marmalade, part one, of old tangerines


I’ve been making marmalade. I’ve been reading cookbooks. One of my favorites, the Times Picayune Creole Cook Book of 1928, had the simplest recipe, and the one I figured I’d try first, with a clutch of aging grocery-store tangerines I’d been sitting on. Here is the recipe, rewritten for simplicity:

Picayune Creole Cook Book’s Marmelade d’Oranges: (p. 357)

To every 6 oranges allow 2 lemons
To every pound of fruit 1.5 cups sugar (three parts sugar to four fruit, by weight)

Chop up citrus, discard seeds. Add sugar, cook until done (as judged by plate-test). Jar.

The plate test, I should note, is when you take a cool plate and fling some droplets at it, so as to judge by their quickly-cooled viscosity whether the batch will congeal properly at room temperature yet. It is an art, apparently, because I overcooked this tangerine batch enough to wind up with something more akin to candied tangerines than marmalade. (Not that that was terribly disappointing!)

I recommend, in cutting up your citrus, to juice it first and then chop the peel after. It’s easier and it wastes less juice. Since I was using small tangerines, with a relatively high peel to juice ratio, I actually ended up discarding most of the peel. This is just something you’ve got to do by eye: how much solids do you want? And allow for some cooking down. I wouldn’t advise going without, though—I believe the peel has much of the pectin necessary for making the thing firm up. I didn’t have any lemons, but lemon juice added to taste sufficed. Without something sour or bitter to balance out your sweet oranges and sugar, marmalade can be kind of insipid. Now, cook up! Not too fast a boil—like soup, you don’t want to boil the hell out it, and all the flavor, too.

The parallel operation is to sterilize your jars and lids—you’ll need new, unused lids if you intend to use the modern, generally recommended canning-jar method. Boil them all together for ten minutes or so, when you think your marmalade is almost done cooking, and then set them out to dry. Ideally, they should still be warm, and perfectly dry, when you pour the boiling syrup into them. Fill the jars to about half an inch from the top, and gently set your lids on them, and secure them with their rings, and set them out of the way for a day. As the air in the jars cools, it will suck down the lids and with a loud pop make an air-tight seal. Still, let them be for a few hours before you start knocking them around. But then, you’re all set.

This appears to be about the simplest way to make a marmalade, and except for the overcooking I am altogether pleased with the results.

For my next batch, with the blood oranges ordered specially for the purpose, I’m going to make things a little more complex, use a few techniques designed to shorten the necessary cooking-time: an overnight soak, with the seeds; cooking in a broader-bottomed pot, to allow a greater surface to evaporate from; and cooking up the seeds with the rest, in a little baggy for easy removal. We’ll see if anything else.

4 Comments on “marmalade, part one, of old tangerines”

  1. Missus says:

    Of course, the usual way to rectify the peel-to-liquid ratio is to add water.

  2. Will Huenink says:

    the Picayune also has a recipe for peel-only marmalade. Extra is going into that!

  3. Caitlin says:

    Sounds like you’re having fun. I like that. i’M trying to type with my wine glass balanced on the laptop…pizza on the arm of the sofa, feet up between me and the wood stove. yeah.

  4. Heather says:

    If I lived in California and was lousy with citrus, this is what I’d have to say about it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *