Perhaps because I’ve been watching Marilla and Anne in their cozy, old-fashioned farmhouse kitchen, I felt a particular urge on Saturday to hover over a stove for a couple of hours with glass preserve jars at hand. I have always wanted to make marmalade. Though in reality I usually sleep through the breakfast hour and rise in time to have a burger at one, there’s nothing I love more than the idea of a sunny breakfast table set with steaming coffee, pots of jams, and piles of baked goods. And when you have a Saturday night filled with holiday parties to attend, what gift for your host could be more charming than homemade marmalade?
Marmalade becomes instantly less wholesome-seeming when you are measuring out an obscene amount (7 1/2 cups to be exact!) of sugar into your pot. And sealing up your Ball jars seems much less romantic when faced with sterilization and the word botulism is ringing in your ears. As fearless as the pioneers, forge on you will, and if you’re kicking it old school with nary a candy thermometer in sight, you may be somewhat flummoxed by the “sheet test” or the “wrinkle effect.” These are not obscure terms in physics, but ways of knowing if your marmalade has set. You will feel, perhaps, that maybe you have botched the whole process and surrendered hours of your life to tedious foam-skimming and wrinkle-testing.
But then you will put on your holiday finery and arrive at your host’s door. While others are toting bottles of merlot, you come bearing a jar of homemade marmalade topped with bright, modern fabric and tied up with a bow. You may think for a minute, that this is an exercise in style over substance. But then, Monday morning, as you open up the jar you kept for yourself and spread some on top of toast with peanut butter, all is forgotten. You may even think it was worth it.
2 navel oranges
2 cups fresh orange juice (from about 2 pounds oranges)
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
7 1/2 cups sugar
1. Rinse oranges under hot water and quarter lengthwise. Then slice crosswise as thinly as possible.
2. Over medium-high heat, bring the orange slices, orange juice, lemon juice and 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until orange peels are translucent and tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
3. Add sugar and bring mixture to a boil again, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Continue cooking, skimming foam off the surface and stirring often. If you have a candy thermometer, the marmalade has set when the temperature reaches 220 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, try the old wrinkle test. Place a little bit of marmalade onto a chilled plate. Let cool. If the marmalade wrinkles when you press the mixture, it has set. If it’s still gloopy, continue cooking. Mine cooked for about half an hour and then I bottled them up the way Fanny Farmer told me to.