« Soudough #5 | Main | Mamalade simplified »

March 13, 2005

Marmalade redux

orange_t.jpgLast time I really wrote about marmalade was in New Zealand. Annie was dying and a few months later Lina passed away in an instant. Dora and Lina were great marmalade makers and New Zealand grapefruit (Poorman Orange) is incomparable. Annie loved to cook (and so did Dora and Lina) and the way we communicated with each other during the last months of their lives was through food. Marmalade is memory in a jar.

I don't think I realized--how could I have missed this?--how Scottish marmalade is. After all, oranges are not Scottish. How did this happen? Well, marmalade, as the etymology of the word (from the Portuguese word for quince) indicates, started out as quinces preserved in sugar. Quince marmalade was imported from Portugal. The meaning of marmalade was then extended to any fruit preserve, as in pear marmalade, and eventually came to be identified exclusively with citrus. A few entrepreneurial Scots started producing citrus marmalade from wonderful bitter Seville oranges and made Scotland famous for it. There is a dark Oxford variety made with brown sugar. C. Anne Wilson writes all about it in The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History and Its Role in the World Today, Together With a Collection of Recipes for Marmalades & Marmalade.

I've been baffled by the underlying marmalade principles because there are so many variations in the proportions of fruit, sugar, and water, as well as in the method. Should the fruit be soaked and for how long? When should the sugar be added? How long should the marmelade be cooked with and without sugar? I want to understand the kitchen science.

Here is what I have figured out so far:

  • The pectin is in the skin, membranes, and pips, not in the juice or pulp per se.
  • The amount of pectin in the fruit will vary, depending on the type of fruit (sweet oranges have the least pectin), ratio of peel to flesh (more pectin in thick-skinned grapefruit than thin-skinned oranges), ripeness of the fruit (unripe has more pectin, but the riper the fruit the thicker the peel and more peel means more pectin, so I don't know exactly how this works out).
  • All of which might explain the variations in the ratio of water (the more pectin the more water, and the more water the more sugar--see below for why grapefruit marmalades call for much more water than do orange marmelades).
  • Acid is needed to set the pectin, so lemons, which are also rich in pectin and valued for their tartness, are added, particularly if the oranges are sweet. As for setting the pectin, you don't really know what you've got until the next day, when the marmalade really has a chance to set and you can see how thick it is in the jar.
  • Soaking the fruit, especially the peel, membranes, and pips, draws out the pectin (some recipes call for discarding the membranes and pips once the pectin has been extracted) and softens the fruit so that it does not float in the finished marmalade.
  • The floating fruit problem seems to have to do with getting the fruit really soft so that it is pretty much the same consistency as the liquid. When the peel is finely shredded, this is less of a problem. But if you like chunky marmalade, it helps to soak the fruit for several days before boiling the mixture up with sugar. Also, the liquid has to be thick enough to hold the chunks in suspension. If, when the hot marmalade is poured into jars, the fruit floats, let it sit a little, then turn the jar upside down, and after a while, right side up, and as the marmalade cools and thickens the peel will distribute nicely in the liquid.
  • Boiling the sugar to 220F, assuming the water, sugar, and pectin are in the right proportions, to make it all set. The key here is to cook long enough to process the fruit properly and reduce the liquid to concentrate the sugar so the syrup will get up to 220F, but if the syrup boils hard and goes beyond 220F, it will carmelize, darken, and thicken to an almost solid mass. This can make for a nice marmalade too, if there is lots of chunky fruit. So, instructions vary as to how hard and long to cook the marmalade. It is advised to cook up in small batches, which I am assuming lets you reduce the syrup more quickly and avoid overcooking the marmalade.
  • Warming the sugar before adding to the marmalade will cut down on the frothing, as the froth, if not skimmed, will cloud the marmalade--the goal, for many, is a pale, clear jelly.
  • The amount of sugar depends on three factors, first, the sweetness, tartness, or bitterness of the fruit; second, whether one prefers a very sweet marmalade; and third, the minimum required to make the marmalade set and keep properly, given how much pectin is in the fruit and how much water in the recipe. The goal is not less than 65% sugar in the mixture.

    However you figure it, Seville orange marmalade calls for the most sugar (1:2 fruit to sugar, by weight) and less water (about 3/4 of the total fruit and water mixture--this varies considerably). The fruit/sugar/water ratios are all by weight.

    Sweet orange marmalade calls for less sugar (1:1 fruit to sugar) and similar proportion of water by weight as Seville orange marmalade.

    Grapefruit (and mixed citrus) marmalade calls for much more water (1 part fruit, 3 parts water, and 4 parts sugar, all by volume).

  • Needless to say, this makes ratio comparisons next to impossible to calculate, since ratios by volume are different from ratios by weight. To add to the confusion, recipes mix types of measurements: volume (for water), weight (for sugar), and number of fruit (how many oranges or grapefruits, which of course vary in weight and volume in any case).
  • Bottom line is that more water is added to grapefruit because grapefruit has more pectin, and more sugar is added to grapefruit because more water was added. So, if you start with a 1:3 ratio of grapefruit to water and 1:1 ratio of the fruit/water mixture to sugar, you have in essence a 1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar, which works because, while the grapefruit/water mixture is more dilute, the pectin and bitter flavors are still relatively concentrated. This should produce the right sweetness for the grapefruit and the right concentration of sugar for the marmelade to set and to keep.

  • Seville oranges are preferred not only for their flavor, which is intense and bitter, but also because they have lots of pectin and produce a very clear marmalade, whereas marmalade made from sweet oranges will tend to be cloudy, which may explain the more complicated methods of preparation (separation of all the elements, discarding of the membranes, creating a clear jelly by skimming the froth, straining, adding the peel back in, etc.)
  • There are also variations in how fast and how long to cook the mixure, whether to boil and reduce the mixture before adding the sugar, cook for more than an hour with the sugar, or bring to a fast boil and be done in 10 minutes. This seems to have something to do as well with whether or not the mixture, without sugar, has been left to sit for 24 hours, brought to a boil, and left to sit again for 24 hours, a process that can take 1-4 days. The soaking and sitting are pretty much standard for grapefruit and mixed citrus marmalades. Some worry about cooking the marmalade too long, because of something happening to the sugar and pectin--cooking too long can adversely affect the setting properties--as well as loosing the freshness of the flavor.
  • After you fill the hot jars, wipe them down, especially the top and rim, so that the lids don't stick and make it difficult to open the jars later.

Anne Wilson says that the dark marmalades with very thick slices of peel, the Oxford type, is preferred by men, a legacy of the Oxford dons, and the clear light type with delicate shreds of peel by women. Wilson also writes that historically there was a preference for very sweet marmalade, especially if made from bitter Seville oranges and with less water than we use today, though apparently the trend in Australia is towards sweeter marmalade that is chewy and chunky. However, several sources say that 65% sugar (is that by weight or volume?) is needed for marmalade to keep properly. The food chemists say: "The optimum conditions for jelly strength are 1% pectin, a pH of 3.2, and a sugar concentration of 55% (by weight)."

I like my marmalade very thick and intense with assertive chunks of peel. And, I do not like fussy recipes that have you take the fruit apart and, in some cases, throw parts of it away. I like to slice the fruit, all of it, and take it from there. Cooking times (without and with sugar and when and how it is added) also vary considerably. Cooking the marmalade in small batches gives you more control over how long it cooks, as you can bring to a boil more quickly and cool it more quickly. Some recipes have you add the sugar and bring quickly to 220F and you are done. Others have you cook the fruit and sugar for hours. Soaking the fruit reduces the cooking time, in addition to increasing the pectin and flavor.

I like bitter marmalade, but cannot find organic Seville oranges. Actually, I cannot find Seville oranges, period. But, even if I could, they would have to be organic. I did not realize, when writing about marmalade in New Zealand that Poorman orange, which is what everyone makes marmalade from, is not just a grapefruit aspiring to be an orange, but perhaps closer to some of the bitter properties of the Seville orange, though very different from it. Just read Wilson, who says the Poorman is a bitter type of orange! But she is quite wrong in saying that Poorman is hardly grown anymore and that New Zealanders make their marmalade from grapefruit. Unless, we have a different idea about what a Poorman is. It is a cross between an orange and a grapefruit:

"'Poorman Orange' (syn. "New Zealand Grapefruit", "Kawau Grapefruit" and "Sunfruit") is the rind of choice for those who make their own marmalade jam. It was reported to have been brought to Australia from Shanghai in China in 1820 and specimens sent to New Zealand in 1855, where it gained some notoriety. This is the 'Sunfruit' that is grown in Swaziland and exported to England for their marmalade craving. (syn. "New Zealand Grapefruit", "Kawau Grapefruit" and "Sunfruit") is the rind of choice for those who make their own marmalade jam. It was reported to have been brought to Australia from Shanghai in China in 1820 and specimens sent to New Zealand in 1855, where it gained some notoriety."

"Le pomelo 'Poorman Orange', sélectionné en Australie au début du XIXème siècle, puis répandu en Nouvelle-Zélande, est en fait un hybride complexe, probablement entre un pomelo et un hybride de pamplemousse et de mandarine. Cette variété à d'autres noms, dont 'New Zeland', 'Goldfruit', 'Morrison' (cette dernière dénomination caractérisant une sélection particulière sans pépins). Le fruit est moyennement gros, avec une peau jaune-orangée, et une pulpe orangée et juteuse, légèrement amère. Cet hybride se comporte bien dans un climat subtropical frais comme celui du nord de la Nouvelle-Zélande, et en tout cas mieux qu'une sélection simple de pomelo.

[Citrus paradisi, le pomelo, est un agrume dont le fruit est très largement répandu sur les étals de fruits. C'est un assez gros fruit de 10 à 15 cm de diamètre environ, à peau et chair jaune ou rose à maturité. Le fruit est cependant beaucoup moins gros que celui du pamplemoussier, Citrus maxima syn. Citrus grandis. Le pomelo était vu lors de sa découverte dans les Antilles en fin du XVIIIème siècle comme une mutation de Citrus grandis. Par la suite, en 1847, James MacFayden, dans son ouvrage Flore de la Jamaique, lui a donné son nom botanique Citrus paradisi. A partir de 1948, on a commencé à soupçonner que le pomelo était en fait un hybride de Citrus maxima x Citrus sinensis, c'est-à-dire un hybride de pamplemousse et d'oranger. On voit d'ailleurs de plus en plus souvent son nom botanique noté de manière à refléter ce statut d'hybride : Citrus x paradisi.]"

In any case, the consensus on grapefruit and mixed citrus marmalade seems to be the following (I am going to experiment in any case):

1 part fruit to 3 parts water to 3 or 4 parts sugar. The way this is expressed in recipes is: Thinly slice the fruit and add 3 times as much water. Allow 1 (or 3/4) cup of sugar for each cup of fruit and water mixture. I will try with less sugar and see how I make out. I also like to add black peppercorns and bay leaves. And, I did a 3-day soak. Mine is a boy/girl marmalade, with the big chunks of peel favored by the Oxford dons and fine shreds of peel said to be favored by women.

I'm up for trying marmalade from Buddha's Hand citron, citron, and pomelo, also known as shaddock and the progenitor of grapefruit, which is supposed to be a cross between pomelo and orange, for that matter kefir lime, kumquat, and ugli fruit, not only their fruit, but also their leaves. Bring on the citrus!

Posted by BKG at March 13, 2005 09:28 AM


Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?