Orange Marmalade

Do you ever get to the end of the day and find sticky things in your hair? I do. Regularly. Being in the kitchen all day will do that to a girl. This is that kind of recipe. Making Orange Marmalade is a two-day process and there’s sticky most of the way. So put on your hair net and try this out. It’s a great way to enter the world of home canning and a wonderful Christmas gift!

As far back as I can remember, we had citrus fruit at Christmas. I grew up in rural central Virginia and someone from the FFA was always selling citrus fruit at Christmas as a fundraiser. We’d get a great big box of all manner of oranges, tangerines, tangelos, and grapefruits. It was like a little bit of tropical summer in the midst of cold December.

This recipe comes from Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa fame. You can find the original here.

Day 1

You’ll need:

  • 4 large seedless oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 8 cups sugar
Yield: about 5 pints

I had small oranges so I used five. She suggests you can slice them on a mandoline, but I find it’s just as easy to use a sharp chef’s knife. Slice them super thin. As thin as you can get without losing bits of your own fingers.

Thinly sliced oranges

Then I added the sliced lemons. Again, super thin is the key. You don’t want big chunks of orange to gnaw on with your toast.

Thinly sliced lemons

Put all this in a pot with eight cups of water. I just dumped the contents of the cutting board right into the pot, make sure you get any juices that have run out of the fruit. Bring to a boil, stirring often.

Everything in the pot

Remove the pot from the heat and add the eight, yes, eight cups of sugar. What do you think makes the pith of all that fruit so yummy and good?

Pull off the heat and add the sugar

Cover the pot and allow it to stand at room temperature overnight. Wait patiently. Paint your nails. Watch your favorite shows. Catch up on Google Reader. Whatever. Make sure you’re free the next morning for a few hours.

Day 2

You’ll need:

  • canning jars (I like 1/4 and 1/2 pint, but bigger jars are okay, too)
  • a canner if you plan to seal the jars for long-term storage/giving

Some notes on home canning: If you have never canned before, I wouldn’t recommend going out and buying a bunch of stuff. All this can be done (with small jars) in a large stockpot. In this case, the canner doesn’t do anything but cover the jars with boiling water. You can also borrow a canner from a friend or family member. Walmart carries most all of the supplies you’ll need to get started. If you do plan to process foods at home, you MUST buy a copy of Ball’s Blue Book. Go ahead, snicker, it’s funny. Anyway, this book has just about everything you need to know about home canning and keeping your food safe. It’s worth the investment if you’re going to do more than a project or two. Otherwise, give it a try! It’s not hard and you’ll be so proud of your results!

Bring your mixture from yesterday back to a boil. Stir it thoroughly to make sure all the sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about two hours or until the temperature on a candy thermometer reaches about 220º. Periodically skim off any foam that rises to the top.

Day 2, one hour into the simmer

Hour two. You can see the color changing as it cooks down. If you plan to process your marmalade in a canner, now is the time to heat the water in the canner, sterilize your jars and lids in boiling water, and get everything in place. You’ll want hot marmalade in hot jars in boiling water kind of all at the same time.

After two and a half hours

Mine took about two and a half hours and I had to get it to a decent boil for it to break the 220º mark and start to gel. Just hitting 220º isn’t enough. You have to be sure it will gel. A simple test will tell you if it’s ready. Put a few drops of marmalade onto a small plate and put it in the fridge until it’s cool, not cold. When you pull the plate out of the fridge if the drops are firm, not hard, it’s ready to put in jars. If it’s too firm, add more water. Too soft, keep cooking.

*If you don’t plan to process them in a water bath, you can seal them with lids and rings and give them away at this point. They should be used soon and refrigerated after opening.

Boil your lids and jars

Take your clean, dry jars and lids and set them aside. I like to have mine on a dishtowel. It keeps things clean and I don’t have so much sticky everywhere afterwards. Use a canning funnel and carefully ladle the hot marmalade into the jars leaving about 1/4 in headspace in the jars. Everything is HOT. Be careful. Remember, safety third!

Full jars of marmalade

After the jars are full, take a wet paper towel and wipe the rims of each jar clean. This is a super important step so don’t skip it. A clean rim ensures a good seal with the lid. Again, the jars are HOT so you might want an oven mitt on one hand and the paper towel in the other. Once you’re sure the rim is clean, place the lid on top and screw on the ring. Make them snug, but don’t overdo it. The pressure of the ring on the lid helps ensure a good seal. Now place them in the canner full of boiling (or nearly boiling) water. The tops of the jars must be covered with water.

Into the canner!

If the water is not boiling, raise the heat and cover the pot until the water comes to a full, rolling boil. At that point you can start a timer for 12 minutes. Try not to peek. When your 12 minutes is up, cut the heat and remove the jars from the canner. Again, I like to put them on a kitchen towel so there’s no slippage or watery mess.

Sealed and ready to be gifted!

You’re not quite done. The jars need to seal. Mine started to do this immediately. You might hear a little “plink” sound as the top of the jar gets sucked down in the middle. Great! If not, don’t sweat, sometimes it takes time. As they cool the tops will suck in. After the jars have cooled enough to touch, press down on the middle of the lid. If it doesn’t bounce back, they’re sealed! Congratulations! Some may go in and stay when you press them, that’s okay. If you end up with a jar that doesn’t ever seal, you can either start the process over or stick it in the fridge and eat it. I recommend option B.

Now all you need is some biscuits! Or a nice pork tenderloin. Or both.

What food brings back holiday memories for you? Was there someone in your family who made something extra special just once a year?

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