I love marmalade. Heart. Love. Mmmm. How anyone could resist a good marmalade is beyond me. The bright orange gold reflections. The bitter. The sweet. On toast. On cake. A little spoonful.
It starts out with bitter oranges, also called Seville oranges. These guys have thick skin, little juice, and tons of seeds. At first glance they seem terribly incompatible with human consumption, but if you have the patience and a good sharp knife, great things can happen. I spent about two or three hours just chopping as finely as possible.
Philosophic questions can hit you when you least expect them. To make an annoying story short, I accidentally made twice what I had planned to make. I realized this after hours of slaving away. It was too late to go back. Lack of a big enough recipient forced me to cook in two batches, (and I mean you need a really BIG recipient to make the full recipe). Lo and behold, tired and irritated me burned the second batch, which explains the lovely brown tint of the top jars.
So you might ask yourself: Is the marmalade half burned, or half perfectly cooked? To me, it was definitely half-burned on the first night, not to mention it almost ruined my dutch oven. Bastien, for once, was far more forgiving claiming that he actually liked the taste of the burned stuff, even if he preferred the orange batch. I have to admit that the burned version works nicely with chocolate cake, but I would still choose the orange marmalade any day.
I had quite a time trying to clean my dutch oven. With a little luck I came across a super method for cleaning a very VERY burned pan in a forum, and I will share in a future post. Good stuff to know. Perhaps in the end, the glass is in fact half full.
But enough jibber jabber – on to the facts. Marmalade is simple to make, just a little tedious. The tedious part is preparing the fruit. It seemed helpful to use a juicer to divide the juice from the seeds. I used a metal strainer to hold the seeds. They are essential to making marmalade. This is where the pectin is tucked away, and the pectin is what gives jams their jelly. If you have cooking cloths, wrap the seeds up in that.
Just as important to jam-making as the jam itself is the sterilization of the jars and their lids. I make sure that the lids are rust free and without dents. If you have a sterilization machine, you can skip this process as you will boil the filled jars in water to create a sterile environment. I have never used one, but I’m sure it is far easier.
The jars and lids can be sterilized in a large pot of boiling water. Leave them in boiling water for 10 minutes. Be careful with this part, as they are hot hot hot. Take them out using special rubber tipped tongs made for exactly this action. Wooden chopsticks work well too. Place them on a clean towel not long before filling them.
The marmalade bubbles and thickens. It’s just about ready. Be careful not to burn the bottom! Stir regularly.
Watch out! You can and probably will burn yourself during this part. Fill the jars one by one with the hot marmalade as high as possible and screw on the lid, making sure it is well fit. Place upside down on a cooling rack and leave for a few hours or overnight to cool. You might hear the seal popping as they cool. This is a good sign. This will create an air-tight seal that will help keep the jam from spoiling. Try not to get any marmalade on the outside of the jar, as any jam caught in the screw top might mold.
This recipe made great marmalade! If you have the time and energy, I highly recommend.
Bitter Orange Marmalade
Here is the recipe with the quantities that I should have used, to make 8-10 jars. If you have some serious jam-making equipment, don’t hesitate to double the recipe.
- 1 kg bitter oranges
- 2 liters water (filtered or from a source if possible)
- 2.5 kg sugar
Wash the oranges and remove the rest of the stem.
Either by hand or with the help of a juicer, separate the seeds, the flesh, and the whole peel. Each part will go into the recipe.
Place the seeds in a wire strainer, or wrap in cooking fabric. Cut the flesh into small pieces. Slice the orange peels as thinly as possible. To save time, you could probably pass the orange peel in a food processor or electric grater, but I don’t know what the final texture would be like.
Put the orange peel, flesh, and wrapped seeds (or strainer of seeds) together in a bowl and cover with the 2 liters of water. Allow to steep together overnight or up to 48 hours.
The next day, boil gently for about 2 hours, half covered. Stir with a wooden spoon. If you think that it boiled too much, you can add up to half a cup of extra water. During this time, you can sterilize your jars and lids.
Add the sugar all at once, and bring to a rapid boil, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Check to see if it’s ready by placing a drop of marmalade on a cold plate and turning vertically. If it doesn’t drip like water, it is probably ready.
You can cook for up to 20 minutes, but don’t push it any farther.
Remove the seeds and transfer the hot marmalade to jars, as explained above.