The Orange Marmalade Question

Multiple varieties of orange trees are everywhere in Sacramento.  You see trees filled to capacity and oranges rotting on the ground.  With all this abundance, I decided to take advantage of them and master making marmalade.

While I’ve not been a huge fan of marmalade, it’s beautiful stuff and a nice gift for marmalade loving folks.  Needing oranges and having a tree filled to the brim near my house, I knocked on the door and left with two bags full.

Last year I made my first batch of mixed citrus jam following a method from Food in Jars.  Marisa doesn’t use boxed pectin but the natural stuff from the membrane, rind and seeds (although some say seeds cause a bitter taste).  The marmalade didn’t set.  Feedback was that sometimes it doesn’t work.  Ok.

This year I re-tried the natural pectin method and choose a recipe from The Year In Food (who had guidance from Food In Jars).  I followed it exactly and again, it didn’t set well.  The third try I added one teaspoon of pectin to the same recipe and it set perfectly.

If you hunt around the Internet, you’ll find a bazillion recipes for marmalade, the majority don’t use pectin.  So why didn’t mine set?  I admit I don’t use a candy thermometer but I know the mixture at least gets to 212 degrees F.  And I add regular lemon juice for the acidity needed.   Author Nigel Slater said “It is almost impossible to make a batch that won’t set unless, of course, you are using the wrong oranges”.  Hum.

With the natural pectin method, you put the peel, membranes and seeds into a cheesecloth bag and cook it with the mixture.  Many have you squeeze the bag well to extract more pectin.  It’s pretty cool stuff, very gelatinous.  Others say to disregard it with out squeezing.  Maybe I’ll meet them halfway.

My quest to master marmalade continues while oranges are still around.  Next up is trying my friend Dilky’s ‘no pectin’ recipe from Ina Garten which did set for her.  In the meantime, if any of you have tried (with success or failure), we’d love to hear your tidbits.

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