**warning! this post is a little wordy so bear with me...
One of the first cookies I tested when I was going to open up my etsy shop was a thumbprint cookie. While pondering over what to fill it with, I decided I should go completely handmade and make my own jam. I ended up deciding on a blood orange marmalade in part because I had never made marmalade (or jam for that matter) and also because blood oranges intrigued me. The blood orange marmalade was a tasty success and ended up becoming a permanent part of my thumbprint cookies. It was this first batch of blood orange marmalade that led my brother to suggest I sell jams and marmalades in my shop, too. It's crazy to look back and remember the evolution of Sweet Miscellany. In some ways it feels like that was just yesterday, and in others it feels like a million years ago.
Anywho, shall we get back to marmalade? This is prime time for citrus so there are plenty of tasty options to choose from. My favorites to use for marmalade-making are blood oranges (that color!) and meyer lemons. Although I love grapefruits, their bitterness is hard to tone down so the process of making marmalade with them spans more than 2 days. The first time I went through the long process of making marmalade, I thought I'd never do it again until I tasted it. I was sold at that moment. It's sweet, tart, and just a tad bitter with a nice bit of texture from the peels.
Since marmalade is a bit of a process, it's definitely a good activity for blustery, cold winter days. My marmalade making process is spread out over 2 days, but they don't necessarily have to be 2 consecutive days as long as you don't wait longer than a week in between each day. On the first day, you'll remove and finely chop the peel of your fruit, then squeeze every last bit of juice out of them. You'll simmer the juice, peels, and a bit of water for a bit, then you'll park this mixture in the fridge overnight. The resting phase allows the peels to break down a bit and reduces the bitterness that can put some people off. The next day, you add some sugar (and a bit of flavoring if you want) and make your marmalade. You can keep it simple and put your jars in the fridge, or, you can go the extra step and can your marmalade to extend its life and make it shelf stable. It's really up to you. Let's get started on this adventure!
How to Make Marmalade
notes: all pictures in this post are of a blood orange marmalade. Choose from the citrus listed below as that is what the process and amount of sugar are designed for. Whatever citrus you choose, you will still need 1 large regular lemon.
Choose your citrus (you need 2.5 lbs):
cara cara oranges
eureka (regular) lemons
Choose your flavor:
black tea or earl grey tea (about 1/4 cup)
fresh ginger (1-2 tbsp freshly grated)
lavender (1/2 to 1 tbsp dried)
cardamom (2 tbsp crushed whole pods)
cinnamon sticks (3 large sticks)
bourbon/whiskey (2 to 4 tbsp)
You will also need:
1 large regular lemon
3 cups of filtered water
2 to 4 cups natural cane sugar
sterilized jars & lids (you'll need at least 3 or 4 half pint sized jars)
(plus the 2.5 lbs of your chosen citrus & your flavoring)
Scrub all of your citrus well. Using a vegetable peeler, carefully remove the peel from all of the citrus, making sure not to get the white pith with it. It’s okay if you end up getting a bit of pith with the peels because you will be soaking everything overnight to help break it down. Once you have removed all of the peel, carefully slice it into thin strips, then add it to your jam pot. The best pots for jam-making are wide and relatively shallow. Next, cut the citrus fruits in half and juice them, making sure to reserve the seeds and halves. Add the juice to the pot with the peels. Put the reserved seeds, the lemon halves, and 4 of the halves of your chosen citrus fruit into a few layers of cheesecloth (4 layers will do), then tie the bundle closed with a bit of twine. Add the bundle to your pot along with the water, then set it over medium high heat and bring it to a boil. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce it to a simmer (medium low) and cook it until the peels are soft. This should take between 30 and 45 minutes. When the peels are soft, remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool a bit before covering it and placing it in the fridge to rest overnight.
Day 2Remove your jam pot from the fridge. Remove the cheesecloth bundle and set it aside in a bowl, then carefully measure out the contents of your jam pot. You will need to add ¾ cup of sugar for every cup of juice/peels you have. Add the sugar,the juice/peels, and your bundle of seeds back to the pot. At this point you can add your flavorings (the fresh ginger goes directly into the pot while the tea, lavender, or whole spices would go in a separate cheesecloth bundle to keep them out of the final product). Return your jam pot to the stove over medium heat. You will need to cook the marmalade, stirring occasionally, while it reduces down. As it is cooking, it will produce a lot of foam on the surface which you will need to skim off with a spoon and discard. Cook the marmalade until it thickens and gels, which will take anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour. To test the gel of the marmalade, place a small amount on a plate and put it in the freezer for about a minute. After a minute check and see if it wrinkles when you nudge it. If it wrinkles, it's ready. If it runs, it's not ready and must be cooked longer. Once the marmalade is ready, remove the cheesecloth bundle(s) with a pair of tongs, making sure to squeeze any of the excess marmalade out. If you wanted to use bourbon as a flavoring, now would be the time to stir it in. Discard the cheesecloth bundle, or compost it. Carefully fill your sterilized jars, let the marmalade cool a bit, then place them in the fridge. Enjoy your marmalade within a couple of months. Makes about 3 half-pint sized jars.
OR, if you want to can it, you can see a more detailed description on water bath canning in an article I wrote in Chickpea magazine located here on pages 46-48. If you are an experienced with water bath canning, you would process your jars of marmalade for 10 minutes.