When it comes to marmalade, I’m into technique. Every year, I try another method while repeating a few favorites. The difference in method is not so much in the cooking sequence. In most marmalade, cut-up citrus fruit is parboiled in water and left to sit for varying lengths of time before being combined with sugar and boiled until gelled. This might take place in one day or over two or three, with each step allowing pectin to develop and the fruit to liquidize and rehydrate.
The difference is actually in the way the fruit is cut and what parts you use. Basically it’s pith or no pith. Slivers, chunks, or something in between. My typical marmalade separates the peel — including the outer layer or zest and the pith or albedo — from the juicy flesh. I usually use the full peel and cut it in a variety of ways.
This time, I tried a technique from Kevin West’s Saving the Season, a book that I go back to over and over. He uses a vegetable peeler to remove the zest portion of the peel and cuts off the albedo, discarding it or reserving it for another use. (That’s the bonus — stay tuned.)
I slivered the peel into 1½-inch long pieces, combining the types of citrus fruit. In addition to this combination of blood oranges and Meyer lemon, I also made marmalade in the same manner using grapefruit, two types of lemons and oranges. The technique allowed all of the peel and the fruit to be cooked at the same time. When I take this approach, I typically cook the various fruits separately, which is somewhat time consuming. West calls this recipe “Time to Kill Marmalade” since it goes pretty quickly. The only trick is to keep the peel from getting too tough, either by under-cooking it in the first step or over-cooking it in the second.
Now for the bonus. West’s method produces a pile of discards: all of the albedo, pieces of outer peel, seeds, the fibrous core of the fruit. While the marmalade ingredients look neatly cut and organized, the by-product is a mess. Just like the apple peelings produced from so many Thanksgiving pies get turned miraculously into jelly, so does this pectin producing pile of scraps. The blood orange and Meyer lemon combo produced a pretty pink jelly, which I seasoned with gin, Campari and red vermouth, in honor of the Negroni cocktail. While the alcohol cooks off immediately, the herbal essence lingers.
Blood Orange and Meyer Lemon Marmalade, adapted from Kevin West, Saving the Season
2 lbs blood oranges
1 lb Meyer lemons
½ lb Eureka lemons (supermarket variety)
3 c water
4 c sugar
Optional: ¼ c honey
Optional: 2 tbsp citron vodka or gin
Scrub the fruit well in cold water or, if it’s been store-bought, plunge it into a large pan of very hot water to release the wax. Dry the fruit and let it sit on the counter undisturbed for a few hours or overnight.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the colored zest in wide strips, leaving the albedo (white pith) behind. Slice the peel into thin slivers or ¼-inch wide strips. Set aside.
Trim the remaining albedo away from the citrus flesh and reserve it for making jelly or discard. Chop the citrus pulp into ½-inch dice, reserving the seeds and inner core for jelly. (If not making jelly, reserve the seeds for the marmalade.)
Combine the sliced peel, diced pulp and water in a large wide pot, and boil gently for 30 minutes until the peel is tender. Taste it to make sure. Set aside for a few hours or overnight or continue with the recipe.
Prepare jars for water bath canning. Place a saucer in the freezer to test the gel.
Add the sugar, bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce over high heat, stirring regularly, until it tests for gel, about 20 minutes. (A drop placed on the cold saucer should not be runny but rather wrinkle to the touch.)
Stir in the optional honey and/or alcohol and cook for another 30 seconds.
Remove the marmalade from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes before ladling it into hot prepared jars. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.
Makes 4-5 eight-ounce jars.
Citrus Jelly adapted from Kevin West, Saving the Season
1 lb albedo (pith) trimmings, plus cores, seeds, small amounts of exterior peel from the marmalade above
4 c water
2 c sugar (or as needed)
Optional: 1 tbsp each gin, Campari, sweet vermouth to make Negroni Jelly
If canning the jelly, prepare jars for water bath canning. Place a saucer in the freezer to test the gel.
Place the trimmings in a pot with the water and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the trimmings are tender but the albedo is not falling apart (this would make the jelly cloudy).
Strain the contents through a large damp jelly bag, catching the liquid in a bowl.
Measure the liquid and add an equal amount of sugar. Stir to dissolve and bring to a boil, cooking to gel point, about 10 minutes.
Add the alcohol if using and cook 1 minute.
Ladle into hot prepared jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.
Makes 2 eight-ounce jars or 4 four-ounce jars.