As part of my quest to eat seasonal foods, I preserve year round. In the middle of winter that means preserving citrus so that I have some to enjoy in the summer. Right now Meyer lemons are plentiful and next to salt preserving them, one of my favorite ways to preserve them is in a marmalade.
Lemons are one of those things that comfortably straddle the fence between sweet and savory. To make marmalade a more utilitarian pantry staple, I often choose to follow the more traditional marmalade directions which call for a longer cooking time and for not removing the pith. The resulting marmalade sets up like a good aspic with a darker, more caramelized flavor, and vaguely bitter end note. In my mind this makes for a more balanced and less cloying marmalade that can be used in all manner of dishes. Adding herbs like rosemary adds a final element of mystique to the flavor. Also, marmalade is quite versatile and is great served with white fish, as a last minute glaze for roast chicken, swirled into ice cream, or spread between the layers of any not-too-sweet cake.
Because citrus is a high-pectin class of fruits, marmalades are still made without adding pectin–the way all preserves were made before commercial pectin hit the scene. Other examples of high pectin fruits include crab apples, quince, certain seeded grapes, currants, and wild berries. Because they require longer boiling times and some knowledge of gel stages (the point at which your mixture has cooked long enough to create a gel), pectin-free fruit preserves and traditional long-boiling marmalades are the hallmarks of a veteran jammer. Once you’ve mastered those, you’ve made the grade.
The process for making traditional citrus marmalade involves thinly slicing the citrus and removing any center pith (the white membrane between the fruit and peel) and seeds, covering the fruit with water, and soaking it overnight. To remove more of the bitterness, cooks might change the soaking water and soak for an extra night. On cooking day, they would boil the fruit until soft (about one and half to two hours) then add sugar and simmer until the mixture hits gel stage (220 degrees F). This would take about 35 minutes depending on weather, elevation, water hardness and pot shape.
If you are curious why seemingly unrelated factors might influence the amount of time it takes to hit gel stage, I’ve provided an explanation in the article, Weather and How It Affects Hitting the Gel Stage.
CAA Contributor Annette Cottrell lives in Seattle with her husband, two young boys, hairy dog, and backyard chickens. She has devoted the front and side yards of her quarter acre city lot to growing enough fruits and vegetables to feed her family year-round. She blogs at Sustainable Eats about thoughtful, sustainable eating and provides tools and resources to others who want to make the journey from supermarket to local, farm fresh food one step at a time. In her spare time she runs Pollywog Baby, a website full of practical solutions for infant reflux and colic.