Satsuma marmalade had been on my to-do list for ages when I learned of a marmalade competition being held within walking distance of where my mother's family lived in Cumbria (England) for centuries. How could I resist? I immediately gathered my fruit and walked down to the shops to buy new lids for my half-pint canning jars. One must always use new lids for water-bath canning.
Making marmalade is a bit of work, no question. Is it worth it? That's a matter of opinion, but to me, yes. The flavor is brighter than any marmalade you can buy, and just look at it. Satsumas are a winter fruit, but doesn't Satsuma marmalade look like sunshine in a jar? I also made a batch that I cooked longer to make a caramelized, dark marmalade with an entirely different flavor.
"I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor." ~ D. H. Lawrence
You don't even need any special equipment really. I haven't had a big canner with a rack and all that in years. All you need is a big pot with a folded kitchen towel in the bottom (see the recipe for more details). Since it's impossible to get the wax and pesticides off the peel of conventional fruit, and marmalade is all about the peel, do use organic Satsumas and Meyer lemons.
Through much experimentation, I've come up with what I think is really the easiest, least messy and complicated way of making marmalade. You will see many recipes that have you measure the boiled fruit and water mixture to determine how much sugar to use. Fuhgeddaboudit! Just weigh your fruit whole and use an equal weight of water and sugar. Two pounds (907 grams) of fruit? Then two pounds of water (that's 1 quart, or 32 fluid ounces) and two pounds of granulated sugar (that's 4 1/2 cups) and be done with it!
Also, do not listen to the experts who tell you not to stir the boiling marmalade "because it will cause crystallization." It won't; but if it would, who cares? It would be preferable to having the marmalade stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, am I right? You have to gently stir it occasionally (then frequently, then almost constantly at the end) to keep it from sticking to the bottom. If it sticks to the bottom, it will burn and fuse to the bottom of your pan like the highest-quality, guaranteed-not-to-chip-or-peel black paint. (Don't ask me how I know this, just trust me.)
Marmalade seems to be one of those things people either love or hate. But even if you hate store-bought marmalade, you should try homemade. It's an entirely different matter! Tell me your views on the subject (and whether you're a Paddington Bear fan)!
Satsuma and Meyer Lemon Marmalade (water-bath canned)
(Makes 4 half-pint jars)
1 1/2 pounds Satsumas
1/2 pound Meyer lemons
1 1/2 quarts water
2 pounds (4 1/2 cups) sugar
1 Scrub the fruit well. Peel the Satsumas (you can just pull the peels right off). Cut the peels into short (aiming for 1/3-inch, some will be 1/4-inch, some will be 1/2-inch), very narrow* strips. Coarsely chop the peeled Satsumas; no seeds (pips) to remove. Halve the lemons lengthwise, slice them crosswise very thinly, remove the seeds and cut each slice into 4 pieces. Cutting the fruit on a plate helps contain the juice.
* Just how narrow? Well, in marmalade there is fine-cut, medium-cut and thick-cut. There doesn't seem to be any agreement on specific measurements, but I'm going to give you my definitions: fine-cut 1/16-inch or 1.5-mm, medium-cut 1/8-inch or 3-mm, thick-cut 3/16- to 1/4-inch or even up to 8-mm. I was aiming for fine but got something between fine and medium.
2 In heavy, wide, nonreactive 4-quart pan (I use my 5.5-quart Le Creuset French oven for a jam kettle), combine fruit, peel and water. Bring to a full boil. Boil, uncovered, for 7 minutes; no need to stir. Remove from heat, cover and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours. Refrigerate for 8 hours or for a day or two.
3 When ready to make the marmalade, get your jars ready. Get out canner (or large pot deep enough that water will be 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the jars), two kitchen towels, 2-cup glass measure, thermometer, jar lifter, tongs, half-pint jars, new lids, bands. Put a saucer in the freezer for testing the doneness of the marmalade.
4 Put a folded kitchen towel in the bottom of the large pot (unless, of course, you have a canner with a rack). Fill 2/3 full of water and begin heating the water. Heat extra water in a teakettle or saucepan. Submerge clean jars and new lids in the hot, but not boiling, water. They'll be hot in about 10 minutes, but just keep them below simmering until ready to use.
5 Bring fruit mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil gently, uncovered, about 20 minutes, or until peel is tender. No need to stir at this stage. (If I didn't use the weight method, I would then at this point in the process measure the mixture, pouring it into a 2-quart glass measure, return it to the pan and stir in a cup of sugar for each cup of fruit mixture. But if you're doing the weight method, just stir in 4 1/2 cups of sugar all at once until dissolved.
6 Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (big bubbles all over the pan that cannot be stirred down), stirring frequently. Keep it boiling hard for about 30 minutes, or until it registers 220 degrees, stirring occasionally, till the end when you will need to give it a gentle stir pretty much constantly. When done*, remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes (keeps the peel from sinking to the bottom of the jars).
Note: *Doneness can be difficult to determine. There are several tests recommended by various experts. I've tried them all, and they don't work for me. In my experience, they all result in overcooked marmalade. I cook it until it's 220 degrees and "looks right." If the marmalade has thickened and darkened a bit and it's 220 degrees, have the courage of your convictions and take it off the heat. After you've made it a few times, you'll get a feel for it.
7 Do one jar at a time. With tongs, remove a jar and lid from the water. Using the 2-cup glass measure, ladle the hot marmalade into the hot jar, leaving 1/4-inch headroom. Stick a knife or something (I use a chopstick) into the filled jar right next to the glass in about 4 places to release any air bubbles. Check the headspace measurement again and add more marmalade if needed. Wipe off the top of the jar with a damp towel, carefully place the lid and screw the band on (but don't tighten it). Repeat for all the jars. Put the water back on the heat.
8 Return filled jars to the water bath, adding enough hot water to have water 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the jars. Jars must be upright and not touching. Heat to a gentle boil, covered, and set timer for 10 minutes. Adjust the heat to keep the water at a simmer. After 10 minutes, move the pot off the heat and take off the lid. Let the jars sit in the water for 15 minutes. If you're not using a rack with handles in your "canner" and don't have a jar lifter, just ladle out some of the water so you can lift the jars out with an oven mitt. Remove the jars and set them on a kitchen towel on the counter. The lids will make a popping sound when they seal, so just count the pops as the jars start cooling. Leave them undisturbed for 24 hours. Then, if you lost count of the pops, check the seals by pressing on the center of the lids; they should be a bit concave and not move. Properly sealed jars are ready to be stored in the cupboard. Any jars that did not seal should be stored in the refrigerator.
Note: You might also like my Strawberry Freezer Jam and Peach Freezer Jam.