January 27, 2013

Winter Marmalade

This weekend I was inspired by my neighbor and fellow blogger Kim who posted last week on her bird watching blog The Curious Birder, how she made some Meyer Lemon marmalade and other goodies.
On this freezing cold, snowy weekend, I think that this sound like just the thing to raise my spirits. 
A selection of home-grown citrus from my greenhouse. Starting from the bottom ( the big one), Citron 'Etrog'. as is the slice to the left. above that Meyer Lemons, Australian Finger Limes, Limequats and the tiny Indian Kumquat, Fortunella hindsii, the smallest pea-sized citrus that I grow.

Inspired by a few posts from blogger friends who seem to always make marmalade in during the winter (traditional marmalade is indeed a winter craft in Mediterranean climates, as citrus ripen during the winter months). As I keep a about ten varieties of citrus in my greenhouse here in central Massachusetts, I figured that I might as well try making some, otherwise, the citrus only gets used in tea, and a few drinks, and that's about it. Maybe it's time to use some of my organically grown citrus for something more useful.

Look - if Martha Stewart Living magazine can run two different covers, I thought I would too.
A quick graphic treatment for my post, but I still need to design my labels. Later this week.
Here is my Meyer Lemon Marmalade with Mandarins & Lavender
(recipe from the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders).

This weekend I made three types of home made marmalade. I began on Friday on a mission to make plain-old Meyer Lemon marmalade, but then I discovered all of these other citrus species and varieties growing as I picked the Meyers. It seems to obvious to not explore other recipes beyond mere lemon. I pulled out my BLUE JAM COOK BOOK and also searched on-line for the most interesting marmalade recipes that I could find. I selected three recipes. The first, maximized the unusual large Citron 'Etrog' that I had. Commonly used in many Jewish cultural recipes, I combined two recipes that featured 'Etrog', and I added a few Meyer Lemons to balance out the flavor. 

Meyer Lemons formed the base for all three Marmalade's. Mild, sweet and fruity, when prepared as marmalade, it can be rather one-note and not as lemony or bitter as true lemons, so I combined my Meyer Lemons with other citrus.
The second marmalade come from an old French Recipe that I found in my mothers notes - Bouquet des Fleurs, traditionally made in the south of France with a wide selection of rare varieties of citrus, as well as a touch of lavender. This seemed perfect, as I had about 7 varieties of citrus handy, surely, this could be called a bouquet. 

Most of the work in making any marmalade comes in the beginning, and I should note that most recipes suggest three-day long procedures ( I cheated and did this all in two days), but by far, the most difficult task is carefully cutting the fruit into thin slices. A sharp paring knife is handy, so  you won't crush the peel and fruit while slicing.

The third type of marmalade comes from the BLUE CHAIR COOK BOOK - Meyer Lemon and Kumquat. I had three types of Kumquats, which are so delicious when picked fresh from the tree - nothing at all like store bought fruit, as the oil-rich peels taste like orange blossoms to me, something store-bought fruit lose. Even store bought Meyer Lemons will not have the strong lemony citrusy oil scent and flavor in their peels that home-grown fruit have. I really don't know why I haven't done this before - it's time for this costly greenhouse help supply this kitchen with some produce.

Having the proper tools helps immensly, and that starts with a proper confiture pot - a Bassine à confiture makes all the difference in the world. Costly, it's something to look out for on EBay ( a friend of mine found a vintage one there) or from an on-line retailer. Look - you'll have it for life, and the wide surface area and copper make jam and jelly making effortless. You will never need to buy pectin as the proper evaporation will occur.
Once the citrus are sliced into elegant long strips or slices, depending on the recipe, the long process begins. All recipes will have you soak the sliced fruit for 24 hours ( important, to remove the bitterness and to soften the rind), then they all deviate. Some require you to first boil the fruit and then drain it in a colander for another 24 hours, as I did with the Blue Jam Cookbook recipe which asked for me to create a mandarin orange extraction that took two days, but most will have you start the actual process of boiling the soaked fruit with sugar, and if you are using a confiture, this part is easy. You will have marmalade in about 30 minutes.

Cut branches of Cornus mas still bloom in the kitchen window as two batches of marmalade come together.
The windows got so steamy, that I could not watch the bird feeders. Yeah - that mess on top of my stove are trays of seedlings that require soil temperatures over 75º F, like the artichoke seedlings. This is my secret spot!

Once you start on the final part of a marmalade recipe, the cooking in the confiture, the entire process happens quite quickly. Be careful, stirring too much will case more air bubbles as the water evaporates, yet you must stir ever minute or so, to avoid caramalization ( which happened to me on my second batch, as I had to go send an email logo to someone). I assume many of you are jam makers, as the garden and jam making go hand in hand, but I encourage you to use your home grown citrus - even if you use your house plant citrus, just be certain that they are organic, and for this reason, never use store bought plants with fruit on them, for most likely, they have been treated with an systemic insecticide, which can take a year or more to work its way out of a plants tissues.

Sweet, sour and Tangy, homemade mixed citrus marmalade will warm any ones hearts on a cold, winter day. Steamy windows, frosty panes of glass, and the scent of fresh lemons, oranges and limes. I am so glad that I took the time to do this today, I needed something to take my mind off of what is happening at work right now.

Jars await a hot water bath processing. I process mine for 25 minutes as it helps reduce the amount of air bubbles.

Naturally, have everything ready to work with when you make marmalade, for unlike jam and jelly, it is difficult to reheat and soften the marmalade once it begins to set, as too much caramalization will occur. Have all of your jars and glassware sterilized either in the dishwasher, or in the oven, and have your jar rubbers boiling along with the lids on the stove. Keep plenty of fresh linens at the ready, as well as a couple of pots of boiling water, as one you will need for wash cloths to clean the rims, as marmalade making is a sticky process, and the other pot will come in handy when you process the finished jars, as the hot water bath will often need topping off, and in the winter, one does not want to add ice cold water to hot, glass jars.

A jar of Etrog Citron and Kumquat Marmalade that I shot in the greenhouse, with a sprig of some of the smaller Kumquats ( Forunella hindsii) that I also added. This is the batch that I almost burnt when I had to go send the logo to someone, but it still tastes fine, and I think I even like the more caramel taste. 

I also made a loaf of French bread that I started yesterday using my standby no-kneading recipe from Jim Lahey's book MY BREAD. His no knead method has become a stand-by in my kitchen for crispy, French loaves.

Well, after all, they are from the British Isles.


  1. Anonymous7:44 AM

    So many things I like about this post, but to have your own organic, homegrown fruit.. Wowzers!
    I like your kitchen too, especially the cupboard doors with the bird design. I share your love of marmalade making. Really enjoyed reading how to go about it.
    Regards Lisa

  2. Thanks Lisa. You know, the story behind those cupboard doors is that my Dad painted those in 1948 - 1951. He painted ever door in the kitchen, and then the big mural ( which has all of us family members - I wasn't born yet). I will do anything to get rid of these cupboard doors as I grew up with them, but they are old and hard to keep clean. My friend Jess is trying me to do a house tour on Apartment Therapy but eeek - it's just so old fashioned! Thanks!

  3. Nice Plan. Yeah really looking and listening too amazing that he made it. Very interesting matter and facts.

  4. Your pup's faces so close to the food gave me a giggle. I tell my own pups "I am quite sure you will not like this" or "this is not for puppies" but they say they prefer to make up their own mind on such matters. I just purchased a calomondin orange tree while visiting my parents in Connecticut. I could not resist the idea of a self fertile ever blooming and fruiting little orange that you can just pop in your mouth.

  5. I love this! My little meyer lemon only gives me one or two a year, so no marmalade is in my future until I get my greenhouse (still years down the road...) Until then I'll just have to appreciate the wonderful blossoms I get when nothing outside is alive.

  6. Anonymous1:47 PM

    The color of the lemon marmalade that I make changes with time from bright yellow to dull yellow to blackish. I don't know wether the marmalade is turning bad and unpalatable or is it a natural process. How can I increase the shelf life and also maintain the color of the marmalade.Could someone please address my problem. I don't want to add any preservative that would change the taste of the marmalade.


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