Making orange marmalade has become a December tradition in our household, getting ready for the holidays and gift giving. While throughout the year, I make jams and other canned concoctions in small batches – sometimes just 2-4 small jars – I go into production mode for the marmalade. This year, I made two dozen 4-ounce jars for one batch of gifts, then turned around and made a second scattered between 4-ounce and ½-pint jars. Marmalade is pretty forgiving. The way I make it came from a combination of something I saw in Martha Stewart Living magazine and an old handwritten recipe from an unknown source. Try to find organic fruit that hasn’t had a wax coating since you’re using the peels.
8 organic, unblemished and relatively thin-skinned oranges, scrubbed
2 organic lemons, scrubbed (I used Meyer lemons)
6 c water
Sugar (amount to be determined, probably 4-6 c)
Peel six of the oranges. Cut the peels (removing very deep pith) into ¼ to 1/3-inch pieces and place in a large saucepan. Slice the orange flesh into ½ inch chunks, removing the tough core and the seeds. Reserve the seeds if you have a large amount. Add the orange flesh to the pan. Slice the remaining two oranges and the lemons into sixths vertically, again removing the core and the seeds. Slice them thinly crosswise into little fan shapes and add them to the pan. (The lemons can be quartered depending on their size.) Add the water to the pan and bring to a boil. Cook for five minutes, cover the pan and set aside to cool, refrigerating overnight. (I put mine outside in this weather.) If you have reserved quite a few seeds, tie them in cheesecloth and add them to the hot orange mixture. The purpose of this exercise – the overnight soak and the addition of seeds – is to develop the natural pectin that makes the marmalade gel.
The next day (or about 8 hours later), prepare jars for water bath canning. Remove the cheesecloth and seeds. Bring the orange mixture back to a boil and cook until the peels are tender, typically 15 minutes or so. Measure the amount of orange mixture and add ¾ of that amount in sugar. (In other words, for 6 c of orange mixture, add 4 c sugar, for 8 c, add 6.) Bring the mixture back to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally so the mixture doesn’t stick to the pan, until the marmalade reaches the gel point. This is either when the temperature measured on a candy thermometer, reaches 220 degrees, or more reliably (since you can overcook this), when a small drop placed on a plate cooled in the freezer wrinkles to the touch.
Place the hot marmalade into the prepared jars (which should also be hot), wipe the jar rims clean and top them with prepared canning lids (prepared by placing them in boiled water for a few seconds to remove germs). Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (for 4, 8 or 12 ounce jars) after the water returns to a boil. Remove the lid, let stand for 5 minutes, then remove the jars to a cool spot to sit undisturbed until cooled.
Makes 8-12 half pint jars and double that in 4-ounce jars.