Karl’s Christmas Marmalade

Originally adapted from Joy of Cooking

Many moons ago we moved into the house across the street to be near our friends, Peg and Russ. In the back yard was an orange tree, a grapefruit tree, and three lemon trees (there was also an apple tree, three unproductive plum trees and we planted a fig and a mandarin orange tree in the 10 years we lived there). These trees produced a massive amount of fruit every year, far more than a small family could eat as just fruit. My solution to just throwing out all of the excess was to made marmalade to give away as Christmas gifts. Thus a tradition was born.
Modern marmalade is a preserve that may be made from any citrus fruit or any combination of citrus fruits and other fruits. In the Middle Ages marmalade was apparently made with quince. The difference between a jelly, a jam and marmalade (a question that Eilene asked me this year) is what part of the fruit is in the finished product and whether or not it has citrus peel. If you juice your fruit and then strain out all of the pulp you will make a clear jelly. If you make your preserve with the pulp of any fruit you will have a jam. If you add citrus peel to your jam as well you will have marmalade.

Ten years ago the Joy of Cooking was my go to source. Their recipe was designed to make the most marmalade from the least amount of fruit. It had lots of water and lots of sugar. They also had warnings against trying to make more than a very small batch at a time. My problem was that I had literally buckets of fruit and if I tried to make to marmalade with only 5 or 6 pieces of fruit at a time I would be spending days, if not weeks, over a hot stove. I needed a way to stream line the process and mass produce my marmalade.

One decision you must make before you start is: What size of jars will you put your marmalade in? The answer to this question depends on how much marmalade you are planning to make and how many people you plan to gift it to. If you have a lot of people on your list, I would go with 8 oz. jars. Either wide mouthed or narrow mouthed jars would be a good choice. For my own purposes, I usually make a few pint jars for immediate family members and for the rest (about 36) I put the marmalade in tall 12 oz. jars. The cost of the jars is the biggest expense of this gift, as the jars run around a dollar apiece no matter what size you buy.

Over the years I have developed this method for making mass quantities of marmalade:

Step 1 – What kind of marmalade to make?

In the old house the choice was simple, I had lots of oranges, lemons and grapefruits, I was going to use all three, but if you are going to go out and buy the fruit it is not so strait forward. Do you want straight orange or orange and lemon marmalade? You could also make lime, tangerine, or blood orange marmalade. If you start mixing your fruit, what proportion of each fruit will you use? I finally settled on 4 large oranges (5 if they were smallish), two lemons and a grapefruit as my original batch mix. This year, since I don’t have access to the yard fruit, I am making orange/lemon marmalade. The kinds and proportions of fruit you choose to use are limited only by your imagination and the availability of the fruit.

Warning: Always label your jars as containing grapefruit, if you use it in your marmalade. My step-mother was on chemo one year and it became an issue. Apparently there are compounds in grapefruit that react badly with several drugs given for a variety of conditions these days. I made a batch sans grapefruit just for her that year.

Step 2 – Gather your ingredients.

The main ingredients in marmalade are fruit, sugar and water. To fill all of the jars I planned on using, I needed to make about 4 gallons of finished marmalade. This year I made a simple orange/lemon marmalade, so I bought 16 large navel oranges and 8 lemons as my fruit, this is four batches (4 oranges and 2 lemons per batch). I would also need about 25 pounds of sugar. I like to make my marmalade very fruity and less sweet so I use a ratio of 2/3 part fruit, 1 1/3 parts water and 1½ parts sugar. I use 8 cups of fruit premix, 8 cups filtered water and 12 cups of sugar to make about a gallon of marmalade per batch. The original Joy of Cooking recipe called for using a batch of 1 cup fruit, 3 cups water and 4 cups sugar. They also recommend against cooking a batch any larger than this 8 cups at one time.

Other ingredients: In years past I have made many variations on the marmalade theme by adding a variety of other ingredients. You may add non-citrus fruit to your fruit mix or other flavorings and spices. Adding a teaspoon or two of fresh ginger, ground cloves or ground cardamom, either in combination or by themselves, make good additions to the mix. Adding black pepper, cayenne, or cinnamon also makes for an interesting flavor. I have tried triple sec and other liquors, but they get cooked off and overpowered by the real fruit flavor. One year I scorched part of my mix. Fortunately, it was not too badly burned and I ended up with a burnt orange flavor which was actually quite good and complex. When you are making your marmalade you add these extra ingredients as you are cooking each individual batch. If you wish, you may make a variety of flavors in the same year by adding different “extras” to each batch.

Step 3 – Equipment you will need to make marmalade.

a) 3 large pots (I use 3 12-15 quart stock pots, one thin-walled wide pot to sterilize the jars, one pot with a lid to hold the fruit premix and a third heavy bottomed pot to cook the marmalade.)

b) many jars (each batch a marmalade fills about 15 8 oz jars, 10 12 oz. or 7 pint jars)

c) a medium cutting board (that will fit inside)

d) a shallow lipped baking tray (to catch the juices)

e) a sharp knife or clever (for cutting up the fruit)

f) a paring knife (to help remove the pips)

g) a 2 cup measuring cup (for measuring water and fruit mix)

h) a 1 cup measuring cup (for measuring sugar)

i) a large bowl (to hold the premeasured sugar)

j) a broad bladed wooden spatula (While you are cooking the marmalade you do not want it sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching, so it is good to have something that will scrape a wide section of the pot at one time.)

k) a teaspoon (to test the jelling of the marmalade)

l ) a ladle (for transferring the marmalade to the jars)

m) tongs (to lift the jars and lids out of the sterilizing bath)

n) clean dish towels (to set the sterilized jars on, ready to fill)

o) a role of paper towels (more about this when I discuss filling the jars)

p) a jar lifter (this is like a heavy duty pair of tongs to lift filled jars from the boiling water)

Step 4 – Processing the fruit mixture.

If you make your marmalade on the same day that you process your fruit you will end up with a very bitter preserve. If you are making English marmalade this is what you want. However, Americans prefer their marmalade sweeter and less bitter. Processing the fruit, heating it and then letting it rest for a day or two allows the bitter compounds in the citrus peel to break down and gives you a much milder flavor that needs less sugar to taste nice. I also add only part of the water at this point so I can fit 4 batches of fruit into a 15 quart stock pot.

a) Carefully wash and inspect the fruit. Use only the best ripe fruit. Discard any that have broken open or that have any overly soft spots (indicating that it has started to spoil). If you are buying your fruit in a store do this before you buy them. A little bit of green skin is OK, many ripe oranges and lemons will be a bit green on the side that was in the shade when they were on the tree.

b) If you are using more than one fruit, divide your fruit into batches. I process one batch at a time so I can keep track of my proportions.

c) Take each fruit and cut the top and bottoms off. You may squeeze these for the juice and then discard them. I usually use a plastic cutting board that fits into a rimmed baking tray to catch the juice that escapes while I am processing my fruit.

d) Set each fruit on one of the cut ends and cut the fruit into quarters. Slice off the inside corner of each wedge where the seeds are and remove any pips.

e) Line up two of the quarters of fruit, so that you have a half fruit laying flat on the cutting board, and slice the fruit into thin slices. Each fruit slice should be less than a quarter inch thick, smaller if you have the patience. It is not vital that each fruit wedge be exactly the same size.

f) As your fruit slices start to pile up, transfer them to a measuring cup, I use a 2 cup measure. Drain the juice out of the cutting tray every once in a while. One batch of oranges and lemons makes about 6 – 7 cups of sliced fruit. Transfer the cut fruit to a large stock pot and add 1 cup of filtered water for each two cups of fruit.

g) When you have processed all of your fruit, set the fruit/water premix on the stove and bring it just to the boil.

h) Remove the pot from the heat, stir it once and put the lid on the pot. When the premix is cool enough you may move it to an out of the way cool place, like the garage, to let it rest. Let the premix rest for at least 24 hours, stirring it twice in that time. If you plan to let the premix rest two days, reheat it after 24 hours and then let it cool a second time.

Step 5 – Preparing to cook the marmalade.

It is important to have everything lined up (your fruit/water premix, sugar and sterilized jars) before you start cooking. Once your marmalade has started to jell you cannot leave it to get the jars ready to be filled. When I am making many batches at once I have three stock pots on three different burners at the same time.

a) Canning jars come in open topped boxes of twelve wrapped in plastic. Remove the plastic and loosen the lids. Set the boxes within easy reach of your cooking area, along with your bags of sugar.

b) Lay out a clean dish towel or two to set the sterilized jars on while they are waiting to be filled.

c) Remove the jar lids and set them on the dish towel. Put as many jars (open mouth up) as will comfortably fit into your widest stock pot. Fill the pot with enough filtered water to completely cover the jars and turn the back burner on high.

d) Once the water comes to a boil continue sterilizing the jars for 10 minutes. Remove the jars and set them open mouth down on the dish towel. Be careful they will be very hot.

e) Add more jars to the pot and continues sterilizing more jars than you think you need for a batch. The batch size I use (8 cups of premix) produces about a gallon of marmalade, so I usually need at least 11 12 oz. jars ready to hand when my batch is done cooking. (This step may be done during the first half hour of cooking the marmalade, if you keep a close eye on the boiling pot.)

f) Set your stock pot filled with fruit/water premix on the other back burner and set the heat to high for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Once the premix is warmed turn the burner to low. While you cook your marmalade, stir the premix every 20 minutes, so that the fruit does not stick to the bottom and scorch. (If you are doing many batches at once you save a lot of time if you start each new batch with warm premix.)

g) Measure out the sugar that you will need for your batch of marmalade and put it in a large bowl ready to hand. I make a batch that starts with 8 cups of fruit/water premix to which I add 8 cups of filtered water. I use a ratio of ¾ of a cup a sugar for each cup of fruit/water or 16 x ¾ = 12 cups of sugar. (This is a bare minimum of sugar and you may need to add a cup more if your marmalade has not jelled after an hour of cooking.)

Step 6 – Cooking the marmalade.

At this point: your second set of jars is in the sterilizing pot, your premix is warm and your measured sugar is waiting to go into the pot. You are ready to start cooking.

a) Ladle premix into the 2 cup measure and pour it into the heavy bottomed stock pot. Repeat until you have 8 cups of premix in the pot. Stir the premix pot and put the lid on it. Add 6 cups of filtered water to the cooking pot and set the burner on high.

b) When the mix begins to boil, add half the sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the rest of the sugar and continue stirring.

c) If you are adding any flavorings to your marmalade, this is the time to put them in the pot.

d) When all of the sugar is dissolved turn down the heat to medium/medium high. This is where it will get tricky, because the temperature setting will depend upon your stove. You want the marmalade at a rolling boil, not a simmer, but you do not want it to boil over. Stir the mix frequently and edge the temperature up or down until you find the right balance.

e) Once you have your marmalade at an even boil, you can take a few minutes to do other tasks, but never forget to keep one eye on the cook pot and stirring it every 3 to 4 minutes. Use this time to remove the jars from the sterilization bath, add new jars, sterilizing the lids (by putting them in the hot bath for 2 minutes) and measuring the sugar for the next batch.

f) After about half an hour of cooking, the surface of the cooking marmalade will change. It will start to take on a glassy sheen and the small foamy bubbles will start to last longer and build up. At this point you must give the pot your undivided attention, a moment’s inattention and you might get a boil over, which is a huge mess to clean up. You may need to turn the temperature down slightly and stir the pot frequently.

g) After ten more minutes of cooking you should start testing to see if the marmalade is starting to jell. Take the teaspoon and scoop out a bit of the marmalade. Set the spoon on the small plate and let it cool for a minute or two. Pour the contents of the spoon slowly back into the pot and watch how it flows off the spoon. If the marmalade pours in a single thin stream like water, it has not started to jell yet. If it pours a little slowly or splits into two streams it has started to jell. If the marmalade slides off the spoon in a flat sheet it is well jelled and ready to be put into the jars.

h) If after 60 minutes your marmalade has hot jelled you may need to add more sugar. Pour in one cup and continue boiling the mix for ten more minutes. This will usually do the trick, but if not add a second cup of sugar.

Step 6 – Putting the marmalade in the jars.

This is the hardest and riskiest part of the process. The marmalade is boiling hot and sticky and if it splashes on your hand you will get a fairly bad burn. As the hot marmalade starts to fill the jar it becomes too hot to handle. I have tried gloves and jar lifters to hold the jars, but the gloves were too hard to get on and off quickly and the jar lifters were too clumsy. What I have finally settled as the most effective is paper towels.

a) Take a large paper towel, double it over and grasp your first jar. The two layers of towel is enough to protect your fingers when the jar starts to get hot. Fold the top of the sheet back over your hand, to keep it safe from splashes of hot marmalade.

b) Hold the jar over the cook pot and carefully ladle the marmalade into the jar. Unless you are supremely careful, some marmalade will drip down the side of the jar. Do not over fill the jar. Stop about half an inch from the top.

c) Set the filled jar on the kitchen towel and use the paper towel to wipe the marmalade off the sides and lip of the jar.

d) Put a lid on the jar and screw it down lightly.

e) Use the paper towel to pick up the next jar and repeat the process. If the paper towel is too sticky, discard it a use a new one.

f) Continue filling the jars until you have jarred most of the marmalade in the cook pot. If what remains is less than a full jar, you may use it to fill a smaller jar or leave it and start the next batch.

Step 7 – Making more than one batch.

If you are making multiple batches of marmalade, and you have not spilled a lot of marmalade on the outside of the cooking pot, you do not need to clean out the pot between batches.

a) Return the pot to the burner, add more fruit premix and continue from the beginning of Step 6. An exception to not cleaning the cooking pot is if you are using multiple and strongly flavored additions to different batches that would conflict with each other.

b) Repeat Steps 6 and 7, until you run out of fruit premix, sugar, jars, patience or time.

c) Set the jars in a cool place to jell.

d) The marmalade should be fully jelled (not sloshing around in the jars) in a day or two.

e) Note: If they still haven’t set in three days, you will need to un-jar them, re-boil the marmalade with another cup of sugar and put them in cleaned and re-sterilized


Filed under Desserts & Treats, Treats

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