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Big Sur Marmalade

Big Sur Marmalade

The one thing that was missing in my life was local citrus.

I had heard rumors of a ranch in Big Sur that had a lot of different citrus trees that were planted 40 years ago. Somehow, I didn’t investigate assuming it would be more Meyer Lemons. Then, one day I was doing a delivery at the Big Sur Bakery and I saw a friend with a bunch of different citrus boxes in the back of her pick up truck. I got so excited as I saw a mandarins, clementines and small oranges. We began to talk and she assured me that there was much more where this came from. A week later, I took the kids out of school and we drove up to Apple Pie Ranch to harvest citrus. I felt like we were miners who had just struck gold! To be able to harvest so many varieties of citrus just a few miles from home was a dream come true and fulfilled a deep longing. In our first harvest I even stumbled upon a rare bergamot tree that I sensed hadn’t felt that appreciated in decades. We harvested as much as the car could hold and drove away emanating pure joy.

I look forward to revisiting my citrus friends every winter and harvesting that which was missing from my life. What is missing from your cupboards locally? Go on an adventure to find it. Call in sick and skip school – it may be worth it.

The different flavors and textures that come together in this three fruit marmalade are fabulous. The tart punch of the lemon with the sweet undertone of the oranges all combined with the delicate beauty of the tasty mandarins (the peels are so tender that I even eat the whole peel). I usually do not add anything else so that I can really enjoy the dance between these citrus fruits, but you could add some rose geranium or star anise if you are wanting another dimension.



1 1/2pounds (680 g) mandarins, quartered with seeds and center membrane removed and sliced crosswise

1 1/2 pounds (680 g) oranges (any variety works) , quartered with seeds and center membrane removed and sliced crosswise

1 1/2 pounds (680 g) Meyer Lemons, quartered with seeds and center membrane removed and sliced crosswise

Water to cover (about 10 cups or 2365mL)

8 cups (1892 mL) organic sugar

Day 1

The Big Sur citrus fruits are truly amazing!!! They are so easy to work with because the peels are fresh and they do not have that many seeds.

Wash and dry the citrus fruit and begin with the lemons. Slice in half crosswise and then into quarters and remove any seeds. The skins of these Meyer lemons are so thin that you can include the entire fruit if you like. You simply slice the fruit any way you like as it adds your signature to the marmalade. At Happy Girl Kitchen Co. we take the citrus and slice the half in half lengthwise and then slice nice thin wedges cross -wise so that you have a beautiful half moon section. If you would like to remove any of the peels from your marmalade you can use only half of the lemon peels while setting the others aside to use for another project (candied citrus peels). Prepare the oranges the same way as you did the lemons.

Next slice the mandarins and baby tangerines any way you like!!! What a freedom. They may only have the random seed and the peels are so tender and sweet that you can feel great about using them all! Choose fruit that have very tender peels with little bitterness and very few seeds.

Take all of the seeds and membrane and place in a cloth bag. Close the cloth with string and make sure it is tied very well – you don’t want it to come open while you’re cooking!   Do not worry if you do not have a lot of seeds or pith because it will eventually gel up and you may need to cook a little longer. Add the pectin bag to the pot with your fruit and cover with water.  Cover the pot and put it on the stove over medium-high heat. Bring contents to a boil and then simmer for about 1 hour until the peels are completely tender and the liquid is viscous.  Remove from heat and leave pot, covered overnight or up to 24 hours in a spot that will not be above 80 degrees.  Most countertops are fine!


Day 2

Put five plates in your freezer that you will use later to test your gel set.  Prepare 8 8-oz [240 ml] jars for storing the finished jam. Begin to heat up your pot again over medium heat and when it is warm to touch, remove the pectin bag and gently squeeze out the liquid inside into the pot.  Bring contents to a boil - add the sugar and continue to stir the contents until all of your sugar has dissolved about 5 minutes.  Continue to boil until your marmalade comes to the desired consistency.  This will take anywhere from 25-40 minutes.  I recommend starting your first gel test 10 minutes after you begin cooking. Take a plate out of the freezer and place a small amount of the jam on the plate and return to freezer until cooled. Once completely cooled remove from the freezer to test that and see if it has reached your desired consistency.

Once the marmalade reaches your desired consistency, remove it from the heat and fill the jars, leaving ½ inch [1 cm] of headspace at the top. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and process in hot water bath canner for 10 minutes. 

Yields 8 8-oz jars and will keep up to one year.

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