Christmas Oranges

My parents told stories of getting oranges in their Christmas stockings. I have friends in Canada that frame oranges and citrus as a winter treat. Having lived my whole life in Florida with the exception of brief interludes in DC and Charleston, oranges are part of my fundamental lexicon. My parents lived in Homestead when Hurricane Andrew struck. They had acres of citrus groves: ranges, tangerines, grapefruits. They had many heirloom varieties. The hurricane’s winds pushed every single tree out of the ground; the whole grove was uprooted and falling to the west. My father paid a man to “upright” the trees and stake them, hoping to save the orchards. When he returned home from work that afternoon, the worker man he had hired had take a chainsaw to the entire grove and chopped every tree to a stump. I always thought that event was far more devastating to my father’s will than the actual hurricane.

Today at the farmer’s market, I was in search of oranges. I was gifted some heirloom oranges by a patient but their rinds were too thick for marmalade. They make great juicing oranges, though. And Miss Sue brings me two dozen every year the week before Christmas. I bought Ambersweets, Red Navels and Hamlins to add to Miss Sue’s oranges.

Four native varietiesThe Hamlins had a few seeds but otherwise, the varieties were seedless. I then pressed the juice out of four oranges to get 4 cups of juice. I sectioned five Hamlins removing their fresh and then separating the sections.

Rinds without fruitI pulled the pith and membranes from between each section of the orange.

Orange sectionsI added the fruit and the juice to a large 8QT stock pot. I then sat down to the labor intensive task of slicing the white pith from the backs of the sections.

Removing the pithSome recipes advise placing all the pith and membranes up into a cheese cloth to provide the pectin for the marmalade, but since I use 4 cups of freshly squeezed juice (with the pulp) instead of 6 cups of plain water, I find this to be unnecessary. Then I julienned the rinds.

Sliced rindsI added the rinds to the pot along with another 2 cups of water, 8 (yes, EIGHT) cups of sugar and 1 cinnamon stick. I brought the mixture to a rolling boil and stood stirring it for 5 minutes. I turned the heat off and went out to do my first bit of Christmas shopping. Four hours later, I restarted the mixture on a medium heat simmer. I attached a candy thermometer and waiting until it registered 220F. I had 4 plates stored in the freezer and when I reached that jelly stage when you drop some of the boiling liquid on the frozen plate and in 30 seconds, you can draw your finger through it…..and the single dot becomes a cleaved two dots…..the marmalade is ready to can. Did I mention I then licked that plate clean. I had to test it 3 times to be sure it was ready.

Florida Orange MarmaladeIt is perhaps the best orange marmalade I have ever made.

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