Making marmalade is like a prayer. The process is as important as the finished product. I almost can’t explain it. There are many steps and long periods of waiting. Intent and love is built into marmalade. It can’t be rushed. I know, I’m a weirdo. But that’s the best way I can explain my experience.
Citrus is one of the few fruits that won’t grow in Oregon. I have a potted Meyer Lemon tree that lives in my warm dining room during the winter. It’s just starting to blossom and I can’t wait for the scent to fill my house. Plus, it will produce approximately 4 or 5 whole Meyer Lemons from the blossoms. Outside of indoor care, citrus just won’t survive the winters in Oregon. As an alternative to Oregon fruit, I ordered Navel Oranges and Blood Oranges from a family-owned farm in central California.
The Navel Oranges I purchased are referred to as “love” oranges. They taste as fabulous as the rest of the oranges, but have a few imperfections on the outside. Maybe that’s another reason that I feel like making marmalade is like a prayer. Because, like the oranges, we are all broken. But we are also all beautiful in our brokenness. But I digress. Honestly, until now, I have not really liked marmalade. I never enjoyed the big chunks or strips of bitter orange peel. There are so many other fruits I would rather eat. Orange marmalade is as variable as jam and I have learned to like it. As I said, making marmalade is a multi-step process.
First, the orange zest is removed with a peeler.
Second, the bitter pith (the white part), it cut off with a sharp knife.
Third, the juicy pulp is cut from the center membrane with a sharp knife. Fourth, the peel or zest is finely minced and added to the juice and pulp.
Fifth, the remaining membrane it tied in a cloth and added to the pot with some water.
There are several schools of thought on what to do next. Since I don’t enjoy the hard zest, I soaked the pot at room temperature for 12 hours. (If you’re counting, that’s step six.)
Step seven, is to simmer the whole pot for 30 to 45 minutes until the marmalade is thick. This is the really cool part. Pectin is often made from fruit peels, including citrus fruits. The leftover center membrane from the oranges has enough pectin in it to thicken the marmalade. As the oranges simmer slowly, the mixture thickens. There are also a few methods to check the consistency and thickness of marmalade. Putting marmalade on a frozen spoon in the freezer for 3 minutes or drizzling marmalade on a frozen plate are a couple methods. If the marmalade is thick enough, the sample on the frozen spoon or plate will be thick rather quickly. Marmalade will not be rushed. No matter how much I wanted it to be done, I went through several frozen spoons and plates to get the timing right and the thickness just so.
Step eight is to pour the thick, sticky marmalade into sterilized jars and preserve it.
Step nine, is to eat it. I would say this is the best part, but I actually enjoy the process very much. My sister Heather has been buying marmalade for several years for the sole purpose of making this Yogurt-Marmalade Cake recipe from the Pioneer Woman. Her pictures and instructions are so well done, I would never presume do it better. The cake is a light, lemon flavored, moist pound cake with marmalade and yogurt drizzled over the top. It’s perfect for a light winter dessert, baby shower or Easter or Mother’s Day cake.