Seville Orange Marmalade is prized in Great Britain. Legend has it that this perfect marriage of the intensely bitter Seville oranges and the sweetness of sugar occurred by accident in the early 1700’s in Scotland.
According to the legend the current day marmalade was invented in Dundee, by the wife of James Keiller, a local grocer. Keiller bought a load of discounted, and unsellable, oranges from a storm blasted cargo ship from Seville, Spain. Because the oranges were so bitter, the grocer’s frugal and ingenious wife Janet used them instead of her normal fruit to make pots of preserves. Voila – Dundee Seville Orange Marmalade was born! The Seville Orange Marmalade proved to be so popular that the Dundee public demanded more and more. The Keiller’s obliged, and continued producing the marmalade. Several generations later, in 1797, another Mrs. Keiller and her son James built the world’s first marmalade factory. And now, you know the rest of the story!
My Seville Orange Marmalade is not the typical variety. Yes, I do use Seville oranges. However, I double the amount of fruit, and cut the amount of sugar in half. The reason for the reduced sugar is that I make the marmalade according to the Master Taste Tester’s preference. He argues that the intense orange flavor shouldn’t be masked by excessive sweetness.
You may be wondering how I got my hands on Seville oranges. The answer is that several Seville orange trees grow around Seville Square in the local Historic District. They were planted over a century ago, and every year produce an abundant crop of Seville oranges. Some years back when I told the Master Taste Tester that I could get some Seville oranges that were grown locally, he requested that I put my culinary skills to work and produce marmalade! Over the years, he has proclaimed my marmalade as “magnificent” especially if it ripens for several years into a vintage masterpiece.
Ingredients for Seville Orange Marmalade:
I use the following four simple ingredients for this marmalade: Seville oranges, lemons, water, and sugar. This year, since we had an abundant crop of “sweet” oranges, I tried fresh squeezed orange juice in place of the water. It worked, but was not necessary.
Preparing the Ingredients:
It’s not difficult to make marmalade. However, it is quite time-consuming. I started by juicing the oranges. Fortunately, I have an electric juicer! I placed the numerous pips or seeds and piths from the oranges into pieces of cheesecloth tied with a piece of twine. You may have noticed that I didn’t include pectin as an ingredient. The reason is that the seeds and pith are rich in pectin and provide all that is necessary.
Next, I used my food processor fitted with a steel blade to cut the fruit skins into coarse pieces. I did this in several batches. Traditionally, one should use a knife to cut the skins into thin strips. However, from my perspective, the food processor does a fine job of producing coarse cut marmalade, and is way easier!
Making the Seville Orange Marmalade:
To begin the process of making the marmalade, I added the juice from the oranges, additional orange juice (or water), and cut up orange peels to a large Dutch oven. Then, I added the cheesecloth bags of seeds and pith, and tied the bags to the handles of the Dutch oven. I did this to make it easier to retrieve the cheesecloth bags later.
Next, I brought the mixture up to a simmer over medium heat, and then lowered the heat to medium low. I simmered the mixture for around two hours until the peel was tender to the touch. After two hours, I removed the cheesecloth bags and let them cool for a bit. Meanwhile, I added the sugar and stirred the mixture over medium low heat until all of the sugar had dissolved. This is a critical step.
Back to the cheesecloth bags. Once they had cooled, I started the really messy part of extracting as much pectin as possible. First, I pressed them with the bottom of a small saucer. Then, I used my hands to press as much pectin as I could from the bags. I added the pectin to the marmalade mixture.
Setting the Marmalade:
Once the sugar had dissolved and the pectin had been added, I turned the heat up to high to begin the setting stage. When the mixture reached a full boil, I let it cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. After 15 minutes, I put a small amount on a saucer that had been in the freezer. After it cooled a bit, I pushed the mixture with my finger to see if it wrinkled. The wrinkling is an indication that the marmalade has set. Fifteen minutes was not enough, so I continued cooking the mixture, in 10 minute increments, until it wrinkled. This is around 220° F on a candy thermometer. Overall, it took 45 minutes for the mixture to property set.
I let the marmalade cool for about 10 minutes before putting it into sterilized mason jars and screwing on the tops. Because the marmalade was still hot, the jars sealed themselves. I ended up with nine 12-ounce jars of incredible Seville Orange Marmalade. Because the Master Taste Tester really likes the vintage variety, some of it will be stored in a cool dry place for several years to age. The rest will served at breakfast or eaten as a midnight snack on toast. Yum!
Seville Orange Marmalade
- 6 pounds Seville Oranges
- 2 lemons
- 6 cups water
- 7 cups granulated sugar or more to taste
- Wash the oranges and lemons well. Cut the oranges and lemons in half. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and lemons using a citrus juicer. Add the juice and the water to a large Dutch oven. Place the pips or seeds and any bits of pith that cling to the juicer on a piece of cheesecloth, laid over a small bowl.
- Cut the orange peel and the lemon peel into quarters with a sharp knife. Place the orange peel and lemon peel in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel cutting blade. Process until coarse. Add to the Dutch oven. The pith contains a lot of pectin so don't discard any and don't worry about any pith and skin that clings to the shreds - it all gets dissolved in the boiling.
- Tie the cheesecloth loosely to form a little bag, and tie this onto the handle of the pan so that the bag is suspended in the liquid. Bring the liquid up to a simmering point, and simmer gently, uncovered, for two hours, or until the peel is completely soft - test a piece carefully by pressing it between your finger and thumb.
- Remove the bag of seeds and pith and leave it to cool in a saucer.
- Add the sugar into the Dutch oven and stir over low heat until all of the crystals have dissolved (check carefully, it's important). Taste for desired level of sweetness. Increase the heat to high.
- Squeeze the bag of seeds into the Dutch oven to extract all of the sticky, jelly-like substance that contains the pectin. As you squeeze, you'll see it ooze out. You can do this by placing the bag between two saucers or using your hands. Then stir or whisk it into the rest of the mixture.
- Place several small saucers into the freezer to later use to test the doneness.
- As soon as the mixture reaches a really fast boil, start timing. Then after 15 minutes, spoon a little of the marmalade onto one of the cold saucers from the freezer, and let it cool back in the freezer. When it has cooled, you can tell if you have a "set" by pushing the mixture with your little finger; if it has a really wrinkled skin, it is set. If not, continue to boil the marmalade and give it the same test at about 10-minute intervals until it does set. (This generally takes 45 to 55 minutes for the marmalade to set.)
- After the marmalade has set remove the Dutch oven from the heat. Spoon any scum from the top.
- Leave the marmalade to settle for about 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, the jars (washed, rinsed and dried first), should be heated in a 200º F oven for about 10 minutes. The tops should be boiled in water for about 5 minutes.
- Pour the marmalade, with the aid of a funnel into the jars, and seal while still hot. If the jars do not seal themselves, place, submerged, in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove and wait to hear the "pop" indicating that the jar has sealed. Yield: nine 12-ounce jars marmalade.