Sunday, March 13, 2011

When Life Hands You Oranges... Make Marmalade!

This time of year in Marin the citrus trees are heavy with fruit and everywhere around town are many varietals of lemons and oranges. Unfortunately, a lot of this bounty is never eaten or used and instead ends up falling on the ground or being tossed in the compost heap. I am a keen fruit gleaner and all of our friends who have fruit trees are subject to my eager demands for unused fruit. Aside from being a champion fruit eater, I love putting up preserves like jam, marmalade and apple sauce. Home made preserves taste so much better than store bought and you know exactly what ingredients have gone into them. This has contributed extensively to my elitist attitudes towards store bought food.

Today, I made a batch of marmalade from some blood oranges we picked yesterday at a friend's house. Last year, we picked almost 100 pounds of fruit from our friend's tree and made over 100 jars of marmalade. Blood oranges from the farmer's market go for $2 a pound at least, so knowing friends with productive fruit trees is economically beneficial! Those jars of marmalade then became our wedding favors as well as our home marmalade supply. Just last week, we polished off the last jar so thank goodness the oranges are ready for the picking again.

The marmalade making process is quite simple, I think it is one of the easiest preserves to make. I had a great teacher in my mother in law Joan who is a master of horse riding, weaving, preserve making and all other peasant skills. First I take a couple of pounds of oranges, cut them in half and juice them with an antiquated juicer that any good mechanical engineer will tell you is very poorly designed. It's pretty, but the lever arm is terribly awkward plus it is way too top heavy and tips over if you press with too much force. I squeeze as many oranges as it takes to get 4 cups of juice and then scrape all the membrane away from the peel. The best tool for scraping is a grapefruit spoon. Be careful though, accidental hand gouging may occur.

Juice and peel
Then, I slice the peel into thin strips. The easiest and fastest way to do this is with a pair of scissors, just snip away as you turn the orange peel halves. The sliced peel goes into a large pot along with enough water to cover, the lid goes on and it's time to wait for the water to boil. While waiting for the water to boil, I grab some empty mason jars and give them a good wash with hot water and soap and then find the lids. Once the water has come to a boil, I pour the peels into a colander to drain, pour the peels back into the pot and add the sugar. The peels cook with sugar for about 20 minutes, until they are tasty and candied. Then the juice is added, and the whole thing cooks for another 40-50 minutes. 
sliced peels
Once the marmalade has achieved the right consistency, I spoon it into the mason jars, screw on the lids and place them on the counter to cool. Getting the right consistency is a matter of trial and error, experience and tasting. I don't mind the tasting part at all. My favorite marmalade making treat is warm marmalade over greek yogurt.

Enough jars for one day
Once the marmalade has cooled to room temperature, I put them into the fridge where they will last for many months. Yes, our garage refrigerator is filled only with jam, marmalade, chutney and champagne. 


  1. Looks delicious YiOu! Glad to hear your doing so well. I can't believe you are almost qualified for the Olympic trials!

    Is there a chance you can enable mobile viewing for your blog? It should be under "Settings" then "Email and Mobile". Makes it much easier for late night viewing. :)

  2. Hi Aron! It's great to hear from you. I am working on enabling mobile viewing but it's not simplistic. There's some formatting code involved, I looked into Settings and while it's easy to use a mobile device to post, it's not so simple to make the pages viewable from a mobile device.