Marmalade is an oft-overlooked joy. Bittersweet, golden, tart and chewy, it goes just as well with toast as with chicken, or (try this at home) as a topping for angel food cake. Packed full of vitamin C and much lower in sugar than other fruit preserves, it's a worthwhile indulgence. The catch: it's more complicated to make than other preserves. You could buy organic marmalade online, but why not stock up on fresh, in-season organic citrus and make a stash of bottled sunshine for gifts, special treats and rainy days?
Ingredients & Tools
5 pounds of organic oranges*
7 to 8 cups of sugar
A large stockpot
A small piece of cheesecloth or a tea ball
Ten half-pint jars or the equivalent
*Avoid thin-skinned oranges like satsumas or mandarins, and sweet oranges like Navels. Valencia and Seville oranges are the classics: tart, with thick skins. Also consider mixing in a few quince, a grapefruit or any other citrus.
Wash and scrub your fruit. Dry each one, then peel off its skin with a peeler or knife. Set the peeled fruit aside in an airtight bag or container.
From the Organic Authority Files
Mince the skins, or slice them into tiny, short strips. Put them in a bowl, cover them with water and let them soak overnight.
The next day, chop the citrus fruit, keeping as much of the juice as possible. You can remove the pith (the white parts) if you prefer sweeter preserves, but I recommend leaving it. Separate out the membranes if you can, and keep the seeds.
Tie up the membranes and seeds in cheesecloth or a tea ball, and put the juice, fruit, membranes and seeds in a large pot.
Drain the water from the skins and add them to the pot as well. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Simmer the pot for two hours, stirring it ocasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot.
After two hours, add seven cups of sugar and stir it thoroughly. Taste the mixture and add up to another cup of sugar as needed. Let it simmer about 30 minutes longer, until it is thick.
Once your candy thermometer starts registering around 218° F, test the thickness by spooning a little marmalade onto a chilled plate. If it spreads out thinly, it isn't ready. If it stays "jelled" and wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it's ready.
Transfer to jars, wipe the rim and seal!
Your marmalade will keep up to 4 months in the fridge. If you want it to keep longer, here's a basic introduction to canning — not as hard as it looks!
image: Amanda Slater