A few weeks ago Luisa wrote about some beautiful bitter orange marmalade she made. I usually do whatever Luisa tells me, and I’ve been wanting to make marmalade for years, so I started checking around to see if I could find me some Seville (sour) oranges in Chicago. I found folklore-like reports online of sightings at this ethnic market or that grocery store…but nothing panned out. I started to give up and move onto other projects. But while we were in Los Angeles, some friends who took us to Lindy & Grundy, a super rad butcher shop in West Hollywood. I picked up a jar of orange marmalade that turned out to be fantastic and renewed my determination to find the oranges. I found a place online where I could order a case of Seville oranges, and despite the high cost, decided that the elusive Seville oranges would be mine.
The marmalade I bought in LA was made by the talented Kevin West who writes about preserving on his beautiful blog Saving the Season (he’s also about to publish a cookbook). It was an extremely delicious marmalade, “strong marmalade” as he calls it—sweet, bright, bitter, oily. The recipe was published on his site (and another version of it in the current issue of Lucky Peach). I gave it a try so that you’d have a couple of recipes to choose from if you find yourself some Seville oranges.
Preserving fruit remains my all-time favorite kitchen activity (ice cream making might be a close second). There is magic that happens when you turn fruit into jam. Seville oranges ain’t joking. They are very, very bitter. Like, inedible. They require cooking, soaking, and lots of sugar to fight that bitterness. This particular marmalade is perfect because it retains a lot of that bitterness. It isn’t for everyone, but it is for me in the most serious of ways. Also, look at it! It could not be prettier. The jars remain on my window ledge for me to admire. It is great on toast, but also nice on a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
My version below is an adaptation of the Kevin West recipe. I leave the processing up to you, folks have different opinions on how to safely can fruits and I don’t want get involved in that discussion right now. There is plenty of information online.
Seville Orange Marmalade (recipe adapted from Kevin West)
- 3 pounds Seville oranges
- 2 quarts water
- 3 pounds granulated sugar
Scrub the oranges well in cold water. (If you’re using oranges that have been waxed, use hot water to scrub and remove all traces of wax.)
Put the whole oranges and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook at a lively simmer for 70-90 minutes, until the peels are soft and the fruits have started to deflate a little.
Remove the cooked oranges with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet or large platter to cool. Measure the remaining cooking liquid. You want to have around 6 cups, so add or subtract water to reach the correct amount. Transfer the 6 cups of cooking liquid to a large bowl.
Once the oranges are cool enough to handle, halve them and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Pick through the pulp for seeds and place them into a small muslin bag, or a pouch made from a double-thickness of cheesecloth. You don’t need to be too careful with this, no need to clean off bits of pulp or find every single seed. Add the bag of seeds to the bowl of liquid.
Cut each half peel into quarters and then each quarter into thin strips. Add to the bowl of liquid. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature overnight.
The next day, squeeze the bag of seeds to extract as much pectin-y liquid back into the bowl of oranges at possible. Discard the seeds. In a preserves pan, or large dutch oven, combine the sugar and oranges with their liquid. Bring the mixture to a boil while stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook at a moderate boil, stirring regularly. After 40 to 60 minutes (may be longer or shorter depending on heat and oranges) the marmalade will turn glossy and darker. Check for a gel set by placing a teaspoon of the preserve on a chilled saucer in the freezer for one minute. If the puddle of cooled marmalade has formed a skin and wrinkles a bit when you push on it, it is done. If not, keep cooking for another couple of minutes and test again.
Remove pan from heat and ladle marmalade into prepared jars. Because of the high amount of sugar and acid, Seville orange marmalade has an especially long shelf life, 18-24 months.
I got 7 8-ounce jars out of this recipe.