After my last orange marmalade candy-in-a-jar experience, I did quite a bit of research before starting this one. I had some beautiful organic oranges from my local whole foods market and I knew which recipe I wanted to use as a base: an orange chile marmalade from the Ball book. That recipe, however, specifies nine (9!!) cups of sugar, which I knew was never going to work for me. So, I looked at traditional marmalade recipes in Gourmet Preserves, The Glass Pantry, even Fannie Farmer, but nothing was exactly what I wanted. I scoped out the Double Meyer Lemonade recipe in Hitchhiking to Heaven’s eBook and checked into her latest marmalade post for some good tips and discussion on technique. When I was finally ready to start the marmalade, imagine my surprise when I sliced open my beautiful oranges and they were a deep, gorgeous pink! Some Googling told me that they much be Cara Cara oranges; a sweet, juicy navel varietal discovered in 1976 in Venezuela.
When it comes to marmalade, I want to taste the bitterness: I don’t want to taste only sugar. This creates a problem, in that sugar + juice = the jelly that suspends the pieces of citrus rind and makes the preserve spreadable. In addition, the more you reduce the sugar, the more difficulty you have in achieving the gel stage (because pectin needs sugar to activate). So, I am always playing a balancing game between creating a preserve that is not too sweet for me to enjoy, but has enough sugar to gel and, especially in a marmalade, enough jelly to surround the preserved fruit. I started out with about a 1 to 1/2 ratio of fruit to sugar; over a lonnnnng cooking time (and a fun conversation on the LK Facebook page), I added sugar three more times, and ended up with a little more than 2/3rds the amount of sugar (70%), by weight, as fruit, in order to reach the gel stage. Ad the end result? Quite brilliant, actually. Yes, it is sweet, but it is so spicy that the sweetness has a lovely counterpoint in the heat of the chiles. As you might be able to see from the pictures, there is a lot more suspended fruit than you find in a typical marmalade, so there is plenty of the bitterness that I crave, and the texture of the rind and set of the jelly turned out exactly as I wanted: spreadable, not overly firm, with the citrus just barely al dente. I am loving the heat of this one, which is definitely not for the faint of heart: overall, I’m happy that we’ve got seven jars cooling on the counter.
- 2 and 1/4 lbs Cara Cara (or navel) oranges (about 4 medium)
- 1/2 cup (4 oz) lemon juice (or juice & zest from 2 medium lemons)
- 9 small dried red chiles (1/8 oz), stemmed and roughly chopped
- filtered water (see Options)
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup tequila (optional)
- 1 and 3/4 lbs (3 and 3/4 cups) sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- Day 1. Scrub oranges well. Slice about 1/8-inch off of stem and blossom ends (discard). Slice oranges in quarters, remove the middle, pithy seam, then slice each quarter in half (or in thirds, if very large) lengthwise. Slice each section cross-wise into thin strips, transferring fruit to a large measuring cup as you go (I measured a total of 6 and 1/2 cups orange slices) and trying to capture all of the juice.
- Transfer orange slices, juice and lemon juice (+ zest if using) to a wide stockpot or preserving pan. Add an equal volume of filtered water (6 and 1/2 cups orange slices + 1/2 cup lemon juice = 7 cups added water). Add chiles and salt, cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add tequila (if using), cover, and allow to cool at room temperature. Store the covered stockpot in the refrigerator overnight (or transfer to a bowl and cover).
- Day 2. Bring fruit mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat (heat slowly if bringing an enameled cast iron pot from refrigerator). Simmer 10 minutes. Cover, allow to come to room temperature, then store refrigerated overnight.
- Day 3. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Bring fruit mixture to a boil over high heat. Add sugar, stirring until it dissolves. Allow to boil vigorously, stirring minimally, until the marmalade reaches the set point: 220 degrees F on an accurate thermometer (or 8 degrees above the temperature of boiling water); this may take anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes (mine took about 60 minutes, although I added 2 extra cups of water and the tequila in the later stage of cooking). Remove from heat and allow marmalade to cool slightly for 2 – 3 minutes. Skim foam, push down fruit pieces, and ladle hot marmalade into hot jars to 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 6 and 1/2 cups.
- The classic marmalade recipe calls for the addition of water in equal amounts to the volume of fruit + juice: here, that was 7 cups. The classic marmalade recipe also calls for the addition of sugar of equal weight to the fruit: that would have been 3 lbs (6 cups) of sugar, but I started cooking this recipe with only 1 and 1/4 lbs (2 and 1/4 cups) sugar. As the marmalade cooked (and cooked, and cooked) I realized that I needed more sugar to effect a gel, so I added extra sugar (1/2 cup) three separate times. To compensate for the extra sugar (and because all of my liquid was boiling off in the long cooking time), I added 2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of tequila. So, in total: 9 cups water, 3 and 3/4 cups sugar and 1/2 cup tequila. However, I would start the recipe with 7 cups of water, because I don’t think you will need the extra two cups of water if you start out with the full amount of sugar; it should not have to cook for as long as mine did. As you may be able to tell from the pictures, because I cut the sugar by more than a third, there is a lot of fruit, and less jelly, in my typical marmalade. If you would like more jelly, simply add more sugar, up to a total of 6 cups.
- This marmalade is spicy; it is a wonderful spicy, and frankly, I can’t stop eating it (and I’m not really a huge marmalade fan), but if you like things on the mild side of spicy, cut the amount of chiles in half. The chiles I used were a small, red chile (unidentified when I bought them at the farmer’s market last Fall): I put them on par with Arbol chiles, heat-wise. The size is about half that of a jalapeno.
- The tequila is totally optional; I added it on a whim. You could replace with white wine, Cointreau or Triple Sec, or simply leave it out.
Canned, in a cool dark spot, for up to 1 year. Refrigerated for up to 1 month.