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From Our Farm Ktichen - Citrus Season Part 1

Happy Monday! So we have been gathering oranges, lemons and grapefruits from our trees since last month. Wait, what, you grow citrus trees?? Yes we do, even with living in North Carolina. Our citrus trees are not planted in an orchard. We keep them in very very large pots that are kept outside during the warm sunny months and we bring them into our greenhouse during the cold winter months. We keep them warm and provide sunlike full spectrum grow lights to keep them growing and producing fruit. So if you live near us and happen to see the pretty pink purple lights during the night, now you know what it is.

Now you are probably asking what we do with with all that produce. The obvious answer would be that we eat a lot of it and share it with family and friends - and we do. But we also can some of it by making marmalades.

What is marmalade? Marmalade is very similar to a jam. Jam is made by using the whole or cut up pieces of fruit with sugar. Marmalade is a preserve made with citrus fruit using the whole fruit including the rind. It combines the sweetness of jam with the bitterness of citrus peel and gives a rich complex flavor. You can enjoy it many ways -- on toast, as a tangy topping on oatmeal, with cheese and crackers and I love to use it as a glaze on pork chops and salmon.

Two nice things about making marmalade is that you can make it out of any of the citrus fruits -- even the grapefruits! Secondly, you do not need to purchase pectin - this is something I really love. In the past, I would make the traditional jellies and jams by using pectin or a Sure Gel. After doing a little research and trying out recipes, I prefer and do much of my jams and marmalade canning without using added pectin. Spoiler alert -- all fruits naturally contain pectin, some have more than others. Pectin needs sugar to work, so no-pectin jams and marmalades will NOT be sugar-free.

Below is a recipe used and enjoyed here at the farm -- it's a little time consuming, but it is well worth it!

Orange Marmalade

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Overnight soak: 8 hours
Total Time: 11 hours 10 minutes

Yield: 12 (8 oz. jars)

4 large oranges scrubbed clean (about 3 pounds)
2 lemons (about half pound)
8 cups of water
8 cups of granulated sugar

Directions:

Cut washed oranges and lemons in half, then into very thin half moon slices. Discard any seeds. Place sliced fruit along with their juices into a stainless steel pot.

Add water and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in sugar until it dissolves. Cover and let stand overnight at room temperature.

The next day, bring the mixture back to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Turn heat up to medium and boil gently, stirring often, for another 30 minutes.

Skim off any foam that forms on the top. Cook the marmalade until it reaches 220 degrees (you must hit this temperature for the natural pectin to gel with the sugar).

If you want to be doubly sure the marmalade is ready, place a small amount on a plate and refrigerate it until it’s cool but not cold – it’s firm neither runny or hard). It will be a golden orange color. If the marmalade is runny, continue cooking it. If it’s hard, just add a bit more water.

Pour the marmalade into hot mason jars; wipe the rims thoroughly with a clean damp paper towel. Add lid and rings, and process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

*Note – if not putting up for storage, refrigerate and use within a month. Or, freeze for up to 3 months.