Over the past few months, I’ve met more people who prefer marmalade than I’ve ever encountered in my life. For instance, I’d be visiting and would make a batch of biscuits, and as I set the skillet down, I’d ask what they wanted on their biscuit as I reached for the honey for myself. On more than one occasion, the reply was, “Marmalade,” with an unspoken “Duh!” lingering after they spoke.
Marmalade? I thought to myself. Who likes marmalade?
Of course, I never said this in so many terms, but I’d ask why they preferred it over jam or honey as I’ve always found marmalade too chunky and bitter. They’d explain why it was their favorite, usually, because they preferred the contrast of bitter and sweet or liked the sharp tones the citrus’s acid left behind. I’d just nod.
My initial introduction to marmalade occurred when reading the Paddington Bear books when I was young. Paddington was a keen lover of orange marmalade and was always spreading it on toast. I’d never tried it so I asked for a jar one Christmas and after receiving one and tasting it, I was appalled at how unsweet it was. That was enough and I never returned.
When I’d tell my marmalade-loving friends this story, they insisted I’d just had a bad batch. And as they pulled out their own personal favorite from the refrigerator, I’d grab a spoon and dip it into the jar, and indeed, my adult experiences with marmalade were far more pleasant than the ones I had as a child.
While I’m not certain if my palate has matured or if that marmalade, I received so many years ago was just especially bitter, I decided that even though it’s not my preferred biscuit spread, I could appreciate its charms. So, with it being winter and citrus in season, I decided to try making my own batch, using this recipe from The Suburban Soapbox as a guide.
For mine, I used small, juicy oranges such as satsumas or clementines. They don’t have seeds and have such a concentrated flavor that even making a quick batch yields a bright and lively spread.
One of my main aversions to marmalade in the past was the abundance of peel. The pith, which is the white portion of the peel, is where the bitterness comes. Because the orange skin is bursting with flavor. It needs to stay, but I reduced the usual ratio of peel to fruit.
The process for making this quick batch is similar to my jam recipes. It won’t last long so I simply refrigerate the unused portion. And during the winter, having a jar of sunny Satsuma marmalade is a sure way to brighten your day.
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- 1 pound (about 6) Satsuma or clementine oranges
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon bourbon (or vanilla extract)
- Small pinch kosher salt
- 1 sterilized pint jar
- Place a plate into the freezer.
- Peel the oranges, remove any seeds, and reserve the peel from 2 of the oranges. Chop the orange fruit and place it into a pot.
- Take the reserved peel and cut it into thin ½-inch long strips. Place the peel strips into the pot.
- Stir into the pot the water and sugar, then bring the pot to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and while occasionally stirring, cook the marmalade until reduced and beginning to thicken about 30 minutes. Stir in the bourbon and small pinch of salt.
- At this time, test the marmalade for doneness. Remove the plate from the freezer and spoon onto it a small dollop. Tilt the plate and if doesn’t run, the marmalade is ready. If it’s too thin, continue to cook, checking its progress with the plate every 5 minutes. Taste and make any adjustments.
- You may also test for doneness with a thermometer. When the marmalade is 220°F, it will be done.
- Pour the jam into the prepared pint jar and refrigerate. It will keep for 1 month.