Friday, April 16, 2010

Cooking vintage: Orange Marmalade

Lately I've had a craving for orange marmalade.  And I happened to have about 8 oranges in my fridge that had to be used.  Hmmmm, me thinks, maybe I could make some marmalade?

So I found a recipe in one of my vintage cookbooks, the American Woman's Cookbook, from 1947. This recipe does not technically require canning, but for safety's sake I planned to do so. Back in the 1930s when the book was written, the standard would have been to pack the marmalade in jars and then seal the tops with parafin wax and store in a cupboard. (As an aside, my mother, who was born in 1940, remembered that her mother used to wrap a thread around the top before sealing the jar with wax and leaving a bit hang free so it was easy to break the wax seal by pulling on the thread.)

To me, this seems like taking an unnecessary chance, so I planned to can it. This requires the extra step of sterilizing & sealing the jelly jars, so we will deviate a bit from the original recipe, FYI:

As you can see the recipe is very straightforward and requires only 4 ingrediants.  It does, however take two days! 

Whenever I start a canning project, I always read the recipe several times and make sure I have all the equipment and ingrediants close at hand. Timing and preparation are crucial when canning!!!!

I like to use vintage tools and techniques as much as possible. However I will not sacrifice cleanliness when canning (hence the modern cutting board and stainless pot, instead of the more traditional wood and enamel which could harbor bacteria). And I spent years working in professional kitchens, so a good knife is paramount. That is a Ludwig Schiff of Solingen 10" citrus knife with a serrated blade- not even my husband is allowed to touch that and he is a butcher! ;)

After washing and drying the oranges and two lemons, I cut the peel off and cut it into thin ribbons. Then you do the same with the insides of the fruit.

The little bowl in the center contains some sections of peel I cut into the shape of goldfish. I thought I'd try the author's tip: "For a pretty effect, remove most of the white from peel and cut remaining orange part into fish-shaped pieces."

The first step in cooking the marmalade is to take just the slivered peel sections, cover them with water and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and repeat twice. (I believe this step is to remove the bitterness from the peel.)

Then add the pulp section slivers to the drained peel slivers and cover with 3 times as much water.  I needed a large stockpot for this. Then you let the whole thing stand over night. Again, I believe this is to remove bitterness, but I'm not sure. I just did as they said!

Day 2:  Fire up the stove again, this will take about 4-5 hours. I also filled the water bath canner and got that going- that itself will take over an hour just to heat up.

As directed, "Cook the orange slivers for about 40 minutes, weigh and add an equal amount of sugar."
I took this literally, and maybe that was not the intent of the author. If you weigh the contents of about 6 qts of water (1 gal weighs about 8 pounds) you would need 10-12 pounds of sugar. Perhaps they were assuming less water from the start, or that more would cook off during those 40 mins? Based what I thought would be a more appropriate amount of sugar, I added about 2-3 pounds. And to me the end result is a little sweet, so next time I might add even less. But you still need plenty of sugar to make the "jelly test":

When the syrup coats the back of a spoon without dripping, you have passed the jelly test!
And you can see that the mixture has cooked down quite a bit and darkened in color. At this point I threw in a small handful of whole cloves and allspice for a spicy twist, reminiscent of Constant Comment tea. I let it cook down a little bit more while I readied the jars.

You need about a dozen clean 6 oz jelly jars, or 6-8 larger jars, bands and new lids. Plus a cup of hot water to moisten the lids, a clean damp cloth, a funnel, ladle to fill the jars, and a jar lifter (the tongs with the green rubber ends) to lift the jars in and out of the water bath. Once I'm almost ready to start filling the jars, I put the clean jars in the boiling water bath. This sterilizes them and heats them to the same temp as the hot marmalade I'm about to spoon into them.

Fill the hot jars with the hot product using a clean ladle and canning funnel (wide mouth). This funnel is designed to keep the product from getting on the edge of the jars. You need to wipe the edges clean with a cloth before setting the warmed lids and bands on top. If there is any jelly on the edge it will not seal properly.

Place the jars in the boiling water canner and boil for 5-10 minutes. You can see the air bubbles escaping from beneath the lids- a good thing, as canning creates a vacuum. As I mentioned above, canning is really an "extra" step- the marmalade would probably be shelf-stable for a few weeks, anyway- but I'm not willing to take that chance. Even this relatively short processing time is plenty to insure safety.

The finished product! I think the time it took to add the little orange peel goldfish was a really cute addition and everyone seems to love it.  I ended up with a lot of marmalade!  The large jar is a whole pint, plus about 8 smaller jars.

When I hit 25 followers, I will include that small jar above in a giveaway, so spread the word!

Also, Mick at Everyone Goes to Mick's has a cool travel-themed giveaway, so check it out!


  1. you've not only won my kitchen giveaway, but also motivated me to make some homemade goodies! Thanks, Zootsuitmama

  2. Last year I made apple marmalade (recipe out of the Yankee cookbook of 1939) and I plan to make lots more this year. First time for me...I did go with wax and string, and it's worked out just fine.

    However, I'll probably can this year, as I plan to make a much larger batch; it was a big hit, and it makes a lovely addition to a Christmas basket.

  3. Woot! I won? Awesome! Thanks ZSM!

    E- Apple marmalade sounds divine! I'd love to have that recipe. I usually make and can a ton of applesauce. I'd never thought of apple marmalade.

  4. I'll send it to you on e-mail. :-) (The apple marmalade recipe.)