Three-Citrus Marmalade

2013 0214 IMG_0726 Marmalade breakfastMy fascination with preserving is as much about process as about product. The combination of three citrus fruits – grapefruit, oranges and lemons – in one marmalade poses an immediate dilemma: how to prepare each fruit so that the ensemble has a textural consistency while allowing distinction among the flavors.  I made a three-citrus marmalade with candied ginger at Christmas. It was dense, almost crunchy, even though much of the fruit peel was separately processed as candy. For this one, I was aiming for big chunks of fruit suspended in abundant “jelly.” 

Rachel Saunders’ Blue Chair Jam Cookbook provided the solution. This is a large book, beautifully presented, with a studied methodology (involving, among other techniques, 5 spoons for measuring gel!) and a wonderful sense of terroir in her choice of California fruits. How lucky is she that she can specify the variety of lemon, when here on the East Coast, we have two choices: the supermarket Eureka (who knew the name?) or Meyer lemon, another fruit altogether?  She calls this “English Three-Fruit Marmalade” and says, “The secret to this marmalade is to prepare each fruit separately and to cut it into extremely thick pieces.” She claims that this produces both a clean flavor and a fun marmalade to eat. All true. Her kicker is the addition of a little gin to get the flavors acquainted. This was a pretty good trick I thought.  How English.

2013 0214 IMG_0694 Marmalade 2I’m a small-batch canner in general, and typically cut Saunders’ recipes in half, or even thirds. I tried cutting this one in half but the weight of my available fruit made it a little over. Even so, I ended up with eight 8-ounce jars and then some, a huge batch in my book.

I liked the methodology of poaching the fruits individually in changes of cold water, simmering them to tenderness, and letting them sit overnight to develop pectin and depth before combining them with sugar for the final boil. This was time-consuming but was made complicated by Saunders’ instructions. She segregated her description the process fruit by fruit, even though they logically could overlap. I read and re-read the instructions until I was confused. I therefore re-wrote the opening sequence in my version of her recipe below. Call me “Miss En Place” if you want, but I like to get everything organized before launching into a recipe. Honestly, as intrepid as I am, I might not have attempted this had I not broken down the steps in advance.

Three-Citrus Marmalade adapted from Rachel Saunders, Blue Chair Jam

1 red grapefruit (1-1¼ lb), preferably unwaxed and organic

2 oranges (3/4-1lb), preferably unwaxed and organic

3 lemons (3/4 –1lb), preferably unwaxed and organic


About 3–3.5 lb cane sugar

¼ c plus 1 tsp gin

The marmalade is made over a two-day period to allow the poached fruit to mellow and develop pectin before cooking it with sugar to create the marmalade. The three fruits are poached separately since they soften at different paces.

Day One. Set out three medium saucepans, one for each type of fruit. Prepare the fruit. If your fruit is waxed, rinse and scrub the skins with a stiff brush under warm water. Cut the grapefruit and oranges in half crosswise and juice them, setting aside the juice in the refrigerator.  Save the seeds and add them, along with the lemon seeds, to a small muslin pouch or wrap them in cheesecloth and tie with a string.

Cut the grapefruit halves in two vertical pieces, place them in one of the saucepans and cover with 1 inch of cold water or enough to make the grapefruit pieces float.

Quarter the orange halves vertically and slice the segments horizontally into thick strips, about ¼ inch wide. Place them in a saucepan and cover with 1 inch of cold water.

Quarter the lemons vertically and slice them horizontally into pieces that are just under ¼ inch thick. Place them in a saucepan and cover with 1 inch of cold water. Combine the seeds with the orange and grapefruit seeds and add the pouch to the lemons.

The next step is to parboil the fruit. Grapefruit is parboiled for 5 minutes in the original water and a second time in a change of water before being simmered in a third change of water for 1-2 hours until tender. Oranges are parboiled in one 5-minute session before the long simmer, and lemons go straight to the simmering process. Each one is then covered and set aside overnight.

For the grapefruit: Bring the pan of grapefruit and water to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to keep the liquid at a lively simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the water, replenish it and cook again in the same manner for 5 minutes. Drain the water, cover the grapefruit pieces with water by about an inch, and cook at a lively simmer for 1-2 hours, until the peel is tender. (My grapefruit took a little over an hour.) Add more water along the way if necessary to keep the grapefruit pieces afloat.  When the grapefruit is tender, cover the pan and let it sit overnight.

For the oranges: Bring the pan of oranges and water to a boil over high heat, lower the heat to keep the liquid at a lively simmer for 5 minutes. Drain the water, cover the orange pieces with water by about an inch, and cook at a lively simmer for 1-2 hours, until the peel is tender. (My oranges took about an hour and a half.) Cover the pan and let it sit overnight.

For the lemons: Bring the lemons and water to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a lively simmer for 30-40 minutes or until tender. Cover the pan and let it sit overnight.

Day Two. If you are canning the marmalade, prepare the jars. Set a saucer in the freezer to chill. I used 8-ounce jars because of the heft of the fruit slices.

Remove the grapefruit from its liquid and scrape the flesh and pith into the liquid. Cut each grapefruit quarter into thirds lengthwise and them slice cross-wise into ¼-inch strips.

Strain the grapefruit liquid into a very large (2-quart) measuring cup and add the grapefruit pieces, the orange and lemon pieces and their liquid, the reserved grapefruit and orange juice and ¼ c gin. Note the volume and pour the contents into a large wide saucepan or preserving pan.

Measure sugar equal to ½ to ¾ of the volume of fruit and liquid and add it to the pan, stirring to combine. (I used ½ the volume of sugar to fruit and liquid, about 4 c or 3½ lbs sugar.)

Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until it is gelled (determined by dropping a little on the frozen saucer and testing it with our finger to see if it wrinkles). Start testing for gel around the 25-minute mark. My marmalade took about 40 minutes to gel, partly because I had too much grapefruit liquid and used the lower proportion of sugar.

When gelled, remove from the heat, remove the bag of seeds, and let sit until the foam subsides. Stir in 1 tsp of gin and ladle into hot canning jars.

If canning via the water bath method, process 8- or 12-ounce jars for 15 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars to a counter to cool undisturbed.

Makes 8+ eight-ounce jars.

Categories: Citrus fruit, Preserving

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