There are some things that just seem super complicated, for example, Souffle and Wild Mushroom Risotto. Here are two dishes that when I simply think about getting a recipe for to try it out from scratch gives me a mild head-ache, literally. Actually I have a mild head-ache right now just discussing it. Another dish grouped into this category of 'give-me-mild-headaches' is marmalade. It is very likely I feel this way about marmalades because it was always one of those breakfast condiments that I bought at the store, I had never seen anyone make fresh marmalade or jam before, my mother definitely did not. Years of store-bought pre-packaged marmalade and jam has been pressed into my head that I never even thought to make it myself, why would I anyway? Wasn't the reason why store-bought was so popular because it was so difficult to make? This is what I thought, until I tried to make it myself one day.
Feeling energized and extra adventurous I gave it my all to follow a recipe for orange marmalade from one of my cookbooks. Determined to make the orange marmalade right the first time was high on my list of goals for this one cooking occasion, mainly because it took over-night to make- I didn't want to have to try it again or throw out two- days worth of work. I followed the instructions carefully, four large oranges and two lemons, seedless, thinly sliced into half moons; 8 cups of water and 8 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil, let stand over night, bring to a boil, simmer for 2 hours and bring to a boil once more until temperature reaches 220 degrees, and finally you are done. I even bought a temperature gauge specifically for this purpose. In the end however, even with 'the all' I gave it I was less than impressed with the recipe, did I do something wrong? I still don't know, I suppose it wouldn't surprise me if I did make a mistake somewhere along the way, I often do. Anyhow, the orange marmalade came out too hard for my liking, it was a struggle to spread on toast- sad, sad, sad.
The orange marmalade incident still sat at the back of my mind, sometimes my thoughts would meander to the orange marmalade incident only for me to push it away. I had such high hopes for that orange marmalade! I'm almost sure I followed the recipe exactly and still it had come out sadly. After all this time had passed I still, inside, couldn't admit to defeat because I was sure I had followed the directions.
10:30 PM Friday night, I lay in bed getting cozy for my daily dream-escape, the orange marmalade is on my mind again, after 15-minutes of frustration I get out of bed and go pluck a single lemon from the lemon tree in the yard. Here goes, round two. But this time the lemon marmalade was under my jurisdiction though I still followed the general guidelines of the orange marmalade recipe.
On the counter I lined up my ingredients:
3/4 cup of Turbinado sugar (instead of plain sugar)
1 seedless lemon sliced in half moons with its juices (instead of orange)
1 cup of water
The original orange marmalade recipe required a sugar/fruit ratio that was 2:1, which = quite a bit of sugar. Following the original recipe would have then asked for 2 cups of sugar for 1 lemon, I cut this down quite a bit but not as much as I would have liked, in the end I figured I was dealing with lemons which are a lot more sour than oranges. I also used Turbinado sugar instead of plain white sugar, I've made this change in my diet quite recently and had no plain white sugar on hand for the marmalade, but I figured sugar is sugar.
And thus I moved calmly along to make my own lemon marmalade from scratch. This is how I did it:
1. Put sliced lemons and the juices into a small stainless steel pot along with the 1 cup of water and bring to a boil.
2. Once the mixture comes to a boil turn off the heat and add all the sugar. Stir the mixture until sugar is completely dissolved.
3. Once sugar is completely dissolved into the liquid mixture, put the lid on the pot and let sit at room temperature over-night.
4. The next day, bring the mixture back to a boil. Once the mixture begins to boil, turn down the heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer for 30 minutes.
5. After 30 minutes of simmering, turn up the heat and allow the mixture to come to a gentle boil for about 15-30 minutes (the less you allow it to boil the softer the marmalade will be, boiling the marmalade for 30 minutes will result in a slightly stiff marmalade that is still spreadable). During this boiling step take the time to skim off any foam that gathers at the top of the mixture.
*Note: the marmalade will be runny when you jar it but will harden in the jar as it cools.
Happily the lemon marmalade came out to my liking, sure the turbinado sugar (which is brown) resulted in a brown-hued lemon marmalade but it tasted of semi-tart lemon marmalade all the same. Most importantly I learned that making marmalade from scratch is actually very simple, there really isn't any temperature reading that has to be done and no specific cups of sugar that needs to be used. If you favor much more tart-flavored marmalades use less sugar, if you want it runnier get the marmalade mixture off the heat faster. Marmalades are definitely something to be adventurous about!
You don't have to use this recipe but allow me to list the general guideline of ratios when dealing with marmalades so you have a general sense of it and know where to begin to tweak it to make your own marmalade recipe.
Sugar-to-water ratio (1:1)
Sugar-to-fruit ratio (2:1)