On a recent trip to Great Britain I learned to appreciate a hearty breakfast. This was due to the fact that most British cuisine never exceeds bar food and after a week there is only so much fried fish and meat pies a person can take. So every morning I made sure to eat an entire English, Scottish or Irish breakfast depending on which island I happened to be staying. The basic components never changed but there was always a somewhat different approach to the meal. Whether it had both white and black pudding, home fries or hash browns or sausage and or bacon there was one thing that remained constant, marmalade. What was even more surprising was that even if the marmalade was in a little prepackaged tub it was still really good quality.
After returning home I went to the store to buy a jar of marmalade and was a little depressed to discover the only way to get a good marmalade was to pay through the nose and even those turned out to be too sickly sweet. So I thought, how hard could it be to make?
My trusty friend and daily tormentor the World Wide Web quickly showed many a simple recipe. As I read them each seemed way too simple and more importantly called for too much sugar and hardly any orange peel. Quite a few called for the addition of packaged pectin to help the marmalade set. Well I knew that marmalade originally had been made before people had the convenience of buying commercial thickeners. After a more intense search I discovered how to create pectin with the innards of the oranges in the recipe. Unfortunately these recipes called for at least two days worth of cooking. Now I like cooking and probably could spend two days making jam but I do have a day job and my wife prefers to spend some time with me away from the stove so I needed to find a compromise. So I mixed the recipes together eliminating some stewing and adding extra peel and less sugar. The result was a phenomenal success.
A few quick notes. I am not going to explain my method for canning again, if you don’t know how check out the fig jam recipe. Pick fruit that is in excellent shape and unbruised or marked on. I used naval juice oranges and it took nine to get the needed amount of juice. The membranes come out of the oranges very easily with a spoon just make sure there is no pith attached. This is not true for the lemons and it took awhile to dislodge the membranes from the halves. If you can get Meyer lemons substitute them for the two chopped lemons. Scraping the pith away from the orange peel is a pain, takes forever and makes a mess. The most success I had was using a teaspoon like I was rubbing off a scratch ticket. I like bitter marmalade, if you prefer a sweeter taste add more sugar. I happen to own a couple muslin bags but you can buy them at any high end cooking supply shop. If you have a good grocery store that has good cheese (more per pound than steak) they may have cheesecloth lying around as well. An electric juicer is really useful but this can be done by hand. I do not have a candy thermometer so I boiled the mixture until it foamed up and would not go back down while stirring heavily with a spoon. A thermometer would be easier.
- 3 pounds oranges
- 4 lemons
- 7 ½ cups sugar
- 8 cups water
- Muslin bag or 4 layers cheesecloth tied together
Wash fruit well and dry completely. Juice enough oranges to get 4 cups juice. Do not strain the juice but make sure to set aside any seeds and membranes in a separate bowl. Juice two lemons and add liquid to orange juice. Once again make sure to set aside any seeds and membranes. Scoop the remaining membranes and pulp from the orange and lemon halves and add to reserved seeds. Scrape as much of the pith out of the orange halves as possible. Julienne the orange peels extremely thin and set aside. Slice the remaining two lemons in half, then half again, and half each twice more to get thin slices. Remove seeds and white center membrane. Leave the peel attached to the lemon fruit. Cut into tiny wedges that look like a piece of pie. In a large stock pot pour the orange/lemon juice and water. Add the chopped lemon and sliced orange peel. Place the reserved seeds and membranes into the muslin bag. Tie it up and then place into pot tying the top to the handle so it stays upright but still is submerged in the liquid. Bring contents to a boil and cook on high for about a ½ hour or until orange peel is soft and cooked. Remove muslin bag and let cool. Remove marmalade from heat and measure out the total liquid. It is recommended to add 7/8 cups sugar for every 1 cup liquid. I had nine cups liquid when done with the first boil and only added 7 ½ cups sugar. Add more sugar to taste. Pour liquid back into stock pot and add measured sugar. Once the muslin bag is cool to touch, squeeze out the pectin into the marmalade. The easiest way to do this is grab a lemon sized ball in the bag separate it from the rest and squeeze. Keep milking the bag till at least 4 tbsp of whitish liquid is extracted. The more the better though. Do not let any of the actual bits in the pectin bag out into the marmalade while squeezing. Bring the marmalade to a boil and cook until a candy thermometer reads 220 degrees. Can quickly. The marmalade will be very thin at first. It sets as it cools.