Saturday, December 08, 2007


So today was our surprise party for the Husband's birthday. All went well and while the Husband did indicate that I had been "acting suspiciously" he did claim it was a surprise. As the party encompassed a gathering of friends I used this as a perfect opportunity to distribute jars of marmalade. What kind of marmalade? Orange marmalade! Jackie rightly inquired whether a search of the blog would bring up a posting about marmalade and I realized that I had completely ignored marmalade making in terms of food postings, so here goes!

So far I've made two batches of marmalade based on Ina Garten's recipe. The recipe is pretty simple-- 4 seedless oranges, 2 lemons, 8 cups (yes, 8 cups) of sugar and 8 cups of water. While the ingredients are simple, the act of marmalade making is a bit more complex (taking two days) but still, with the help of a candy thermometer, not too difficult.

First you need to slice the 4 oranges and 2 lemons very, very thinly. It's best if you cut the oranges and lemons in half and then in half again and slice them such that you're cutting the fruit so that each slice looks like a classic "fruit slice". Ina's recipe says that if you have a mandoline this process will be quick (the Husband wasn't quite sure why having a small stringed instrument would help....) and as for me, I've had a mandoline for years and years and still haven't figured out how to properly operate it.... so it was just me and my chef's knife. Make sure you put your fruit slices (and all of the juices) into a stainless steel pot (no flavor transfer). Once you have all of your slices in your pot, add 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once the mixture has come to a boil you'll add in your 8 cups of sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Set aside your fruit/water/sugar concoction, covered, for 24 hours. The next day you'll bring your mixture to a boil again and then reduce to a simmer and continue simmering for 2 hours (stirring regularly). Also remember to skim off any foam that accumulates on top of your mixture. Once you've hit the 2 hour mark, next you'll increase the temperature again for another 30 minutes. You'll want to use a candy thermometer to confirm that the mixture has reached 220 degrees. The neat part is that the marmalade mixture will reduce quite a bit from your original 8 cups of water and much of the fruit will dissolve (even much of the orange and lemon rind!) During the 2 hour period your house will also fill up with a lovely orange scent. Of course, you need to keep your wits about you, otherwise after about an hour, and since I was no longer in the kitchen, I thought to myself, "gee, what's that citrus scent? Is the Husband brewing some of his orange tea? What *is* that?" then I realized, "HELLO, you're boiling 4 oranges in 8 cups of sugar..."

Once you've followed all the steps above it will be time to can! I can honestly say I had never canned anything before, and indeed I was never a fan of jelly jars-- specifically hating to eat at "Po'Folks" back in ATL as a kid because they served your drink in a jelly jar. Alas, feelings for jars aside, the Ball people seem to have the marked cornered on canning supplies. I had bought a 12 pack of Ball jars. After washing the jars you'll need to get them hot as in order for the jars to seal themselves both the glass jar and the contents need to be hot. The canning process turns out to be the one time it is good that our kitchen faucet puts out ridiculously hot water. I rinsed each jar thoroughly and (while holding it with an oven mitt) spooned marmalade into the jars... I made sure the marmalade was still at or around 220. Make sure to wipe down the mouth of the jar (so no marmalade is on the threads) and then seal tightly with your lid. Once the jars and marmalade cools a vacuum will be created and each jar will seal. I hadn't mentioned this to the Husband so he came into the kitchen and heard these popping sounds and wasn't quite sure what the heck was going on.

Marmalade will stay for up to a year sealed in the jar, once opened it needs to be refrigerated. For whatever reason (namely all the sugar?) once refrigerated the marmalade becomes rather stiff. When spreading after refrigeration you may want to pull the jar out of the fridge a bit before you're ready to use it so it can warm up to room temp and be easier to spread.

Leda asked whether we grew the oranges and lemons ourselves. Sadly, we didn't, but I am always mesmerized by the meyer lemon trees in the W-S catalogue. Just give me some time.