blood orange - meyer lemon marmalade
To quote the Lesley Gore song (composed by Marvin Hamlisch), “Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows… everything that’s wonderful… !" That’s how I feel when I eat this marmalade.
I’ve had a thing for blood oranges ever since going into a bar in Italy one morning (yes, you can do that in Italy) and requesting a fresh squeezed glass of orange juice. What they served me was a glass of deep red juice that tasted so divine that I’ve been chasing the sensation ever since.
For many years blood oranges were very hard to find here in Canada as they used to be only imported seasonally from Southern Italy, (where they still write love letters about it).
Now California grows blood oranges allowing us happy West Coasters to receive them at the beginning of the new year and indulge in their citrusy sweetness.
O.K. I’ll try and control myself from waxing too poetic about the blood oranges, so I can wax a little about the Meyer lemon. According to Wikipedia, the Meyer lemon is a citrus fruit native to China thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange. It was introduced to the United States in 1908 by the agricultural explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China. It became popular as a food item in the United States after being rediscovered by chefs such as Alice Waters at Chez Panisse during the California Cuisine revolution.
This strain of lemon, in it’s fresh format, evaded me for years. I was beginning to think there was a conspiracy to keep all Meyer's south of the 49th Parallel, when they surprisingly appeared last week at my local grocer. To date I have used this lovely little citron in Meyer lemon muffins, Meyer lemon merigue pie and now in this melodious marmalade where they happily reside alongside the blood oranges, in sunshiney – rainbowy togetherness.
Adapted from a recipe from June Taylor Jams of Berkeley, CA.
- 3 pounds organic blood oranges (I used Buck Brand)
- 2 pounds organic navel oranges
- 5 Meyer lemons (use regular lemons if that’s all you can source)
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 or 3 additional lemons)
- 2 ½ pounds of sugar (about 5 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (optional)
Scrub and rinse the oranges and lemons well.
Remove the skin from the oranges with a sharp potato or vegetable peeler, leaving behind most or all of the pith.
Cut peel into 1/8 slivers until you have about ¾ of a cup.
Peel and pith the remainder of the oranges. Remove the orange segments, cutting away the membrane but reserving all seeds and membrane in a separate bowl. (Membranes and seeds will be used later to make your own pectin for thickening the marmalade.)
When you have 5 cups of segments you can stop.
Cut the ends off the Meyer lemons so you can see the interior flesh. Cut the segments of the lemons in between the membranes as best you can again reserving the membranes and any seeds. Chop lemon segments into ¼ inch pieces.
Put all the membranes and seeds from all the fruit into a jelly bag or well tied cheese cloth folded several times so that no seeds can escape.
Place a china plate into the freezer for testing the marmalade later on.
In a large stainless steel pot put all the orange segments, chopped peel, and chopped lemons into the pot along with the jelly bag full of pith and seeds.
Add the reserved lemon juice and 2 ½ cups of water. Simmer until the orange peel is tender, approximately 20-30 minutes. Cool.
Remove the bag of membrane and seeds and working over a bowl, squeeze the jelly bag to remove the pectin rich liquid from the jelly bag.
Keep squeezing or should I say “milking” it until you get about 3/8 cup - ½ cup of pectin. Add this pectin and the 2 ½ pounds of sugar to your pot. Cook over medium high heat until it boils. Continue boiling, stirring now and again, until it reaches gel stage and passes the plate test (put a teaspoon of the marmalade on the very cold plate from the freezer and see if it thickens and becomes rather “wrinkly” when pushed with your finger.
If you have a thermometer, the marmalade should be about 222 to 225 F degrees at this point.
Stir in the Grand Marnier, if using.
Ladle into 6 – 8 ounce sterilized glass jars leaving only about ¼ inch of headspace. Wipe rims with cloth that has been dipped in hot water, then put on sterilized lids. Tightening firmly but do not over tighten.
Keep in the fridge for up to 6 months or process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes if you’d like to store it on the shelf.
Note: If you are not experienced with the safety rules of canning, it’s best to check out the following links Bernardin, National Center for Home Food Preservation, and Canning Across America, to learn the basics and safe practices for canning.
Spoon onto your favorite cracker, scone, biscuit, bread, toast to experience your own sunshine, lollipop and rainbow moment.