Crates of citrus are eager opportunities for marmalade. Christmas gifts shipped straight from the grove are transformed into gold and sent back out in sparkling jars that should last the year but never do.
My first post in a yearlong (2010) blog fest called the Tigress Can Jam was Meyer Lemon Marmalade with variations using ginger and rosemary. The lemons were a Christmas gift from a peripatetic family member who returned from a San Francisco sojourn with arms full of fruit that she had picked from a tree in her yard. The resulting recipe has been one of the most sought-after on my website and I am thus frequently reminded of that memorable marmalade.
This year, I was given a load of lemons leftover from a holiday party and promptly set about turning them into marmalade stewed with rosemary from my garden. The typical proportion of sugar to fruit is 3:4 (in other words add 3/4 cup of sugar for each cup of fruit. I cut down a little on this for the lemon marmalade since I wanted it to be robust but not puckery. Next up this year was somewhat delicate tangelo marmalade, made with fruit that was thin in skin and ample in flesh. Because of that, I added a few extra peels from tangelos that we were eating raw. Since the fruit was very sweet, I once again cut down on the sugar and added a couple of organic Meyer lemons.
There are three important tricks to successful marmalade, two particularly useful if you want to diminish the sugar. First is to select fruit with no or minimal processing, meaning gassing and waxing the skin. That’s possible if you order them from a farm or know someone with a tree. If not, make sure to wash them well (I use warm water, sometimes with a little soap), rinse them well and dry them well before proceeding with the recipe. It’s best to let them sit out on the counter for a couple of hours before proceeding.
The second tip is to cook the flesh and peel mixture (without sugar) for five minutes and let the mixture sit overnight. The third, to go along with the second, is to collect the seeds and place them in a little muslin sack that is cooked with the flesh and peel, left in the container overnight and then squeezed gently to extract the gooey pectin. By doing this, the marmalade will gel in nearly half the time during its final cooking, keeping the flavors fresh and sprightly.
6 preferably organic, unblemished and relatively thin-skinned tangelos, scrubbed
Peels from 2 additional tangelos, scrubbed before peeling
2 organic lemons, scrubbed (I used Meyer lemons)
6 c water (to cover by a little less than an inch)
Sugar (amount to be determined, probably 4-6 c)
Peel four of the tangelos by lightly slicing through the skin to divide the fruit in sixths. Cut half of these and the reserved peels into thin strips, 1½ inches long and just under 1/16 inch wide. Cut the remainder into ¼ to 1/3-inch pieces and place in a large, wide saucepan. Slice the tangelo flesh into ½ inch chunks, removing the tough core and the seeds. Reserve the seeds. Add the flesh to the pan. Slice the remaining two tangelos 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.) Place the reserved seeds in a muslin bag or cheesecloth, tie it securely and add it to the citrus mixture. 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.) 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 seed bag. Bring the mixture back to a boil and cook until the peels are just tender, typically 10 minutes or so for oranges (up to 15 for lemons) but less here since tangelo peels are delicate to start with. Measure the citrus mixture and add ¾ of that amount in sugar. (In other words, for 6 c of citrus mixture, add 4 c sugar, for 8 c, add 6.) You can use a little less as I did. 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 221 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, insert a thin knife to remove the air bubbles, 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- or 8-ounce jars) after the water returns to a boil. Remove the lid, let stand for 5 minutes, and then remove the jars to a cool spot to sit undisturbed until cooled.
Makes 8 half pint jars and double that in 4-ounce jars.
Lemon Rosemary Marmalade
Follow the recipe above for Tangelo Marmalade, substituting lemons. Cook the mixture with a large sprig of rosemary and let it steep with the lemons overnight. You can also leave the rosemary in the pan when you’re initially cooking the peel but remove it before adding sugar. Insert a sprig of rosemary into each jar before processing, making sure that it is submerged and that all air bubbles have released by plunging a thin knife into each jar.