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Orange & Clementine Marmalade
My Leftover Christmas Fruit Mountain
I am guilty of buying too much fruit at Christmas. I can't help it – I love to see piles of oranges and clementines, mandarins, satsumas and lemons. Unfortunately, my family are far more interested in chocolate oranges than real fruit, so we often end up with more than we can eat.
This year, instead of watching the fruit dry up, wrinkle and eventually get thrown in the composting bin I've decided to turn it into marmalade. I have to warn you, I've never made marmalade before so this is less of a recipe and more an exploration into the alchemy of transforming citrus fruit into something to spread on toast.
The Origins of Marmalade
Say it, say 'marmalade'. Isn't it a lovely word, and perfectly suited to a sweet, yet tangy orange, jelly-like preserve. Originally, from Portugal, the name was applied to any fruit preserves, particularly those made with quince, and was first mentioned in the 15th century. Marmalade as we know it today was produced commercially by James Keiller of Dundee, Scotland, after he accepted delivery of a large amount of bitter Seville oranges that were rescued from a foundering ship. The fruit was too sour to sell as it was, so Keiller, or rather Mrs Keiller, came up with the idea of turning them into preserves. The marmalade was a hit and the company produces marmalade to this day.
Marmalade ranges from pale, clear lime jelly to a mysterious dark tangerine, holding slivers of flavorful fruit peel in its depths. It can be made from lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges and, indeed, any citrus fruit. It can be enhanced with cinnamon, ginger and even whisky.
What Makes Marmalade Set
Pectin is a substance found in the cell walls of plants. It is a sort of binding agent that helps to give the cells, and therefore the plant itself, structure. In citrus fruit it is mostly found in the pips and membranes (pith). Pectin is what causes jams, jellies and marmalade to congeal or set. That's why the whole fruit should be included in the process of making preserves.
Making Marmalade is Way Easier Than it Looks...
That's where I started, with the recipe in the link above. You should follow it, it's good. However, I continued to look at marmalade recipes all over the internet and in my Good Housekeeping book as well. I thoroughly confused myself, hence the fact that this is not a clear-cut recipe but an account of how I managed to make marmalade from an assortment of citrus fruit.
The problem with recipes like this is that you have to be flexible. Most marmalade is made from Seville oranges, however, the fruit that I have – and probably what you have too – is much sweeter than Sevilles, so you have to adjust the amount of sugar you add. Marmalade is meant to be sweet but not as sweet as jelly/jam, it should have a touch of bitterness to give it a bit of bite.
Anyway, we'll come to that later, for now, let's look at the equipment you need.
Equipment for Making Marmalade
- A large heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan
- Glass jars with lids
- Sharp knife
- Chopping board
- Large spoon
- Chilled plate (place in coldest part of your refrigerator or stand on a freezer gel pack).
Do not use any other kind of pan other than stainless steel, or ceramic at a pinch. The marmalade will need boiling at a high temperature so a good pan is essential. If you have a lot of fruit, then you will need more than one.
Sterilizing the Jars
Glass jars can be any kind. I used a couple of jars that had jelly in them and a Kilner jar with a seal-able lid. They need to be sterilized. Wash them in warm soapy water and rinse well. Get a large roasting pan and line it with a clean dish towel. Lay the jars down on their sides in the pan, making sure they are not touching. Also make sure they are not touching the sides of the pan, pull the dish towel round to keep them from moving. Place them in a cold oven and then turn on the heat. Setting to be 180c. 'Bake' them for 20 minutes and then turn off the heat. Leave the jars in the oven, they need to be hot. You can do the sterilizing while the marmalade is boiling, so don't rush off to do them first. Alternatively, you can put them through a very hot cycle in the dishwasher, remembering that they should be hot when you spoon in your delicious marmalade.
The rest of the equipment doesn't really need any explanation.
No exact quantities as it will depend on the amount of fruit you have available. Yes, you can do it like this. Just follow along – it's all done by taste!
- Citrus fruit – can be anything; sweet oranges, tangerines, clementines, satsumas, mandarins, grapefruit, lemons, limes, etc. Weigh the fruit. Mine came to 4.2 kilograms or just over 9lbs.
- Granulated sugar – to start you will need about 400g sugar per kilogram of fruit (or 12oz per 2lb). Ignore the recipes that say equal amounts of sugar and fruit. It will be too sweet. You can always add more as you go.
Optional: cinnamon sticks, diced ginger, whisky or brandy.
Directions for Making Marmalade
Wash the fruit in warm water to which a drop of dish washing soap has been added. Rinse thoroughly. Boil up a pan full of water and add the fruit, a few at a time. This will ensure the skins are bacteria-free. Leave them in for a couple of minutes then scoop them out to rest on a clean dish towel. Keep blanching until all the fruit is done. Discard water.
Chop all fruit into quarters and put into pan/s. Leave pith and pips in.
Pour in water until fruit is just about covered. Make sure the contents of the pan is just under 2/3 full. At this point you could leave it to sit overnight.
Turn on the heat and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down so the fruit and water is simmering nicely – not too gently, you want the steam to be a-rising. Simmer for about two hours, longer if possible. Smoosh the fruit around occasionally to get all that fruity flavor and juice into the water.
Very carefully – get help if your pan is very heavy – strain the fruit pulp and peel, and put to one side. Do not discard.
Put your pan of, what is now, hot fruit juice back on a low heat and add your sugar a cup at a time, tasting as you go. You want it to retain some tartness. Once all the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat and stir while you bring the pan to a simmer.
Put your jars into the oven, as described previously.
Raising the Temperature
Take a heap of fruit peel from your pulp and chop finely, adding it into the fruit syrup. You can make your mind up how much peel you want in your marmalade. Some like just a little, others like it to be quite dense. You can also add any additional flavoring at this time. As with the sugar, do it in small increments, you don't want it to overpower the marmalade. I used two sticks of cinnamon and a tablespoon of leftover Christmas pudding brandy.
The aim now is to reduce the liquid and raise the temperature until setting point is reached. Have the syrup at a rolling boil – where the liquid is moving nicely without being too agitated. You should see foam starting to form on the surface.
Look at the photo of the two pans – the one on the left is almost ready, whereas the other is just at the beginning stage of reduction. You can see how the syrup darkens and becomes heavier.
Marmalade Setting Point
Time to begin testing for setting point. Dribble a tiny amount of syrup onto your chilled plate. Wait about a minute then push your finger into the marmalade. If it is still liquid, you have some time to go. If it feels more solid and wrinkles a little as you push it, then it's just about done.
Yes, all right, you could use a sugar thermometer, but where's the adventure in that? This is experimental don't forget. We don't need no sugar thermometer! You do? Okay, the setting point of marmalade is 222F/105C.
Take your jars and lids from the oven – again, they will be hot so be careful. Stand them on a dishtowel – not a cold surface as they could crack. I simply stood mine upright in the roasting pan that I sterilized them in. Spoon the marmalade into the jars and put the lids on tightly. If you have used cinnamon sticks, you could leave one in each jar, however, they are a bit soggy so probably better to discard them. My aunt used to float a little circle of waxed paper on the top of the jam or marmalade, and dress the jars in little skirts and pretty labels. If you are making the marmalade as gifts, then dress them up however you like!
Once the stupendous marmalade has cooled, it should have set nicely. If it hasn't, fear not, you can simply tip it back into the pan and boil for a bit longer as I had to do with one of mine.
This is where I fell off the path and went off on my own. It worked, so as long as you follow the basic rules of hygiene and boiling, you will get there in the end.
I followed the steps above but added the sugar before I strained the pulp from the juice – it makes no difference apart from everything becoming very sticky! What I ended up with was a great bowlful of sweetened, very soft fruit pulp. I tasted it and it was lovely! So I tried it with a little leftover brandy cream and it was delicious. I couldn't bring myself to throw it all away, so, once cool, I divided it between some plastic freezer containers and put it in the freezer (my new super-duper, all-singing, all-dancing freezer, I might add). I'm thinking that this fruit pulp would make great ice-cream, pie-filling, cheesecake, steamed pudding type things. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment below.