Around here canning season winds down in October with apple butter and sauerkraut. There’s not a whole lot to put in jars between now and strawberry season, so in January I like to indulge in a few pounds of citrus from sunnier places to tide me over. Making a batch of marmalade will take you all afternoon, which is not necessarily a bad thing when it’s 20 degrees and snowy and you don’t really want to go anywhere anyway.
Some marmalade recipes call for you to chop up the fruit membranes and all. I prefer to separate the pulp from the membranes. This ends up being a lot more work, but the result is a much prettier marmalade with a nicer texture. You’ll end up with a beautiful transparent jelly with thin strands of zest suspended throughout and when you spread it on a toasted English muffin you’ll realize that it was all worth it.
This time around I used a combination of meyer lemons and red grapefruit. I’ve also made it with just meyer lemons. I imagine you could follow the same basic formula with any combination of citrus.
Meyer Lemon and Grapefruit Marmalade (adapted from Food in Jars)
8 to 10 meyer lemons
3 red grapefruits
6 cups sugar
Have ready 8 clean half-pint canning jars. Put them in your water bath canner and bring it to a boil while you make the marmalade. The jars need to boil for at least 10 minutes to sterilize them, because the marmalade is only processed for 5 minutes.
Wash the fruit well, and with a serrated vegetable peeler, peel the zest from all of the lemons and one of grapefruits. Try not to take too much of the pith off with it. Then cut the zests into little matchstick strips, about an inch long. You should have about 2 cups of zest. Put the zest in a saucepan and add about 6 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the zest is soft and slightly translucent. Turn off the heat and just let it stand while you get the pulp ready.
Meanwhile, you will need to separate the fruit pulp and juice from the membranes. You can supreme the grapefruits, but sometimes I find it easier to just peel them apart. When it comes to the lemons, you’ll quickly realize that trying to supreme them is far more trouble than it’s worth. I usually just cut them in half and juice them. In the end it really doesn’t matter since the pulp will break down completely. You’ll want to collect all of the pulp and juice in a bowl, and save the membranes and seeds in a separate bowl. The membranes and seeds will provide lots of pectin to help the marmalade set up. Discard the pith. In the end you should have about 4 cups of juice and pulp.
Strain the zest, reserving the cooking liquid. Measure 4 cups of the liquid and discard the rest. Combine the cooking liquid, zest, pulp, juice, and sugar in a large heavy pot. Bundle the reserved membranes and seeds into a square of cheesecloth. Tie the bundle securely and add it to the pot.
Cook over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until the juice begins to thicken. This should happen soon after it reaches 220 degrees, if you like to keep track of such things. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour for the marmalade to begin to thicken. Once it looks like its beginning to thicken, test it by dropping a little puddle of marmalade on to a cold plate. Once it cools, run your finger through the puddle. If it feels like jam and not liquid, it’s done. It will thicken considerably as it cools, so don’t wait for the hot marmalade in the pot to thicken to jam consistency. If you do, you’ll end up with completely solid marmalade. When it’s done, remove from heat and gently press the cheesecloth bundle against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon. Lots of pectin will ooze out. Discard the cheesecloth bundle and give it a good stir. Ladle the marmalade into sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Process jars for 5 minutes in a water bath canner. This recipe makes about 7 or 8 half-pints.