On Friday I found myself with an abundance of citrus. I had minneola tangelos from a CSA box two boxes ago, I had Meyer lemons from my mom's trees, and most importantly, I had a bounty of oranges that a coworker had grown and brought in to share. Friday was an "off" day for many of the people in the lab, so there weren't many people at work in the first place. Late in the day, most of the oranges still hadn't been touched, so rather than have them sit all by their collective lonesome over the weekend, I brought home nine of them with the idea that I would make marmalade. I'd never made it before, so I had to look around a bit for the recipe that looked the most promising. In fact, I'd never done any canning on my own, only helped my mom when she was making jam, so the prospect of canning my own marmalade was doubly exciting.
The results, I am happy to say, are excellent. The marmalade is a beautiful color (the picture above doesn't do it justice), well balanced (sweet and a bit tart, with some bitterness from the peel), jelled but still spreadable, and just plain delicious. I was worried that it would not set up properly, as it remained fairly syrupy on the stove and I wasn't sure if I'd gotten enough pectin out of the seeds and pulp. In the end, though, it was fine. The recipe I used is a minimally modified version of this recipe, which has you make your own pectin rather than add store-bought pectin. As I am very much a by-my-bootstraps kind of cook, this method is preferable to me, but you could use added pectin if you so preferred.
Makes 6 x 8-ounce jars, plus a little extra
10-12 large oranges
2 regular or 4 Meyer lemons
3-6 cups sugar, to taste
4 cups water
1 vegetable peeler
1 orange juicer of a sort that allows you to collect the pulp and seeds
cheesecloth, muslin, or a jelly bag
1 5- or 6-quart non-reactive pot
1 large ladle
1 large heat-proof measuring cup or pitcher
canning jars, rings, and NEW lids (the lids are not reusable)
1 wide, tall pot OR a dishwasher that gets very hot
1 set tongs (for removing rings, lids, and possibly jars from boiling water)
1 damp paper towel (for wiping the rim of the filled jar before placing the lid on it)
clean towels and/or oven mitts
1 candy thermometer
various canning equipment (jar lifters, jar wrench, jar rack, lid rack, etc.)
1 funnel (highly recommended, especially a canning funnel with a wide mouth)
Wash the fruit, scrubbing carefully, and pat dry with a clean towel.
Peel the fruit. If you are particular about the appearance of your marmalade (as I am), try to remove the peel in long, quasi-rectangular pieces. This will make for more even peel bits in the finished marmalade.
Using a sharp chef's knife, julienne the peel (see below*) and set aside. The two reviewers who've sampled my marmalade agreed that julienned peel is preferable to coarse pieces, as it remains "present" in the marmalade without overwhelming it (and without being something you have to work around).
Cut fruit in half through the equator, and set four layers of cheesecloth over a bowl (or one layer of clean muslin, or the jelly bag).
Juice the oranges and lemons. Collect the juice in a large pitcher; collect the pulp and seeds in the cheesecloth.
Combine juice and julienned peel in the 5- or 6-quart pot. If you are a perfectionist like I am, strain the juice as you pour it into the pot, so that you can retain any pulp that might have gotten through in the juicing process. I just set my cheesecloth (with the pulp and seeds in it) in a sieve for stability, put the sieve over the pot, and poured the juice through the cheesecloth-and-sieve.
Use a length of butcher's twine to tie the cheesecloth securely, so that you have a small bundle containing the pulp and seeds. Place bundle in pot, and tie loosely to a pot handle.
Bring mixture to a boil and let boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until the peel is soft and cooked all the way through. Remove from heat, and place cheesecloth bundle in a bowl to cool.
Using your heat-proof measuring cup (or pitcher), measure out how much orange mixture you have (for this amount of fruit, I had just over 6 cups), then return mixture to pot.
Now it's time to add the sugar. Start with 1/2 cup sugar per whole cup of orange mixture, so if you have about 6 cups of mixture like I did, add 3 cups of sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, placing pot back on the heat if necessary. When sugar has fully dissolved, taste mixture and add more sugar to taste. I ended up using a total of 5 cups of sugar to my 6 cups of mixture. The marmalade was slightly tart while still warm, but the tartness mellowed as the marmalade cooled. Keep in mind also that the sweetness and flavor will intensify as the marmalade boils down in the remaining steps, so be mindful of your sugar.
When the cheesecloth bundle is cool enough to handle, start squeezing it to extract the pectin. Grasp a portion of the bag that fits comfortably in your closed hand and squeeze, pulling the bag away with one hand while holding it firmly with the other. Make your way around the bag until, after a few minutes, you have worked all of its contents. For the amount of fruit used here, you should get somewhere between 2 and 4 tablespoons of pectin. When finished, add the pectin to the marmalade pot with the rest of the orange mixture.
If you haven't already returned the pot to the heat, do so now (medium-high heat). Bring mixture to a rapid boil and let boil until marmalade is "done," which will take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. After about 10 minutes, check it for doneness about every 5 minutes.
Checking for doneness (that is, whether or not it will jellify when cooled): I've seen three tests described for checking one's jam or marmalade. My marmalade failed two of them, but still set up beautifully, so don't fret too much if it looks like yours won't work.
Test #1: The Drip Test. Dip a clean, cool stainless steel spoon in the thinnest (that is, runniest-looking) part of the marmalade. Hold it up out of the steam, sideways, so that the marmalade can dribble down and drip off of the side of the spoon. If two large drips form and then coalesce, the marmalade is ready to be canned. Mine failed this test miserably. It was still very drippy when I canned it.
Test #2: The Wrinkle Test. If using this test, place a few small plates in the freezer around the time that you squeeze out the pectin. When you are ready to test the marmalade, remove one plate from the freezer and place a small amount of the hot marmalade on the plate. If it spreads out and looks runny, the marmalade isn't ready. If it moves sluggishly and wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it's ready. Mine failed this one, too: it was sluggish, but there were no wrinkles.
Test #3: The Thermometer Test. I like this one, because I'm the scientific type and because it worked for me. The marmalade should be done when its temperature reaches 8-10 degrees (F) above the boiling point. For cooks working at less than 1000' elevation, the "done" temperature range is 220-222F.
The last step is canning, which I will cover in more detail in a separate post. The main points of the process are:
1. Sterilize your jars and lids. If you want to be very thorough (and who doesn't?) sterilize the rings as well.
2. Work quickly, but carefully. You don't want to compromise the sterility of your equipment. You also don't want to scald yourself!
3. Be sure to wipe down the rim of the filled jar before you place a lid on it. Any bits of jelly remaining on the rim will interfere with the sealing process.
4. After you have screwed the ring tightly onto the lidded jar, place it upside-down on a wire rack and note the time (I use a pen and paper for this, as I am liable to forget). After 7-10 minutes, the jar may be turned right-side-up.
5. When you hear a very satisfying "pop!" from a jar, you will know that it has sealed properly.
I just love the color of the marmalade, and the fact that you can see bits of orange peel when the light shines through it. It's a bit difficult to tell in this image, but trust me, they're there.
* My apologies for the quality of the images in this post. My
camera's phone phone's camera is excellent for a phone, but not ideal when it comes to fine photography. But it's what I have at my disposal for the time being, and I thought that some low-quality pictures would be better than none at all.
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Sunday, April 6, 2008