This summer, while traveling in Italy, I came upon a wild sour orange tree at a friend’s house. Since sour oranges are hard to come by, I couldn’t pass up the chance to grab a few and to make sour orange marmalade.
In Mexican cooking, sour orange juice is used, among other things, in cochinita pibil. Since it’s difficult to get access to sour oranges, we buy the bottled sour orange juice for this. But here I was in Italy, loaded up with these superb oranges, and not exactly in the mood for cochinita.
Even though we were surrounded by all types of citrus trees in Laredo, where I grew up, my mother never made jams or marmalades. From my own experience, however, there are few things more appealing than spreading your own marmalade on a piece of buttered toast. The bright orange, purple and ruby shades of apricot, raspberry, strawberry, or plum jams in little jars are a summer bounty and an opportunity not to be squandered.
Needless to say, I’ve had to learn on my own the art of jam/marmalade making. It’s not hard unless you decide to make jam for an army. My advice is to make a manageable amount, so the task doesn’t become a total chore and to experiment with different fruit/sugar ratios until you find the balance you like. But remember, it’s the sugar that makes the fruit transparent and gorgeous, as well as providing the ‘preservative’ so your jam won’t spoil. The rule of the thumb is one to one, in other words, the same amount of sugar to the amount of fruit.
- 7 sour oranges (or regular oranges)
- Sugar (a quantity that after measuring the amount of orange peel is the equivalent amount, approximately)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Wash the oranges thoroughly, using a brush to scrub well.
- Cut the oranges in half and juice them well, setting aside the juice and seeds.
- After juicing, cut the peel into thin strips with a sharp knife.
- Boil the seeds in a cup of water for about 10 minutes, in order to use the pectin from the seeds for your marmalade liquid.
- Strain the liquid from the seeds (discard the seeds) and put in a pot along with the orange juice and the orange strips.
- Simmer the orange strips for about 20 minutes.
- Add the equivalent amount of sugar as the amount of orange slices you had and cook for another 30 minutes.
- When it looks translucent and the liquid has a certain thickness to it when you spoon it out into a place, it is done.
- Stir in the vanilla.
- Spoon into sterilized jars (boiled in a pot of water for about 15 minutes) and seal.