Sorrento lemon marmalade
I’d like to share two easy ways to prepare lemon marmalade. Blanching or chopping peel by hand is not necessary.
I’ve used Sorrento lemons here but you might be able to use Meyer Lemons or Blood oranges. They key is to use citrus that doesn’t have bitter skin. With bitter skinned citrus you have to separate the peel from the fruit and blanch it anywhere from 5 times for oranges and lemons and 7 or 8 for grapefruit. It’s a tedious and time consuming task.
I discovered the joy of Sorrento lemons in Sicily. They are used in lemon salads, Marmalade and fish. They have beautiful perfumed skin and juice with almost no bitterness in the skins. The first time I tried them I was smitten. Imagine my joy when I stumbled upon Sorrento Lemons imported from Italy at Whole Foods at the beginning of the Covid-19 confinement in Illinois. It was the last trip I took to the grocery store and I bought about 8 pound of lemons figuring I wouldn’t be back anytime soon.
The two styles of whole fruit marmalade: Italian style English style. What is the difference? The Italian marmalade is more of a jam, thick and glossy but opaque. The English style has bits of peel suspended in a clear jelly. Keep in mind that for the most visually beautiful marmalade it is necessary to separate the peel from the rest of the lemon, supreme the segments and make a pectin bag with the seeds and membranes. It’s a lot more work.
The English style looks beautiful but I really prefer the Italian style. You need to cook it less because you chop the peel really fine and it thickens the mixture even before you boil it. The flavor is a bit cleaner and brighter. The English style is lovely but I do cook it a few more degrees to get a decent gel.
Make them both and decide which you prefer. You can also add flavors like lavender, ginger or elderberry or a low pectin fruit, like pears, for a little variety. In that event, I prepare the pears separately, up to the point of the last boil and using my standard ratios (look at my page on preserving). I prepare the lemons separately, up to the point of the last boil and combine them for the last boil. If you use elderberry syrup, I’d add it a few minutes before the marmalade gels.
So, I hope I inspire you to make some marmalade with these lovely Sorrento lemons. Just a bit of a warning, the classic ratio of fruit to sugar in marmalades is 1:2, one part fruit to two parts sugar, far more sugar than I would use for non citrus fruits. I have reduced the amount of sugar with the Sorrento lemons because they are not as bitter or tart as Seville oranges, grapefruit or standard lemons. My ratio is 1 part fruit to 1.5 parts sugar. I would advise against lowering the amount of sugar because it will take longer to gel and you’ll risk over cooking it and risk losing the fresh lemon flavor. If in the end it tastes too sweet you can always add a bit of citric acid or Eureka lemon juice.
Please read my page on preserving before you make this recipe. I go over cooking vessels, sterilizing jars, making a pectin bag and testing for gel.
INGREDIENTS FOR BOTH MARMALADES
- 1000 grams (1kilo) Sorrento lemons (imported from Italy)
- 1500 grams of sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 6 sterilized jars and lug lids lined with Plastisol (you’ll probably only use 3-4 but I like to have extras)
- Clean, lint free cloth
- Wooden skewer
- Borosilicate beaker or metal ladle and funnel
- Jelly roll pan and silpat
INSTRUCTIONS FOR ITALIAN STYLE MARMALATA
- Place the whole lemons in a pot whose bottom is big enough to hold them in one layer. Pour cold water in the pot until it just covers the lemons. Weigh them down with heavy measuring cups, a pot lid or cooling rack and bring the water to a boil.
- Reduce the water to a simmer and cook for 90 to 120 minutes until a fork can easily pierce the skin. Sugar will stiffen the peel so you want to make sure the skins are really soft.
- Take the lemons out of the water with a slotted spoon but save the water.
- Pick out any seeds you find and discard them. They’ve given up their pectin in the long simmering process.
- Chop the lemons. First, cut a slice of the stem end so it doesn’t wind up in your preserves. You have a few ways to chop the lemons. You can run them through a food mill with a disc that has the largest holes. That’s what I did with the jar I photographed and the method I prefer. You can use a food processor fitted with the blade and pulse it until you like the texture of the fruit. I find the food processor gives a less uniform texture than the food mill. You can cut them by hand in any shape you like. The thing to remember is that you need to use the whole lemon, juice, membranes, pulp and peel.
- Weigh the lemons and water and add enough water to equal the original weight of the lemons before cooking them. So, in this instance, we started with a kilo of lemons so you want to add enough water so the total weight of the lemons and water is two kilos thereby keeping the ratio of 1:1.
- Add the 1500 gram of sugar. ￼ So now you have one part lemon, one part water and one and a half time sugar (based on the weight of the lemons). The reason I’m going in to such detail is one, I’m terrible at math and I’m sure there are others like me out there. Two, I want you to understand the ratios so that you can do this with any weight of fruit. Also, don’t be tempted to reduce the sugar. If you do, the acidity will be to high and you’ll develop free floating liquid in the marmalade once it’s cooled in the jars. This isn’t the worst thing as you can always stir it back to a homogeneous mixture but it also needs the amount of sugar specified to get the brightest yellow color. I’m putting this note in for myself as well. Last time I made these preserves I shorted the sugar by about 213 grams and the color was not as pretty and I got some free floating liquid in the preserves once they cooled. Oops! I need to do a better job following my own recipes.
- Add a pinch of salt and any herbs, if you’re using them or pears if you’re using them. (I would recommend equal parts pear and lemon if you’re doing this combination. The pears would have been prepared separately with sugar, brought to a simmer and rested overnight in the fridge).
- At this point in the procedure, you can stop the process and stick the mixture in the fridge overnight.
- Sterilize your jars before you start boiling your preserves and stick a metal pan in the fridge for testing the gel.
- Bring the mixture to a hard boil in a pot that’s about double the size of the mixture as it will bubble up. Keep the hard boil going until it reaches about 215F. In the photo below, you’ll see a lot of bubbles and some opaque patches. That’s fine. I don’t skim. I think you just end up, skimming off pectin.
- Start testing the marmalade, making sure you take the pan off the heat while you’re testing so the mixture doesn’t continue to cook.
- I like a temperature of about 115-118F. This takes around 5-10 minutes depending on what kind of a pan you’re using and how powerful your burners are. For me, 220F is too high and doesn’t taste as fresh.
- Fill your jars, once you’re happy with the gel. Wipe the tops with your lint free towel moistened with hot water. Place the lids on the jars and tighten with you’re fingertips. Place on a rack to cool. The lids should pop in about 30 minutes. If you get one that doesn’t, just store it in the fridge.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR ENGLISH STYLE MARMALADE
- Cut lemons lengthwise in eights and then crosswise into thin triangles.
- Weigh them and put them in a pot with an equal amount of water. The water should cover the fruit but if not, add more water.
- Cover and simmer until peels are tender, about an hour. Weigh the mixture and if some water has evaporated add enough so that the weight is back to what you started with. Add the sugar and salt and stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Bring the mixture to a hard boil and boil until gel stage.
- Let the mixture sit about a minute so the peel doesn’t float to the top when you fill your jars. if it does, once it’s poured, just redistribute the peel with your wooden skewer.
- Fill your sterilized jars, clean the rims, put on your tops and set aside to cool.