Citrus season is in full swing in Southern California, and while everything in my garden is rather monotonous right now — green lettuces, green collards, green kale, green chard, turnip greens and carrot greens — I can always count on my citrus trees to add some cheerful pops of color.
This is also the perfect time of year to share my favorite marmalade recipe, as it uses three of the season’s freshest harvests (oranges, grapefruits, and ginger) and makes a beautiful gift for the holidays. I’ve always believed that preserves are some of the most endearing gifts to give or receive because of the time and love put into them. A gift of homemade marmalade is even more special because it’s a good amount of work for such a small batch… but so. incredibly. worth it!
Makes 4 pints
2 tablespoons grated ginger
6 medium oranges
4 medium grapefruits
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 packet low-sugar pectin (optional)
This preserve has the perfect balance of sweet, tart and zest without the bitterness usually found in marmalade. You can add as much or as little ginger as you prefer, but I’ve found that 2 tablespoons is just the right amount — flavorful without overpowering the citrus.
Start with a 4-inch piece of ginger root. I peel the skin off using a serrated peeler and grate the ginger with a mini grater. It should break down to about 2 tablespoons. Reserve the grated ginger and its juices and set aside.
To prepare the fruit, thoroughly wash your oranges and grapefruits.
Peel the skin off all the fruits with a serrated peeler.
Stack several peels and thinly slice them cross-wise into 1/8-inch strips. You want about 2 cups of sliced peels — but a little more won’t hurt!
In a medium pot, combine the sliced peels with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the peels have softened.
While you’ve got that stuff cookin’…
Supreme the oranges and grapefruits. To do so, cut off the top and bottom of your fruit so that the flesh is showing.
Slice off the pith (the white rind under the peel) from top to bottom, following the shape of the fruit. If you can actually make it resemble its original round shape, you’re already doing much better than me.
With a small knife, slice along the membrane to separate the fruit segment. Repeat on the other side to free the fruit segment completely.
Scoop the fruit segments and their juices into a bowl. Set aside all the seeds, membranes and pith but do not discard.
Once you’re done supreming all the fruit, you should end up with about 4 cups of fruit with their juices (adjust the fruit amounts in this recipe accordingly if you don’t have enough).
Important note: This recipe uses the natural pectin in the fruit to give the preserve a jelly-like consistency. However, as fruits ripen, their pectin levels decrease, so your preserve will not set properly using overripe fruits. If your oranges and grapefruits are very ripe, you can discard the seeds, membranes and pith, and simply add commercial pectin when you cook them down.
If you’re using slightly underripe fruits, you should be able to extract enough natural pectin without using commercial pectin. To do so, collect a handful of seeds, membranes and pith (all of which contain high amounts of pectin) and wrap them tightly in cheesecloth. You will be boiling this cheesecloth bundle along with the fruit.
Back to the stove…
Strain the sliced peels and set aside, but reserve the water (which has now been delightfully infused with citrus) and return it to the pot.
For preserves using natural pectin:
In the same pot as the citrus water, add all the fruit segments and juices, grated ginger, sugar, and cheesecloth bundle. Stir to blend the flavors together. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil while using a spoon to mash the fruit a bit. Stir the mixture every few minutes as the natural pectin is released from the cheesecloth bundle.
Boil until the mixture reaches 220°F on a candy thermometer. Stir in the sliced peels, then remove from heat.
Use tongs to squeeze more pectin out of the cheesecloth bundle. It looks like a thick, clear syrup and you want every last drop.
Discard the bundle and stir the marmalade well to distribute the natural pectin.
Ladle all that goodness into hot, clean jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude as necessary.
For preserves using commercial pectin:
Combine commercial pectin with the fruit segments and juices, grated ginger, and citrus water in a pot, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil for about 20 minutes, or until the fruit is nicely broken down.
Stir in the sugar and sliced peels. Boil hard for a couple of minutes, then remove from heat.
Ladle the preserves into hot, clean jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude as necessary.
Now how about a few spoonfuls smeared over cream cheese over a piece of homemade toast?