I have a few recipes that I make again and again. However, my penchant for never making the same recipe the same way twice means that they have morphed since I posted them years ago. My Christmas marmalade is one such recipe.
Many moons ago we moved into the house with an orange tree, a grapefruit tree, and three lemon trees. These trees produced a massive amount of fruit every year, far more than a small family could eat as just fruit. My solution to was to made marmalade to give away as Christmas gifts. Thus a tradition was born.
I have been making my Christmas marmalade for over 15 years now. The recipe I posted in 2012 was adapted from a Joy of Cooking recipe that used whole fruit and a fair amount of water and sugar—this produced a very chunky marmalade. Over time, I have reduced the water until I eliminated it all together. I also stopped using the whole peel and started using only the zest. Today, I use only fine shreds of the peel, the juice, and a low amount of sugar.
In past variations of this marmalade I used a fine microplane grater to take off only the barest minimum of the zest. While this produced a very fine marmalade, I sometimes had trouble getting it to gel. The white pith in the skin contains much of the citrus fruit’s pectin—the chemical that causes jellies to turn thick.
Recently, I discovered that microplanes come in different sizes—from fine to coarse to extra course. I found that the course grater took off fine ribbons of both the zest and a bit of the pith underneath. Even this small amount of pith provided enough pectin to gel my marmalade nicely.
When we moved into our friend’s house, we no longer had access to the fruit trees in our old house. Fortunately, two of my neighbors also had orange and lemon trees, so I was able to have access to free fruit. This year I made forty jars of marmalade, but I recognize that most people will not want to make this jam in bulk.
Note: I made about 16 quarts of juice and zest premix this year. The recipe below is designed to make eight 12 ounce jars of marmalade.
Modern marmalade is a preserve that may be made from any citrus fruit or any combination of citrus fruits and other fruits. The difference between a jelly, a jam and marmalade 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.
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. The cost of the jars is the biggest expense for this gift, as the jars run around a dollar apiece no matter what size you buy.
Karl’s Christmas Fine-Shred Orange and Lemon Marmalade
1 cup orange/lemon zest (about 20 oranges and 10 lemons)
12 cups fresh orange/lemon juice
8 cups sugar
1. Zest and juice the oranges and lemons.
Tip: These are minimalist instructions. If you want more detailed instructions on jam making, please go to my post on Karl’s Christmas Marmalade, where I have covered this topic step by step.
Note: Many recipes I have read warn against make jam in large batches. I have never had any difficulty in making batches up to 12 cups of juice.
2. Put the fruit juice and zest in a non-reactive pot and bring the juice mixture just to a boil.
Tip: It is very important to use a thick bottomed and very deep pot. You want the heat to be evenly distributed over the bottom of the pot—no hot spots that could scorch. You also want a lot of room to prevent the jam from boiling over.
3. As soon as the juice mixture comes to a full boil, remove it from the heat and cover the pot.
4. Set the pot aside and let it sit for at least 12 hours.
Tip: This heating and rest allows the bitter compounds in the rinds to break down into the complex flavor compounds that you associate with “real” orange and lemon flavors. This resting period is one of the secrets to my jam’s intense, but smooth taste. Twelve hours is a minimum, but I have let the mix meld for as much as two days, with a second heating after 24 hours.
Note: Before you start cooking the marmalade you should sterilize your jars and lids. Estimate how many jars you think you will need—add a jar or two just in case—and boil them for 10-15 minutes. Transfer them to a clean kitchen towel and set them open end down.
5. Return the pot to the stove and bring it to a gentle boil.
Tip: You will have had some lost of the volume to evaporation from the heating and resting of the mixture. It is a good idea to re-measure the juice mixture. You want to use ¾ cup of sugar for each cup of juice.
6. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
7. Cook the jam at a gentle boil until it starts to jell.
Tip: This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes. How long it takes depends a lot on how close to a full boil you are cooking the mix. A low boil takes a bit longer, but a high boil must be constantly watched and stirred to prevent boil-over and scorching.
Note: Testing for jelling: 1) Take a teaspoon and scoop out about half a teaspoon of the jam. 2) Let it cool for two minutes and then pour it back into the pot. 3) If the mix pours in a single stream then it has not started to jell. 3) If the mix slides off of the spoon in a wide sheet it has started to jell.
8. Pour the marmalade into sterilized jars and seal the lids, not quite tight.
Tip: I very useful tool for putting the scalding hot jam into the jars is a wide mouthed funnel.
Note: You want the lids tight enough that the water does not leak into the jar, but loose enough that the heated air can escape. This is about an eight of a turn short of completely tight. The easiest way to do this is to tighten the lid completely and then unscrew the lid an eight of a turn.
9. Put the jars in a hot water bath and boil for ten minutes.
10. Remove the jars from the water bath and seal the lids tightly.
Note: In addition to the orange and lemon marmalade I also made some pure lemon marmalade—4 cups of juice and zest and 3 cups of sugar.
I also made some orange marmalade. Jan had some cranberry infused simple syrup left over from a dish she had made for Thanksgiving. I used this in place of one cup of sugar to make an Orange and cranberry marmalade—7 cups juice and zest, 4 cups sugar, and one cup of cranberry simple syrup.