I recently made some chocolate bread from these wonderful folk, and while enjoying it with mascarpone cheese and strawberry jam, thought how yummy it would be with orange marmalade – not the sickeningly sweet kind found in the grocery, but the slightly bitter stuff you would find in some tiny British Isles import store in DC. it is navel orange season, and the ones I found recently were particularly tasty. So, I bought a bunch and decided to try my hand at homemade marmalade.
Recipes for the stuff are easy to find, but I noted little similarity among them, other than the main ingredient: oranges. Some called for pectin, others not. Some called for crazy amounts of sugar, others for honey and corn syrup. Some were as simple as “slice oranges, add sugar and lemon juice and boil the hell out of it,” while others were more complicated than the directions for building one of those fake Rolls Royces out of a VW chassis. Vanilla, cinnamon, brandy, vodka, peel, roast, scald, seed, chop, STOP!
Hoping for something fairly simple but not so simple it wasn’t worth the effort, I did what I often do, and took pieces of several recipes and patched them together, hoping it would turn out in the end. I started with a recipe that called for a long poaching of a bunch of oranges and lemons together, along with cinnamon sticks. I did not want to peel the oranges, then remove the pith and chop the fruits and the peels, as some recipes called for. For one thing, the pith is bitter, and I wanted that element. For another, I’m just not that motivated. So, poaching sounded good.
I wondered if it made any real difference to poach whole fruit and then cut it, or if I could just cut the fruit and start boiling it straight away. I’m still not sure, although when I did slice and then poach one orange, I noticed the pith stayed solidly white and, well, pithy. When I poached the whole fruit and then sliced it, the pith was translucent and more solidly attached to the peel. It looked more appealing, in any case. So, I poached. Most of the recipes called for far too much water. I’m no jelly-making wizard, but even I can tell that 12 cups of water, three cups sweetener and eight whole fruits was not going to make anything remotely spreadable.
In the end, I made two batches, with two different amounts of sugar and water. One was plenty thick, and the other not so much. Combined and cooked a little longer, the two were just about right. Here is what I came up with:
ORANGE MARMALADE, 8 pints
14 seedless navel oranges
1 – 3# stick of cinnamon, broken into pieces
10 cups water
10.5 cups sugar
Poach fruits and cinnamon in water for 2-2 1/2 hours.
Cool. Remove cinnamon pieces and discard them.
Remove fruit from liquid. Quarter, seed as needed and thinly slice fruit.
Return fruit to water.
Bring to boil.
Add sugar and boil, stirring often, until syrup is desired thickness. At least one hour.
Process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.