Blood Orange Marmalade

by Wendy Copley on March 8, 2010


One of my goals for this year was to learn to make marmalade or pickles. My Grandma Ruby was a canner and I have fond memories of going into the pantry in her basement and looking at the walls lined with jars of tomatoes, corn, dilly beans and lots and lots of pickles.

Her pickles were so good! I loved them piled on hamburgers and chopped up and mixed into tuna salad. And of course I liked to eat them straight too. One of the great regrets of my life is that I never got a canning lesson from my Grandma before she died.

But I digress. Today’s story is about marmalade.


My brother-in-law gave me a huge bag of oranges from his tree when we were over visiting about a week ago. I decided that I wanted to make marmalade from them but I wanted to jazz the recipe up a little, so I bought a bag of blood oranges too when I was at Trader Joes. My friend Shae had pointed me to the basic marmalade recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving as a good beginner recipe. But when I went to the bookstore to get it, I accidentally bought Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving instead.You’d think that a book called the Complete Book of Home Preserving would have a basic marmalade recipe in it, wouldn’t you? Well, guess what? It doesn’t! So instead I chose the blood orange marmalade recipe because I had some blood oranges to use and it looked like a pretty basic recipe.

The recipe started off by having me score the oranges and take the peel off in big chunks.


Next, I was instructed to cover the peels with cold water and boil them. Twice.


Then, I was told to cool the orange peels until they were easy to handle, scrape all the white pith off and then slice the remaining orange part of the peel into paper thin strips.

This process took forever.

Most recipes just have you peel off the orange part of the peel with a vegetable peeler and slice those pieces up. I have no idea why this recipe had me do it this way but once I’d started this recipe I was too chicken to modify it because this was my first time canning anything. The process of scoring the oranges, peeling them, boiling them twice, scraping them and cutting them took three hours.

Three hours!

Around hour two, I started to suspect that the cookbook authors were screwing with me.


The recipe also told me to segment the oranges. I was part way through the second of the eight oranges when I knew for sure that the cookbook authors had it out for me. I gave up on the segmenting at that point and just chopped the crap out of the oranges. I pulled the biggest chunks of pith out and called it good.

Next I boiled the pulp and the peel for a half hour. Then the cookbook authors struck again: They told me to divide the mixture between two sauce pans, bring each to a boil and then slowly pour the sugar into each pan, stirring both pans constantly.

Picture that for a moment, if you will: a woman standing in front of the stove with a spoon in each hand stirring two pots of molten sugar for a half hour straight. Did I mention that I was also supposed to be preparing the jars and the lids while I did this?I opted to put all of the mixture in one pot.


And then I started stirring. And stirring. And stirring. I stirred that pot of marmalade for two hours! I knew it would take a little longer than the half hour the cookbook authors claimed because I was doing it all in one pot, but I didn’t know it would take four times as long to reach the gel stage. Sheesh! By the time I poured the marmalade into the jars and processed them, I was beat, but hearing the little ping! ping! ping! as my jars sealed was an awesome sound.

And my marmalade was darn good!

My six half-pint jars of marmalade that took seven hours to make.

After all that work, I decided I needed to dress them up a little, so I made a cute little label and put a ribbon around the rim.


Pretty cute, huh? I named the marmalade Little Bird Marmalade after my niece (whose dad gave me the oranges).


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  • lisa g

    very proud of you! I got to can with my grandmother: we had a couple of cherry trees, and we made mincemeat (totally weird food). grandmas rock.

    (f-ing cookbook authors suck, on the other hand)

  • You are a brave woman!

  • shaeirving

    Oh, Wendy, thank you for sharing this saga in such detail. Three hours! Two Pots! (It's the two pots part that really undid me.) Figure all the canning you do from here on out will be like sailing downhill. I am in love with your labels. I've been pondering labels for quite a while. I may have to hire you as a consultant.

  • Teri

    I bow to your awesome-ness.
    I would forbid anyone from actually opening and eating that marmalade – no one could possibly be worthy!! đŸ™‚
    btw, I don't know whether I have ever commented on your blog before, Wendy, until today.
    So let me just say here and now – you have the cutest little boys ever!
    I love all your stories you share with us about life with Wyatt and Augie and hubby – your blog is just fantastic.

  • I think those cookbook authors were punking you. Granted, I've never made marmalade before. But my grandma and great grandma did and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't put with that many steps. How would you ever get anything else done?

  • Jennifer

    For what's worth, they look cute and super yummy!

  • Mom

    This reminds me of the time you and I went to the pick-your-own strawberry patch with Grandpa Vern. The two of us got carried away with the excitement of the whole experience and picked two huge boxes of strawberries. When we got home, we realized that strawberries are tender and need to be dealt with fairly quickly. You lost interest pretty fast and I ended up spending two solid 8 hour days making strawberry jam, stawberry pie, and strawberry cake! You're my girl all right!

  • That is precisely how I am planning to look at this: After this batch, every other jar of jam I make will be a breeze! And as for the labels, they took a fraction of the time to make that I spent on the marmalade.

  • Thanks, Teri! I can assure you that the only people who will be getting a jar of marmalade are the ones who I know will eat it! There will be no wasting of the precious marmalade!

  • Thanks!

  • Ha ha! Either that or a naive one.

  • Seriously! Especially with kids running around the kitchen. I lucked out that Zach took the boys to the park for most of the afternoon I can't imagine what I would have done on a weekday.

  • Thank you!

  • Mom — That strawberry jam was on my mind many a time while I was making the marmalade! I remember pulling it out of the freezer in the downstairs refrigerator and eating it all summer long. For what it's worth, it was probably the most delicious jam I've ever had.

  • Well it looks fantastic!

  • Sara

    Hey Wendy–Your marmalade looks great and inspired me to buy oranges and lemons to try making some myself. However, after reading your all-day saga, I decided I didn't want to invest that much time and effort. So I looked on the internet and selected the recipe from the Barefoot Contessa with the least number of ingredients and steps. We'll have to run a taste comparison if either of us have any left by summer.

  • I think looking for a different recipe was a good call on your part, Sara!

  • sara

    marmalade update…even with the simplified recipe, it took 6 hours spread over 2 days to make. Worth it though because it looks beautiful and tastes scrumptiously delicious. Thanks for the inspiration to try it.

  • Two days! Yowza! I'm beginning to suspect that marmalade is just a lot of work no matter which recipe you choose. Let's each save a jar to trade with each other when you come back out. I want to taste yours too.

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  • Sick_Pleasure

    OMG! Is there any reason we can’t sub oranges for lemons in you Lemon Ginger Marmalade and leave out the ginger? I have some yummy Cara Cara oranges I’d love to try it with.

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