We often order a box of grapefruit at Christmas. I had opened the last jar of homemade marmalade in early December and it is also the season in Florida for Seville oranges, the ugly, bitter fruit that produces a delicious preserve. I’ve discovered that it improves with aging. That last jar I was finishing was five years old and had a deep, mellow bittersweetness. (Good marmalade is a balance of sweet, sour, and bitter.) The Orange Shop has a flat shipping rate and offered a much better price on four trays of oranges than just one or two. (They are wonderful, by the way, and once found me hardscrabble lemons from bushes in a back field that were just what I needed for chutney.) Why not make a decade’s worth of marmalade at once? I didn’t realize that this amount would take me to the limit of my stock of very large cooking pots, but thanks to help from Rachel Christensen (“it’s a skill,” I tell her) there are now 44 pints of whole-fruit marmalade.
My method is too rough and ready to offer a recipe, but here are the basics:
- Wash oranges and place in large pot with enough water to just cover them. Bring to boil with lid on and simmer until tender (it’ll be easy to pierce the skin with a fork). Allow to cool.
- Cut the softened oranges in half and remove pips (seeds). This is the messy part. Our oranges were especially full of pips and I found it easiest to use my fingers, dropping the pips into a separate bowl to be boiled with some water, which I then strained and added to the cooking fruit pulp.
- Slice the orange halves into long pieces and then into small squares. This gives the “thick-cut” marmalade I prefer. You can also use a food processor’s pulse cycle, but don’t go overboard. Marmalade should have some heft – it is not apple butter.
- Combine the water remaining from the first simmering and the fruit pulp. This should be a thick, porridgy mixture (see photo).
- Add sugar. I usually measure equal amounts of sugar and fruit pulp, but this time I experimented with a 2:3 (sugar:pulp) ratio. Seville oranges, especially when they’re on the unripe side as these were, have plenty of pectin.
- Bottle the hot mixture in warm jars – I use mason jars with rings and they seal beautifully if filled when hot (wipe the rim clean and screw tightly – wait for the pings as the jars cool and vacuum seal).