Marmalade Marathon

This is the season when my Meyer lemon trees are producing more ripe lemons than we can possibly use — and it’s not even easy to give them away, since every second house around here seems to have a Meyer lemon tree, equally full, in its yard. And it’s also the season when blood oranges show up in the farmer’s markets for a month or so. So last weekend I made two batches of marmalade at once, one of Meyer lemons and one of blood oranges.

The recipe, which I got from the Internet, is pretty simple: a pound and a half of fruit and four cups of sugar. For the blood orange marmalade I used one lemon with the oranges, because blood oranges by themselves make a disappointingly bland marmalade.  Choose fruit with nice-looking skins because the peels are used in the marmalade.

The process is a little more complicated: you quarter, seed, and thinly slice the fruit, peels and all, and put it in a pot with four cups of water. For reasons I’m not sure of, my recipe says to tie the seeds up in a small piece of cheesecloth and soak them with the fruit.  (Maybe the seeds add pectin or a little more bitterness.)  Leave it covered, at room temperature, for 24 hours. Then cook the mixture down, stirring it periodically to make sure it doesn’t stick, until you have four cups of fruit and water.  Remove the bag of seeds, add the sugar, and cook it some more at moderate heat, stirring it frequently, until it gels.  If foam forms on the surface while the marmalade is cooking, you can skim it off to make a more aesthetic looking final product.  There are a number of tests for gelling, but the one I’m used to is dripping a little jam onto a tilted saucer. When it gels on the saucer, it’s ready. (Note: Even if you think you found all the seeds when you sliced the fruit up, more loose seeds will rise up as the jam cooks.  Cornering them and spooning them out of the pot is a challenge and helps alleviate the boredom of constant stirring.)

Here’s what my Internet recipe says about processing the jam for keeping: “Ladle hot marmalade into jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids. Put jars in a water-bath canner or on a rack set in a deep pot. Add enough hot water to cover jars by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Boil jars, covered, 5 minutes and transfer with tongs to a rack. Cool jars completely.”  I use half-pint canning jars with two-part lids, because this is what they’re made for, and they’re tough.

It was a long evening, stirring, watching, skimming, pouring and processing two batches of boiling sugary stuff at once, but the recipe makes about five jars of amazing marmalade.

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