Visits to markets with upscale produce departments have yielded some fantastic citrus fruits. Here are recipes for two kinds of orange marmalade to stock for breakfasts all year as well as welcome gifts. Unlike the commercial pectin recipes that call for a ratio of 3 cups fruit to 5 cups of sugar, these are low sugar with a ratio of just 1:1 or less.
Yield 8 half pints
• 4 pounds Valencia or “juice” oranges
• about 8 cups sugar
• may need additional fresh orange juice, not from concentrate
Unless the oranges are organic, give them a quick scrub.
1. Score each orange lengthwise in eight strips. Peel off the rind, then take each piece of rind and use a small, sharp knife to scrape about half the white pith off (this is easier than it sounds). You want the rind to be less than ¼-inch thick with some, but not all, of the white pith. Put the scraps of pith aside in a small bowl.
2. With scissors, cut all the zest into 1/8-inch slivers. This takes time, maybe 3 hours, so put on some music or a book on disk and relax. Wrap a Band-Aid or some tape around the base of your thumb to protect from the friction of the scissors. You should have a generous 4 cups of zest strips.
3. Squeeze the oranges to extract the juice. The easiest way I found is to cut the oranges into quarters and squeeze them in a lemon squeezer. If you have a juicer, that would be better. Put all the seeds aside in the bowl with the saved pith and discard the empty membrane. You should have 4 cups of juice. Add “bought” juice if necessary.
4. Tie the seeds and pith into a cheesecloth bundle. Take a piece of cheesecloth about 18 by 36 inches, fold in half, put the seeds and scraps in the center and either tie with string or do a “hobo” knot to firmly enclose the bundle.
5. Combine the zest strips and the juice in your jam pot, nestle the wrapped bundle down into the center. Bring to a low boil and then simmer over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside overnight.
(The reason you bundle the seeds and pith and simmer is to first, tenderize the zest strips and second, to extract the natural pectin in the seeds and excess pith.)
6. The next day, remove the bundle of seeds and pith and squeeze and wring to get out all possible juice. Discard the bundle.
7. Now add the sugar, stir well, and bring to a low boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to cook at a low boil for about 30 minutes. Clip on a thermometer for accuracy and bring the marmalade up to 220 degrees, the jelling point.
8. While your marmalade is cooking, set up your water bath canner and have jars, ladle and funnel at the ready. When the water comes to a boil, dip all the jars, two-piece lids, the ladle, and funnel to sterilize them. Arrange them on a clean towel to drain.
9. When the marmalade has reached the jelling point, remove from heat and stir a minute until any foam on the surface has disappeared. Ladle the marmalade into the jars and apply the lids. Process in the boiling water bath for 7 minutes, and then remove to a clean towel. Space the jars on the towel about an inch apart so they cool quickly. Listen for the “ping” of a good seal. Store your jars of marmalade in a cool, dark cupboard.
Recently, I made this grown-up marmalade. It’s dark and rich and I added a slug of good Irish whiskey. The marmalade doesn’t really taste like whiskey — it’s strongly orange with just that lingering hint of Irish. Delicious. The basic recipe is the same as above except for the sugar and whiskey. Be sure to use Irish.
Yield 7 half pints
• 4 pounds Valencia or “juice” oranges
• about 7 cups organic turbinado sugar
• may need additional fresh orange juice
• ½ cup best Irish whiskey
Follow the directions above right to the jelling point. Off the heat, stir a minute or two until the marmalade subsides, and then stir in the Irish whiskey.
Process and store as above.
Be sure to label all your marmalades and preserves throughout the year. Include the date on your label and note down the recipe in your canning journal.
Coming next: Two kinds of lemon marmalade!
Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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