A Cure for Winter Blues

Making Orange Marmalade

Those of us who love to pickle and preserve usually choose the harvest seasons of late summer and fall. But making tasty jams and jellies on a cold dreary day in mid-winter can lift your spirits, fill your pantry with delicious treats, and provide a few jars of your signature preserves as gifts. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours together in the kitchen creating something special.

With the help of my friends who have been making orange marmalade for years, I was able to discover the proper technique of making the tangy orange treat that elevates an English muffin to the status of a royal breakfast. These marmalade experts bring years of experience to the tasting table. A toasted muffin, bread or scone topped with this delicious marmalade, along with cup of your favorite tea or coffee will certainly bring a bit of sunshine to even the dreariest winter morning. You might remember that Paddington Bear always carried a jar of marmalade in his briefcase. Once you taste this marmalade you’ll know why.

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We started by procuring Seville oranges. The Seville orange is high in pectin so it thickens nicely and has the right bitterness to give the marmalade a good balance of fruit and tartness. The marmalade we made required nine pounds of Seville oranges. Here's what you do: using an electric citrus press juicer, remove the pulp and seeds and set them aside. It’s important to remove as much of the soft pulp from the rind as possible. Cut the rind in quarter segments then thinly slice into once inch strips. Wrap the pulp and seeds in a cheesecloth bag, then along with the rind and extracted juice, simmer in 7 quarts of water for about an hour, or until the rind is soft, but still firm. It’s important that the rind is not overcooked. It should be slightly chewy.

At this point remove the cheesecloth bag from the liquid and continue to simmer, gradually adding 12 pounds of granulated sugar. Make sure to continually stir the mixture as you add the sugar. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, simmer for approximately an additional hour and a half. It may seem like too much sugar, but remember these oranges are very tart and it’s the sugar that gives the marmalade that delicious sweet and tart flavor. The next part is tricky and requires attention. The mixture will become marmalade once it “sets”. No pectin is added, so it’s just the pectin from the oranges that allows it to become jam.

Tend the simmering mixture, stirring occasionally for approximately two hours, you’ll notice it begins to caramelize and thicken. You will also notice that it begins to turn a beautiful “marmalade” orange. The longer you cook it the darker and more bitter it becomes. Once it starts to set it will thicken on a spoon, congealing as it drips. When you have reached this critical point, it’s done, and the mixture can be ladled into sterilized jars, then capped. Make sure when filling the jars to include a proportionate amount of rind. The jars and lids should be warmed, either in the oven or with hot water before being filled.

 It’s fun and satisfying to make homemade jams and jellies. This particular recipe is a good one, and a fairly simple way of making a delicious marmalade. With a few personal twists you can create your own unique marmalade. I did a batch adding a bit of candied ginger. My friends have added Meyer lemon juice, cranberries, or a mixture of brown and white sugar. Remember a bit of whimsy is the special ingredient that adds a little of you to your creation. Enjoy!


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