Bread and jam always invokes memories of The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. Marmalade is one of the easiest jams to make and citrus fruits are ideal for making marmalade since they have abundant natural pectin. The addition of whiskey is borrowed from an Australian friend of mine who is of Scottish heritage…makes perfect sense since the Scots are known for their fondness of whiskey…and adds another flavor dimension as well as preventing mold. The whiskey is actually floated on top of the marmalade before sealing the jar. Of-course you can leave out the whiskey or if you prefer the whiskey can be added to marmalade in the last 3 or 4 minutes of boiling.
The oranges for this marmalade came from a local fruit stand and were 6 for $1.00. When squeezed there was about 5 cups of really sweet juice. Maybe more like 6 cups since I had to taste it and then make a screwdriver before dinner with some and saved some for breakfast. At any rate I set aside enough for a small batch of marmalade…this recipe yields 12 oz.
The seeds and membranes of oranges and lemons contain enough pectin to gel your marmalade and extracting the pectin is the one step in preparing the oranges that you cannot skip. You want to prepare the oranges the night before or even up to two days before cooking the marmalade.
Because we’re dealing with a small batch, the cooking time is just 15 minutes start to finish so you can control the quality and gelling easier than if it were a large batch. This means your jam will be clear and bright orange with threads of orange zest suspended in it rather than dark rust colored and opaque.
Use a sauce pan with a heavy bottom and big enough to accommodate a full-roiling boil (that’s a boil you cannot stir down) and deep enough so that the bubbles can rise half-way up the sides of the pan and not over the top. Long handled wooden spoons are the best for jam making since boiling juice and sugar is very hot and hot syrup burns are extremely painful. Always apply ice directly to any kitchen burn. You’ll also need to place a saucer and spoon in the freezer which will be used to test for the gel stage.
This same method can be used to make a classic lime marmalade or lemon marmalade with fresh ginger.
Homemade marmalade is always a welcomed addition to gift baskets so make several batches and pass around the love. Do try this recipe with a fresh loaf of bread, rolls, biscuits or scones.
Ingredients for 12 oz. jar:
- 2 large navel oranges, juiced (reserve peels, pulp and seeds separately)
- 1/2 lemon, juiced (reserve peels, pulp and seeds separately)
- 1 cup fine granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup water plus tiny pinch of baking soda to soften zest
- 1 tsp whiskey per jar
- Add orange and lemon juices and measure. You should have 1-1/2 cups of juice. Use filtered water to make up any shortfall of juice.
- Either zest or finely julienne the peel of half an orange (just the orange part). Place in a small saucepan with 1/3 cup filtered water and a tiny pinch of baking soda. Simmer over medium low until zest softens, about 6-8 minutes. Drain, cool and add to juices.
- To extract pectin for gelling: Chop all the remaining orange and lemon peels in a food processor or grinder. Place chopped peels along with the reserved pulp and seeds into a cheesecloth or muslin bag. If using cheesecloth, several layers are needed and kitchen twine. Gather the corner pieces of cheesecloth with the pulp in the middle and secure with string. Add the prepared bag to the juices and zest. Cover and let set overnight. The next day, squeeze the pulp bag over the juice until no more liquid comes from the bag. This is the pectin and should feel silky. Discard the bag when finished.
- In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, bring the juice and zest to a boil over high heat. Slowly stir in the sugar and bring to a roiling boil. Boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pot from heat. Check for gel stage with an ice-cold teaspoon dipped into boiling jam and returned to the freezer for 1 minute. If the jam on the spoon wrinkles when pushed with your finger gel stage has been reached. If not, return pot to heat and boil an additional 5 minutes and repeat the gel test.
- Drain warm jar(s) and fill with marmalade. Float the whiskey over the top of the marmalade then seal the jar. Cool jar on a towel and let set 24 hours before refrigerating. For longer storage, sealed jars may be boiled in water 1-2 inches over the top of the jars for 10 minutes. Check that the lids have sealed and store in a cool, dry, dark pantry for up to one year.