I have been refining this technique for marmalade, and have now tested and retested it on Meyer lemons, lemons, Bearss limes, Mexican limes, grapefruit, cocktail grapefruit, kumquats, tangelos, mandarins, Rangpur limes – and oranges.
It will always work, it is much more efficient, and the ratios are simple. Basically, add one part water to one part prepared fruit and bring to a boil with the pectin bag uncovered for about 30 minutes (45 for harder peels) , or to ‘al dente’ stage. Bite a piece, it should be tender. Cover and let sit overnight, or refrigerate for longer. When you are ready to can, measure 6 cups of mixture into the cooking pot, bring to a boil and add 6 cups of sugar , or one part sugar to one part cooked mixture. Cook at a boil to gel stage, usually around 30 minutes. Ladle into hot canning jars, seal and process 10 minutes.
The first step will take about 1 1/2 hours, and the second step will take about 2 hours for 2 6 cup batches.
PECTIN: There is exactly the right amount of pectin in the whole citrus fruit for your marmalade to gel. Commercial marmalade uses commercial pectin, which requires about 70% more sugar. More sugar means more jars of marmalade; but we want more fruit and less sugar. We will not have as many jars, but our product will be concentrated fruit rather than primarily sugar.The pectin is in the pithy parts and the seeds and membranes. Since we want the pectin but we don’t want to eat the seeds and pith, put those in a cheesecloth-lined dish as you prepare the fruit. Use two layers of cheesecloth.
You’ll end up with a pot of perfect citrus slices, and a little bowl of seeds and cores. Tie up the cheesecloth hobo-style, and cook it along with the water as you soften the fruit.
Let the bag sit in the cooled mixture overnight, or in the refrigerator. When you are ready to do the second canning stage, first take out the pectin bag. Squeeze out the milky substance from the bag over a separate bowl. This is marmalade gold! Use a separate bowl in case any seeds escape the pectin bag, so you can take them out before you add this mixture to the cooking pot. (I learned this because I got a little too ambitious squeezing out the bag, and broke through some of the cheesecloth in my zeal.) Don’t squeeze the bag directly into the cooking pot, because you don’t want any seeds.
IMPORTANT: cook just 6 cups at a time. Measure out 6 cups of the cooked mixture into the cooking pot and bring to a boil, then add 6 cups of sugar. I highly recommend white cane sugar – C&H is my choice, but any cane sugar works. You can go up to 7 cups, but more than that, it becomes tedious to bring it to the gel stage. In the time that you are bringing your mixture to the gel stage, you are getting the canner and jars hot and ready.
THE GEL STAGE, A REMINDER: When you add sugar to the pot, put a little saucer in the freezer. As the foam subsides and the bubbles become clearer and the mixture slightly darkens, dribble a few drops on the cold plate, then put it back in the freezer for 10 or 20 seconds. Take it out, and push the edge of the mixture with your fingertip. If it is still liquid, keep cooking. IF IT FORMS WRINKLES ON THE SURFACE, IT IS READY TO CAN.
The basic cooked citrus mixture is fine by itself, but when you add sugar, you can add flavors. My little secret ok, it isn’t a secret anymore! – is to add 1/4 tsp of kosher salt to every batch to round out the flavor. Here are a few of our most successful ideas: add either a scraped vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract; 1/4 cup brandy, or tequila to limes; dried chili pepper flakes or diced pickled jalapenos; 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a dash of cloves; 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper; herb extract, such as 1/4 cup sage or lavender steeped in 1/2 cup boiling water, then strained. When using fresh ginger, you’ll want to cook the fresh peeled diced ginger along with the citrus, as it needs to soften, too. Start with 1/4 cup, or a small tuber of ginger, adding more in subsequent batches if you like that sweet/hot flavor. You can even layer in chilis to the ginger citrus mixture, and thanks to Mark Lambert for this inspiration!
Specific recipes will be posted on the ‘Recipes’ tab. Just remember to cook 6 cups of prepared fruit with 6 cups of water and the pectin bag, let it sit overnight, then measure out 6 cups of the cooked mixture and add 6 cups of sugar. That’s it!