Oranges have been ruling my fruit basket for over 2 months now. The whole of December saw us trying out the different varieties that have been flooding the supermarkets and I couldn't resist trying out different recipes with them. I have made several cakes and the marmalade has been made twice and gifted to people. There is so much joy in sharing homemade goodies, especially jams and pickles. Honestly, I am not much of a fan of oranges like my hubby and daughter are. I am not a fruit lover when it comes to eating them in their natural form but I love making things out of them. Over the past few years I had only made mocktails or used their juice or zest to flavour cakes. This time I took my craze for this citrus fruit to another level by cooking the whole fruit with sugar to result in the most delicious, preservative free jam or marmalade ever! It really helped that the supermarket I frequent had a sale on Spanish navel oranges one day. A 3 kilo bag was being sold for AED 11 (approx Rs 200). A single bottle of jam/marmalade usually costs more than that.
Well, if you think that I got it right on my first attempt you are wrong. It is very very important to know the setting point for jams. If you cross that point you get a very thick and hard jam that will refuse to leave the bottle let alone spread out on your bread. A candy thermometer is a blessing if you have one but I decided not to use mine and keep an eye on the mixture instead and make sure that my jam didn't flop the first time around. I was so wrong. I made too many mistakes and the first batch was hard as a rock! Well, not quite. It was still edible but such a big disappointment.
Not only was the pan selected to cook the peels too small, I ended up scorching the mixture because I forgot to add water to the peels! And then, after changing pans I set out again to make more stupid and avoidable mistakes like checking whatsapp when the peels were stewing in the sugar syrup. Before I knew it, the setting point had crossed, despite the fact that I had used a candy thermometer that kept falling off resulting in a quick drop in the temperature. When I was ready to can the marmalade, the bottles were still in the process of getting sterilized in the oven. You see, preparedness is very important when you start the process. As the marmalade cooled down it turned pretty thick and hard and refused to spread out. Anyway, I was determined to fix it and so off it went (yes, all the 5 bottles worth) into the pan again and cooked with some extra water and then some sugar to get it right. Honestly, I hate to waste ingredients and I am so glad I was able to salvage what I had painstakingly made. A few very important lessons were learnt that day:
1. Don't get distracted
2. Don't get distracted
3. DON'T GET DISTRACTED
What you see in these pictures is the second batch of marmalade that I made to be sent to my family in Mangalore. After my previous fiasco I was equipped with the good sense to make things properly. Everything was prepared well in advance. All ingredients placed in bowls and bottles sterilized and ready to go. Round 2 was such a breeze that I fell in love with this art all over again. I am so tempted to make another batch before the orange season ends but I cannot possibly eat so much marmalade even after distributing it amongst my family and friends. One kilo of fruit yields as many as 4-5 small jam jars worth of marmalade. If you love jams and marmalades, it is the right time to make some!
And hey, for those who want to know the difference, simply put, marmalades can be made with any citrus fruit and are usually prepared with the whole fruit (including the peel).
Prep time: 30-40 mins | Cooking time: 20-25 mins (approx) | Yield: 4-5 jam bottles (approx)
- 4 large oranges (approx 800-900 grams) * see notes
- 1 lemon
- 3 cups granulated white sugar (600 grams) adjust according to the sweetness of the fruit
Other things you will need:
- Citrus juicer
- Melon baller or grapefruit spoon
- 4 or 5 empty glass jars
- Muslin cloth
- Large bowl
- Large heavy based saucepan
- Candy thermometer (optional)
- 2-3 small steel plates or bowls, placed in the refrigerator
1. Wash the oranges very well, pat them dry and juice them using a citrus juicer. Retain the skins, seeds and the pith (white fibrous part)You should get about 2 cups of juice.
2. Scoop out the pith using a grapefruit spoon or a melon baller and place it along with the seeds on a muslin cloth. Tie the ends of the cloth to form a potli (pouch). We need to use this when the peels cook as it contains natural pectin which helps the marmalade (or any jam) thicken.
3. Use a sharp knife to slice the orange skins into thin ribbons (as thin/fine as you can). The easiest way to do this is to place the peels on a chopping board and drawing vertical lines as thinly as possible along them. You should get approx 4 cups of chopped peel.
4. Prepare the bottles for canning - wash with soap and rinse. If you are going to sterilize them in water, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place a metal stand/mesh at the bottom of the pan and place the bottles over the stand (but submerged in water completely) and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. You can also let them stand (washed and patted dry) in an oven at 100 C (200F) for about 10 mins. The lids need to be placed in boiling water for 5 mins, then patted dry with a clean cloth before using.
Preparing the marmalade
5. Transfer the peels, orange juice and 4 cups of water to a large, heavy based saucepan/pan/kadai. Place the pectin pouch (which contains the pith and seeds) - it needs to submerge completely into the mixture to help release the pectin. See notes
6. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a medium and cook until the peels soften and look transparent. This could take anywhere between 30-45 minutes depending on the thickness of the peels.
7. Once the peels have softened take the pan off the heat. Remove the pectin pouch and let it cool for a bit. When it is cool enough to handle squeeze it firmly to extract as much pectin as possible - add this to the pan of cooked peels. Once done, discard the pectin pouch.
8. Place the pan back on the heat. Now you need to add the sugar but the quantity is an approximation. The general rule of thumb is to use equal quantities of fruit peel after it is softened (you need to measure the fruit peel mixture after cooking it for 30-45mins) and add equal amounts of the sugar. Again, if the fruit used is really sweet you may want to use lesser sugar. Also, the mixture when hot will taste less sweet so reserve some sugar and add about 80% of it. Lastly, if you prefer your marmalade to be less sweet and more bitter you need to eyeball the amount of sugar used so use your judgement.
9. Cook the mixture with the sugar in it over a medium-low heat till it reaches jam consistency (see notes for how to use the candy thermometer). Now, the mixture is going to take a while before it reaches the desired consistency. You need to make sure that you are watchful and don't let the mixture burn or caramelize (which will happen very quickly once the jam stage has been crossed if you neglect it). The steel plates kept in the fridge will help you check the consistency from time to time. When the mixture thickens to the consistency of thin honey it is almost ready. Just put a drop on a chilled steel plate and let it cool a bit (blow air over it rapidly) before pushing it with your thumb. If the drop of marmalade turns wrinkly, it is ready. If it spreads and looks more liquidy, you need to cook it for some more time. You can also draw a line over the drop of jam (like slicing it). If it comes together quickly, making the line disappear, the mixture is still loose and needs more cooking. If the line remains as it is, your marmalade is almost ready. see notes
10. Quickly spoon the hot marmalade into the sterilized jars, quickly clean up and spills and dribbles along the mouth of the jar using a clean tissue and fasten the lids (when the mixture is still hot). When the mixture cools down the pressure inside will form a natural seal making the lid pop when you try to open it.
11. If prepared hygienically the marmalade won't spoil for months when stored in a clean dry place. However, for best results, refrigerate once opened.
1. I used Spanish navel oranges which had a rather thick skin but were very fleshy and sweet inside. Try and use oranges that are sweet and have a loose, thin skin as it will be easily to chop up the skin.
2. Use a wide based pan or a kadai/wok as it will help the peels to cook faster. The first time I made the marmalade I tried cooking the peels in a small cooker (as it was a heavy based one) and it hampered the cooking process
3. You can use a candy thermometer if you are comfortable with it. When the temperature on the thermometer reaches 218 degrees F keep an eye out. The jam is ready to be bottled when the temperature reaches 220 degrees F.
4. Remember, it is okay to remove the jam when it still looks syrupy even if it has passed all the consistency checks. This is because the mixture will begin to solidify and thicken as it cools. If you wait till the jam mixture thickens completely when it is still cooking you will end up with a hard jam that won't even spread (this happened during my first attempt)