner and let cool and set undisturbed in a cool corner for two weeks. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for ways to use marmalade.


  1. How beautiful, Amanda! Will there be Marmalade French toast?


  2. Oh, that does sounds delightful! Perfect!

  3. A's and E's... we love marmalade too... this just made it more poetic.