I’ve never been a fan of traditional British Style (bitter) marmalade made from Seville Oranges (Citrus aurantium). And here in California, very few people like bitter marmalade… so making a batch to give away as gifts is often met with an, “Um… no thanks.”
In the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to perfect my Orange Marmalade recipe… making it sweet, not bitter. My recipe, which I call “California Sweet Orange Marmalade” is made with Valencia oranges, which are sweet juicing oranges from Southern California. Use Valencia oranges if you can find them – if not, regular navel oranges are fine too.
The main secret in producing a sweet (instead of bitter) marmalade is to reduce the amount of white pith, seeds, and membranes. The problem is that these parts of the orange also contain pectin (which gels the marmalade), so by omitting these ingredients, you lose most of the natural gelling compounds. The solution to this problem is very simple – store bought pectin – which can be found in pretty much every supermarket. I prefer to use low sugar pectin, as the resulting marmalade is still sweet – but not overly sugary.
The final secret in producing a sweet marmalade is to boil the orange peels several times to leach out the bitterness. You do lose a tiny little bit of the orange flavor this way – but trust me, you will still have plenty of orange flavor in the final product.
You will get about 6 cups of marmalade out of this recipe. For optimal storage, you can home can the marmalade in half pint jars using the water bath canning method below. You could also ladle the jam into sterilized freezer jars, and freeze until needed (or store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks). For best results, do not double this recipe… this sized batch is optimal – reducing or doubling the recipe will produce an inferior product.
- 10 medium oranges
- 3 T. low sugar pectin
- 3 T. lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 T. unsalted butter (optional)
- 3 c. sugar
- 2 T. whiskey (optional)
- large stock pot with metal rack
- 6 half-pint canning jars with rings and new lids
1. Scrub and wash the oranges thoroughly and dry. Using a very sharp knife or peeler, remove as thin a layer of peel as possible from the surface of the oranges, trying to get as little of the bitter white pith as possible.
2. Place the peels in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, then dump out the water, and refill with water to cover. Repeat this step 2 times, so that the peels have been boiled and simmered a total of 3 times. (This step is to soften the peel, and also leach out most of the bitterness.)
3. While you are boiling the peels, using a sharp knife to peel the oranges. Start by cutting the ends off of the orange, then cutting slightly into the orange “meat”, cut all the way around, removing the peel. You don’t want to have any bitter white pith on the orange.
4. Segment the oranges over a large bowl, squeezing the remains to release any juice into the bowl. (You want to avoid any membrane if possible – this is another part of the orange that will make the marmalade bitter in addition to the pith. These are also the parts of the orange with natural pectin, which is why we are adding pectin to the recipe so that it gelatinizes.) Notice these is virtually no membrane or pith on the orange segments in the picture below.
5. Once the peels have been processed 3 times, and the oranges have been segmented with the remaining juice, pulse the orange segments + juice + drained peels for 10 second intervals three times in a food processor to get a rough puree (you should still be able to see little bits of the peel).
6. Measure the orange puree, and if you don’t quite have 4 cups… add water to increase the volume to 4 cups. Pour the puree into a stockpot and add the pectin, lemon juice, salt, cloves, and butter. (Butter is added to reduce foaming). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer while stirring for 5 minutes.
7. Add the sugar, stir, and bring back to a hard boil for 1 minute. Turn off the heat, and stir in the whiskey. Your jam is now ready to can. From personal experience, it is best to wait another 10 minutes before filling the jars so that the chunks of fruit stay suspended instead of floating to the top. If you are not canning, pour your jam into sterilized containers and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
8. To can the marmalade, I use a hot water bath. Put the jars, rings, tongs, and ladle into a large stock pot with metal rack in the bottom and fill with water. Bring up to a boil, and allow the jars to sterilize in the hot water for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, and carefully remove the jars onto a clean kitchen towel. (While you are filling the jars, add the new lids to the hot water to soften the adhesive.)
9. Fill the hot jars with hot jam (leaving 1/2″ head space), then wipe of the rims with a hot water soaked paper towel. Place the lids on top, then screw on the rings – finger tight only.
10. Place the jars back into the hot water, resting on the metal rack. Make sure the water covers the top of the jars by at least one inch. Cover with lid, then bring back to a boil. Once boiling, allow the jars to process for 10 minutes (if you are at an elevation below 1000 ft. For higher altitudes, you will need to add more time to the processing – generally, 5 minutes extra for every 5000 ft.) Do not be fooled by air bubbles escaping from the jars – make sure the water is actually boiling before you start the 10 minute sterilization countdown.
11. Remove the jars from the water (carefully), and place on a kitchen towel to cool. Leave the jars undisturbed overnight. While cooling, you will hear a “pinging” sound coming from each jar, indicating that it has sealed. Check all the seals the next day – the lids should not move up and down when depressed with a finger.