20 March 2011

Orange Marmalade

The pressure was on!  I received a canning starter kit for Christmas and the proposition of making my own preserves stared me right in the face.  I love jams, jellies, and other preserves, but the thought of doing it myself intimidated me.  Now that I had the starter kit, I had no more excuses, it was time to start canning!

Orange marmalade came to mind when I first thought about what to make first.  I enjoy the sweetness of the jelly paired with the bitter if the rind.  A flavor sensation!  So, I picked up some organic oranges at the store, grabbed Alton Brown's orange marmalade recipe and got to work.

Orange Marmalade
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Printable Recipe

1 3/4 pounds oranges, 4 to 5 medium
1 lemon, zest finely grated and juiced
6 cups water
3 pounds plus 12 ounces sugar

Special Equipment: 10 (8-ounce) canning jars with rings and lids, funnel, tongs, ladle, and 12-quart pot

Wash the oranges and lemon thoroughly. Cut the oranges into 1/8-inch slices using a mandoline, removing the seeds as you go. Stack the orange slices and cut them into quarters. Place the oranges into an 8-quart stainless steel pot.

Add the lemon zest and juice and the water to the pot, set over high heat and bring to a boil, approximately 10 minutes. Once boiling, reduce the heat to maintain a rapid simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 40 minutes or until the fruit is very soft.

While the fruit is cooking, fill a large pot (at least 12-quart) 3/4 full with water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Place 10 (8-ounce) jars and rings, canning funnel, ladle, and tongs into the boiling water and make sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the lids and leave everything in the pot until the marmalade is ready.

Meanwhile, place a small plate in the freezer. Increase the heat under the orange mixture to return to full boil. Add the sugar and stir the mixture continually, until it reaches 222 to 223 degrees F on a deep-fry or candy thermometer, and darkens in color, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. You may need to adjust the heat in order to prevent boil over. Test the readiness of the marmalade by placing a teaspoon of the mixture onto the chilled plate and allowing it to sit for 30 seconds. Tilt the plate. The mixture should be a soft gel that moves slightly. If mixture is thin and runs easily, it is not ready.

Remove jars from the water and drain on a clean towel. Place a canning funnel onto the top of 1 of the jars and ladle in the marmalade just to below the bottom of the threads of the jar. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used. The amount of marmalade may vary by 1 to 2 jars. Wipe the rims and threads of the jars with a moist paper towel and top each with a lid. Place a ring on each jar and tighten.

Return the jars to the pot with boiling water, being certain that they don't touch the bottom of the pot or each other. (If you don't have a jar rack, try a round cake rack, or metal mesh basket. Even a folded kitchen towel on the pot bottom will do in a pinch.) Add additional water if necessary to cover the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 10 minutes. Using canning tongs, carefully remove the jars from the water, place in a cool dry place and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours before opening. Once open, store in the refrigerator. Unopened marmalade will last for up to 6 months.

The canning process wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be.  It was actually a lot of fun, and the jars of marmalade were so beautiful to look at.  The twenty-four wait before I could open my first jar was gruelling, but well worth it.  I made biscuits that evening just for the occasion.

The marmalade is even better than I could have dreamed.  It's the perfect balance between sweet and bitter and the texture of the orange rind is almost like candy.  It was wonderful on the biscuits, but is also very tasty on toast.

My first canning experience was a resounding success and I am already thinking about what to do next.  With strawberries coming into season, strawberry rhubarb preserves sound awfully tempting.  Oh, the possibilities!



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