It’s March and the birds are singing like it’s spring. I don’t know if it’s a lion or a lamb, but our colossal snow fall is now running down the streets in rivers of rain water.
Things just seem to becoming more and more, I don’t know, richer, deeper, entwined. Now a dear friend’s daughter is coming to spend a night with us every week since her family’s having a hard time. E. is in the school play, along with children with people I knew 20 years ago when I was young and crazy and looking at them across the school gym is just like looking across a dark club at them and I’m wondering if I still find them intimidating. At church, Z.’s class is making soup to share with hungry neighbors so we’ve got beans on the stove to add to tomorrow’s soup pot. My heart catches, twisting as I watch the kids coming into their own lives, laughing, earnest and wild.
And it’s March, it’s my father’s birthday month and it’s peak citrus season. He loves marmalade and so I made him a big batch for his birthday. Marmalade always feels like a special success when it works. Whereas a berry jam has some body, marmalade is really just sugar with juice and peel so it really has to set up just on the basis of getting it to the right temperature. I find this usually takes a bit longer than recipes indicate – if you go ahead and make it, just make sure you’ve got the hands-on time it needs.
6 1-cup jars
Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
1. With a sharp paring knife, remove the zest from:
- 3 lbs. mixed organic oranges and grapefruit.
Far be it from me to question the canning gods over at Ball, but I found their instructions to score the fruit into quarters, remove the peel a quarter at a time and then use a paring knife to scrape out the bitter pith unworkable. So I pulled out this and used it instead:
You can also do this with any vegetable peeler as long as you’re careful to leave as much of the white pith behind as you can.
2. Set the fruit aside and place peel in a stainless steel saucepan with enough water to cover generously. Bring to a boil and boil gently for 10 minutes. Drain off the water, cover again and repeat, until peel is softened.
3. Over a saucepan or bowl to catch juice, use a sharp paring knife to remove the pith from the fruit, and then separate the segments from the tougher membrane. Put the fruit into the saucepan and squeeze the membrane to make sure all the juice is in. Toss out seeds and pith (but if you have a use for them please let me know).
4. To the saucepan with segments add:
- the cooked peel
- 4 cups of water
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until peel is very soft, about 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and measure 6 cups, adding water if necessary to reach that amount.
6. Ladle 3 cups of the cooked mixture into a deep stainless steel saucepan. Ladle remaining mixture into a second saucepan. Bring both to a boil over medium-high heat. Keeping it at a boil, slowly stir:
- 3 cups sugar
into each pan. Boil hard, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches the gel stage. Remove from heat to test, and then keep cooking if necessary (My recipe said it would take 12 minutes, but it took 45. Here’s how to test.) Once you’ve gotten there, skim off the foam.
7. Ladle hot marmalade into jars, leaving 1/4″ head space. Remove the air bubbles by poking down the side with a chopstick, and add more marmalade if necessary to get the proper amount of headspace. Wipe rim, center lid on jar, and screw the band on without overtightening.
8. Place jars in canner so that they’re completely covered with water. Bring to a boil, cover and process for 10 minutes. Remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars to cool and listen for that satisfying little pop that means the jar has successfully sealed. (If it doesn’t, just keep it in your fridge and eat up in the next couple of weeks.)