Old-Fashioned Orange Marmalade

Marmalade is a very ancient method of preserving fruits and can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, who passed it on to the Romans, who traded and taught other cultures the art of preserving fruit, mostly using honey as the sweetener rather than the modern sugar.

One thing I love about marmalade, is that is uses the entire fruit – skin, pith and all – with exception of the seeds. The only thing thrown out (or replanted if you live in the correct climate) are the seeds. To me, marmalade is the simplest, most non-wasteful preservation of fruit. You don’t have to stick to oranges. You can use quince, figs, lemons, limes (basically any citrus), plums, etc. While some fruits don’t have as much natural pectin in their skins as citrus, pectin can always be added. Citrus marmalade needs none.

To make the following recipe, you’re going to need a couple of days. Before you run away from your computer screen in terror, rest assured that the length of time is more just letting the prepared marmalade sit on the counter over night. The second day contains the most work, but again, it’s mostly just time consuming, not difficult in expertise. I’ll break it up into Day 1 and Day 2, and make the directions as user-friendly as possible. Even a beginner can follow this recipe and accomplish it successfully!

Let’s get started on this simple 4-ingredient recipe:

EQUIPMENT YOU’RE GOING TO NEED:

  • Large stock pot
  • Candy thermometer
  • SHARP knife (emphasis, sharp!)
  • Spoon for stirring
  • Heat source
  • Canning equipment (if canning) or vessels to store the marmalade in (if storing in fridge/freezer)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lbs oranges
  • 2 large lemons
  • 8 cups water
  • 8 cups sugar

DIRECTIONS, DAY 1:

I used fresh naval oranges we purchased directly from the grove when we visited Florida last week, but if using store-bought fruit, you need to scrub the wax and anything else they coat their fruit with. Make sure they’re CLEAN and absent of any unnatural coating and free of “handling” germs.

Using a sharp knife, cut the oranges and lemons in half lengthwise (end-to-end, not across the middle). Then lay them cut side down and starting at one end, cut them in very thin half-moon slices. (see pic below) I have a good quality chef’s knife, and found myself sharpening it a couple times throughout the process. Cutting 3 lbs of oranges and the 2 lemons, I found that if I didn’t keep my knife extremely sharp, it would start to crush the fruit as I sliced the thin strips, causing too much of their juices to run onto the cutting board. I didn’t want that. KEEP YOUR KNIFE SHARP!

Slice citrus into thin, half-moon slices with your SHARP knife. Remove seeds and stem ends as you go.

Put all slices into your stockpot, add the 8 cups of water and bring to a boil, stirring often.

Once it comes to a boil, you’ll notice the fruit falling apart, the flesh dissolving, the skins getting soft, etc. This is what you want! Remove from heat source.

Add all 8 cups of sugar, stirring until dissolved. Cover and let it rest overnight at room temperature. You’re done with Day 1! (See, that wasn’t so hard was it?!)

DIRECTIONS, DAY 2:

Replace room-temperature pot of marmalade back onto high heat, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to mid or mid-high (depending on your heat source), and simmer for two hours, stirring once in a while.

After two hours, bring it back up to a rolling boil, suspending a candy thermometer into the liquid. (Do not let the bottom of the thermometer touch the sides or bottom of the pan, you won’t get an accurate reading.) Boil until marmalade reaches 220ºF/100ºC. Turn off heat, skimming off foam from the top.

Now’s the time to either can it up or place it in containers for the refrigerator or freezer. The next steps are further instructions for canning.

HOW TO CAN UP YOUR MARMALADE FOR LONG-TERM SHELF LIFE:

I would suggest pint-sized jars or smaller for this process.

Throw jars into a vat of water, and the lids to said jars into a separate pan. Put the lid onto the canner and just let your jars boil to sterilize. Bring lids to a boil then turn off the heat immediately and just let them sit in the hot water. (Tip: if reusing commercial jars and lug lids, boil those lids for 5 minutes to get a good seal. If using regular canning flats, DON’T boil – just heat up and let stand.). Do this during the last step while the marmalade is heating up to 220ºF.

When the marmalade has reached the proper temperature, remove jars from the canner, draining off all water. Using a canning funnel, scoop up hot marmalade into hot jars, until about 1/2″ from the top.

Wipe rims of any residue and place lids and rings onto the jars securely.

Place marmalade jars back into boiling water bath. Be sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch.

Water bath boil the jars of marmalade for 15 minutes.

Remove the marmalade onto a towel to cool for 12-24 hours, until completely cooled. Remove rings, testing the seals by lifting the jars by the lids. If a jar or two doesn’t seal, no worries! Just put those in the fridge and use them up first. The rest of them are ready for the pantry to enjoy all year long!

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