When Life Gives You Oranges

Marmalade on Toast
Living in California, we have the right climate for growing citrus. When we bought our house, we counted up the number of citrus trees and it was an astounding eleven. These aren’t full size commercial production trees, but dwarf trees that reach about 10 feet max. Nonetheless, we have more oranges than we can use and plenty of lemons, too. Some of the fruit is better than others – none are juicing varieties.

So, nine years ago, when we settled into having a “grove”, I looked at the oranges and thought, “Marmalade. I should make marmalade.” I’d never canned anything in my life. I mused, “I can do this.” I looked through my old standby cookbooks, and took the plunge. Ever since then, I have produced at least a dozen jars of marmalade every year – most times it is more like 24 or 36, because I have taught lots of people to make it. And, I give it away as gifts. Either people are being very nice, or there is an unusually large contingent of the population that loves marmalade. Given the plethora of varieties of marmalade at the supermarket, I’m hoping it is the later.

I usually make my marmalade in early February, when the oranges turn orange, but are on still on the sour side. Oranges are green before the rind turns orange – prompting many people to ask if we have lime trees. The sour oranges give the marmalade a nice flavor and combined with the bitterness of the rind, it always turns out pretty well. Since we have multiple varieties of oranges, I use them all: tangelos, navels, valencias, mandarins, calamondins. At least I think those are the varieties that I’m using – our trees aren’t marked.

S is fantastic about picking all of our oranges. You need to pick the old ones so that the new ones can mature. Unlike deciduous fruit trees, citrus doesn’t fall off the tree when it ripens. In fact, if it falls off, it is probably old and dried out. This year, we have had a big crop of oranges and we are eating them, slowly. I made one batch of marmalade during the winter, but we have so many now, I decided to make another batch. This one will be with sweet oranges and won’t need as much sugar. It is a balancing act between sweet and bitter.

Here is the recipe that I’ve come to and follow from memory after 9 years of marmalading. It doesn’t take a lot of work (except for the slicing of the fruit), but the process takes place over 3 days.

Marmalade Prep

Orange Marmalade

Makes about 10 – ½ pint jars
Takes 3 days to make!

About 8 slightly under-ripe, or sour, oranges (if the oranges are sweet, use the smaller amount of sugar) – more oranges if your oranges are on the small side

1 lemon

12 cups water

7-8 cups sugar

1. Wash fruit. Slice off the stem ends of the oranges and the lemon so that the fruit shows. Cut oranges and lemon in halves, lengthwise. Slice each half as thin as possible, widthwise, and then chop those slices a few times to make smaller pieces. You use the whole fruit – rind, fruit, pith, etc. (remove seeds, though)
2. Your total amount of orange and lemon pieces should be 8 generous cups, fairly packed.
3. Put the citrus pieces, and all accumulated juices, in a large, non-reactive (stainless steel or enamel, 7-9 quart or so) pot. Pour in 12 cups of water. Cover the pot and let it rest, unrefrigerated, overnight.

Marmalade Oranges and WaterMarmalade Citrus Day 2

4. The next day, remove the cover and bring the citrus/water mixture to a boil over medium heat. Let the mixture continue to cook, at a low boil, for 1½ – 2 hours, stirring occasionally. You will know when it is done when the liquid is cloudy and you need to stir more frequently to prevent it from burning. Don’t let it burn!
5. Cool. Then, let the cooked mixture rest, covered, overnight.

Marmalade SugaringMarmalade Cooking

6. The next day, measure the mixture out. You should have about 8 cups of citrus goo. If you have less, watch very carefully when you boil it with the sugar, the water content is low, so it will cook much more quickly. If you have more, your marmalade will take longer to cook. Pour the mixture back into the pot. Depending on the acidity of the fruit that you used, add about 7-8 cups of sugar to the citrus mixture. Bring the mixture up to a boil.
7. Meanwhile, get your canning equipment – sterile jars, lids, bands, kettle of boiling water, canning funnel – ready to process the marmalade. Follow the instructions in a cookbook or the internet (Ball Blue Book, Joy of Cooking, or here) to make sure that you have cleaned and sterilized your equipment properly.
8. Boil the marmalade at a medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until it starts to thicken and you can see it gelling on the sides of the pot, and you can feel it getting thick when you run your finger on the back of the wooden spoon after stirring. This will take about 20-30 minutes, more or less depending on how much liquid you boiled off the prior day, and how high the heat is under the pot.

Marmalade Hot JarsMarmalade FillingMarmalade CanningMarmalade Jars

9. Pour the hot marmalade into hot, sterilized jars. Put the lids and bands on, “fingertip tight”. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars to cool on the counter (which you’ve covered with a double thickness of dishcloth) and make sure that they seal (you will hear a ping sound when they seal). Let cool overnight and then store in your pantry. Refrigerate after opening.


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