Growing up, my Grandma Yoder used to go down to Florida in the winters and each year all of us would look forward to a huge box of citrus fruit. It was full of ruby red grapefruit, huge juicy navel oranges, and lots of kumquats. Have you ever had a kumquat? Most people in my elementary school hadn’t either and they thought I was crazy when I would pop that little fruit in my mouth skin and all. Kumquats are delicious; if you haven’t had one…you should search them out and try one.
Back to the point, this year I was feeling rather nostalgic and really missed that big box of fruit. I have been eating grapefruit almost every morning, and making lots of fresh squeezed orange juice. Another thing our family loves is orange marmalade; it was a staple on our brunch table. Brunch was a big thing in our family, we had it almost every weekend, and it always included dad’s cheesy herb eggs, and a big pile of toast (among other things). Out of all of the jams on the table, orange marmalade is my Dad’s and my favorite. Last year sometime I watched an episode of Alton Brown (oh how I love him) and he made orange marmalade. I was shocked by how easy he made it look! This year, I decided to tackle it.
I searched far and wide for recipes, and they were shockingly different. Many of them included pectin, but my good friend Alton had explained to me that the rind of the orange contains natural pectin so there is no need to add it. Fruits contain pectin, but citrus peels contain about 30% whereas cherries have about 0.4%, which is why you often do need to use pectin in jam making, just not in citrus marmalades. Anyway, I went with a modified version of Alton Brown’s recipe. What I modified was the type of fruit. I chose to go to Whole Foods, and the reason for this was because in this recipe you use the WHOLE fruit, and a lot of places coat the fruits with food grade wax to make them look better…I didn’t want any of the crap in my marmalade. Whole Foods also tends to have a better produce selection than your average market, and I was looking for specific types of oranges. Seville oranges are the ideal orange for marmalade, as they are classified as a bitter orange, but they have a very short growing season and are difficult to find. Ideally you want a bitter orange, because it gives marmalade that characteristic bittersweet flavor. Valencia or Hamlin oranges are good options, and should be fairly easy to find. The only oranges I would NOT recommend using are Navel oranges; they have a very thick skin which is ideal for peeling on the go, but not for using for marmalade. When I got to Whole Foods I noticed the blood oranges. I adore blood oranges. They are so beautiful, and they have such an interesting flavor, perfectly melding sweet and tart in one. I couldn’t resist using them in the marmalade! Whole Foods also had Meyer lemons, another citrus crush of mine. Meyer lemons have just a slightly sweeter taste than regular lemons. I of course bought these as well.
SO on to the recipe finally…
The following is the recipe for Alton Brown’s orange marmalade, which I modified slightly by using both blood oranges, Valencia oranges, and one Meyer lemon (not including the lemon juice and lemon zest used in the recipe).
1 ¾ lbs oranges, about 4-5 medium (or 3 blood oranges, 2 valencia oranges, and 1 meyer lemon)
1 lemon zested and juiced
6 cups water
3 lbs and 12 oz of sugar (approximately 7 ½ cups, but you really should weigh it)
10 (8oz) jars or the equivalent of
Wash the oranges and lemon thoroughly. Cut the ends off the oranges, and get a large bowl and a mandoline ready.
Cut the oranges into 1/8inch thick slices using a mandoline, removing the seeds as you go (this will be fairly easy, most of the seeds won’t make it through the mandoline). Stack the oranges and roughly cut them into quarters (or give them a basic rough chop if you can’t manage to stack them, like me).
Place the oranges into a large 8-qt (minimum) stainless steel pot*. Add the lemon zest , juice, and water to the pot. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce the heat to maintain a rapid simmer and cook, stirring frequently for 40 minutes or until the fruit is very soft. This is the point where the peels produce all of the pectin which will make your marmalade set later. While the fruit cooks, wash and clean the jars you intend to put the marmalade in later**. You will also want to put a small plate in the freezer.
Add the sugar and stir the mixture continually until it reaches 222 to 223 degrees F on a deep-fry or candy thermometer and darkens in color. This will take about 35 minutes. Test the readiness of the marmalade by placing a teaspoon of the mixture onto the chilled plate and allowing it to sit for 30 seconds. Tilt the plate, the mixture should be a soft gel that moves slightly, if the mixture is thin and runs easily it is not ready.
Using a canning funnel and a ladle fill each container with marmalade let them cool uncovered for about 30 minutes and then cover and put in the refrigerator. They will last in the fridge for about 2-3 months.
A few notes:
*The pot needs to be stainless steel or enameled cast iron. These are non reactive metals and are essential to making jams; otherwise you will end up with things like an aluminum flavor, or gray discoloration. I would also recommend the BIGGEST pot you have, this baby likes to splatter.
** I did not can this jam, clearly. I really wanted to test out this recipe to get my feet wet in jam making. I have big plans for canning this summer, but it is a fairly involved process, which if done improperly can end up in moldy jam. I want to do more research on this before I do it. Either way, I decided I would make this, give some away, use some in recipes…and eat the rest myself ( I really love marmalade).
Get yourself a good quality mandoline, the chef’n one I got sucks, don’t get it. You don’t have to use a mandolin, but unless you’re quite talented with the knife, it will make this process much easier.
Coming soon: a recipe for Orange Marmalade Curried Chicken.