Food & Drink

Making marmalade: A citrus cure for the winter blues

Lisa Williams photos

Orange marmalade is a spoonful of sunshine.
Lisa Williams photos Orange marmalade is a spoonful of sunshine.
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While I dread winter cold and darkness, I love to see all the pretty citrus. Tiny mandarins, plump lemons, glossy limes, fat grapefruit and oranges of all kinds.

It bothers me to think how many peels I’ve discarded over the years. I can’t bring them back, but I look for new ways to use as much of the fruit as possible.

Every bit of an orange or lemon is nutritious and useful, even the spongy white pith we tend to avoid. Turns out, it’s a storehouse of powerful antioxidants known as citrus bioflavonoids. I frequently save the pith to throw in my next breakfast smoothie.

One of my most-used kitchen tools is a microplane zester. I never miss an opportunity to add citrus zest, whether it’s to cakes, pies, vegetables or main courses.

Citrus stars in my favorite salad dressing, which is utterly simple. Squeeze half a lemon or lime over the greens, then drizzle one to two tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Instead of throwing away that lemon half, cut it in small pieces and add to your water bottle, a cup of hot tea or make hot lemon water.

This year, I felt nostalgic and revisited orange marmalade. This had been a winter tradition for several years, but life and work caused it to fall by the wayside.

Marmalade speaks to my love of all things toast: slightly browned and crisp, warm with butter and topped with some kind of fruity spread.

And marmalade is pretty, with its slivers of peel suspended in jewel-toned jelly.

It has a versatile place in the pantry, too.

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Muddle in a beverage, add to compound butter, spread between cake layers or slather onto a peanut butter sandwich.

Making marmalade isn’t particularly high maintenance, though it requires a little bit of prep and some skill to thinly slice the peel. Fruit and sugar is all that’s required — no additional pectin.

Remember that white pith I mentioned? Pectin lives there, too, as well as in the seeds and the membrane separating each section of fruit.

Giving myself to the pull of orange marmalade led me to a goal I’ve had in my head for a good eight years. That is to take lemon-lime marmalade a few steps down the road toward gin and tonic, a favorite cocktail.

While it would have been easy to just add gin and tonic to the recipe, I wanted something even more deconstructed.

To do that requires juniper berries, the source of gin’s characteristic evergreen flavor. (Have you ever brushed against a shrub and suddenly smelled gin? I guess that only happens to me.)

The end result is a complex, lemon-lime spread that is more on the bitter side.

Melt this into tacos, add to a cheese plate, muddle in a cocktail or mocktail. Or eat it from a tiny spoon and feel very satisfied with yourself.

Winter’s here for a while and there’s plenty of citrus to enjoy. Make some marmalade.

The process and end result is so comforting and delicious. It is a sure fix for winter blues.

Recipes

Candied Citrus Peel

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Poach leftover citrus peel in a bath of sugar water to make pretty pieces of candy. Chewy and sweet with a touch of bitter, candied peel also is good dipped in chocolate. I like to nibble on it with coffee or hot tea.

Peel from organic oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes, about 2 cups in all

4 cups of sugar, divided

Using a small, sharp paring knife, remove as much of the white pith as you can. Slice the peel into 1/4-inch-wide pieces.

Put in a large pot of boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Drain. Cover with water and bring to boil again, cooking for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse.

In a medium saucepan, combine 3 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar. Bring to boil and add the peel. Simmer until the peel is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain.

Carefully remove each piece to a wire rack to dry. Drying may take 1 to 2 days, depending on the humidity of your kitchen. Toss with 1 cup of sugar and store in a sealed container between pieces of parchment or waxed paper.

Source: Adapted from Epicurious

Orange Marmalade

Equipment: You’ll need a sharp knife, a vegetable peeler, a citrus reamer to extract juice and a jelly bag to hold the discarded seeds and membranes.

These recipes use the old-fashioned cold saucer trick to determine the jelly stage. If you have a candy thermometer, the marmalade is done when the temperature reaches 220 degrees.

6 organic oranges

2 organic lemons

3 cups water

4 ounces sugar

Remove the peel from half the oranges using a vegetable peeler, trying to avoid the white pith. With a sharp knife, slice the peel very thinly until you have 1/2 cup.

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Extract all of the juice from the fruit, putting the fibrous membrane, the seeds and any white pith in the jelly bag. Put the jelly bag into a deep and wide saucepan, along with the peel, the juice and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a high simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the peel is tender.

As this cooks, take a wooden spoon and press on the jelly bag to extract the pectin. When the peel is tender, turn off the heat and remove the jelly bag. You can put the jelly bag between two saucers and squeeze to extract the pectin into the saucepan. This will be a milky white liquid. Squeeze the bag until every possible drop of liquid is released.

Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Keep the mixture at a gentle boil, stirring constantly.

If using a thermometer: When the mixture reaches 220 degrees F, it is at the jelly stage.

If using visual observation: Put a saucer in the refrigerator. After about 20 minutes, the mixture will begin to thicken. Remove the saucer from the refrigerator and put a little spoonful of marmalade on it. Return to the refrigerator for three minutes. If a slight skin has developed after 3 minutes, the marmalade has reached the jelly stage. If not, continue cooking and test in another 5 minutes.

When marmalade is ready, remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars, leaving about 1/4 inch head space from the top. Store in the refrigerator.

Lemon-Lime Marmalade with Juniper Berries

(aka Gin and Tonic Marmalade)

This ode to a cocktail can be made as a plain lemon-lime marmalade — just omit the juniper berries. Yield is about 10 ounces.

Equipment: You’ll need a sharp knife, a vegetable peeler, a citrus reamer to extract juice and a jelly bag to hold the discarded seeds and membranes.

2 organic lemons

3 organic limes

2 cups water

8 ounces sugar

25 juniper berries, lightly crushed optional (see note)

Remove the peel from lemons and lime using a vegetable peeler, trying to avoid the white pith. With a sharp knife, slice the peel very thinly until you have 1/3 cup.

Extract all of the juice from the fruit, putting the fibrous membrane, the seeds and any white pith in the jelly bag. Put the jelly bag into a deep and wide saucepan, along with the peel, the juice and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil then lower heat to a high simmer for 30 minutes, or until the peel is tender.

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As this cooks, take a wooden spoon and press on the jelly bag to extract the pectin. When the peel is tender, turn off the heat and remove the jelly bag. You can put the jelly bag between two saucers and squeeze to extract the pectin into the saucepan. This will be a milky white liquid. Squeeze the bag until every possible drop of liquid is released. Add the sugar and optional juniper berries to the saucepan and bring to a boil.

Take a small saucer and put it in the refrigerator if you are using the visual observation method.

Keep the mixture at a gentle boil, stirring constantly. After about 15 minutes, the mixture will begin to thicken.

Remove the saucer from the refrigerator and put a little spoonful of marmalade on it. Return to the refrigerator for three minutes. If a slight skin has developed after 3 minutes, the marmalade is done. If not, continue cooking and test in another 5 minutes.

If using a candy thermometer, cook until it reaches 220 degrees F. Remove from heat. Spoon marmalade into a hot sterilized jelly jar. Store in the refrigerator.

Note: Dried juniper berries can be found through Frontier Co-op. What about the tonic water, you may be thinking. A splash (less than 1 tablespoon) of tonic water can be added at the very end of cooking. It will make the marmalade even more bitter. I made it both ways and prefer it without tonic. Give it a try and see what you think. If you do use tonic water, I prefer an artisan brand, such as Fever Tree.

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