01/17/2012 06:47 pm ET Updated Mar 18, 2012

More Than a Jarful

It's winter and time for preserving all the glorious citrus fruit while it's at its peak in the market and I'm lucky to have Seville oranges. I've read about Seville oranges but never have seen them in my market until last week. Well, you imagine my excitement as I tore endless plastic bags from the roll, filling them quickly as the display of oranges disappeared. A Seville orange isn't the nicest looking orange I've every seen but a little sugar and a little heat and I guarantee I will transform them into the prettiest jars in my pantry!

I love making marmalade especially in the quiet month of January here in Maine. Life slows down as snow and ice covers the vista and I spend a lot less time outdoors and more time in my kitchen. Is marmalade difficult you ask? If you are a patient person, the answer is no but if you don't have lots of patience, pick something else to make.

The process of peeling the rind and only the rind with no white pith is an involved task that takes a fair amount of skill and time but it is the most important part of marmalade making because this is what make it unpleasantly bitter. So, take your time in the beginning and you'll reap the rewards when you open that first jar-I promise!

In the winter when I make a batch of jam once or twice a month I get to enjoy the slowed down process compared to the 4 to 6 batches of jam I make each day at my store in the Summer. Yes, my peel is pith-free and my marmalade isn't bitter!

I could live without eating marmalade but I couldn't live without making marmalade, I love the process, the patience it takes, the slowing down of time, not worrying about other things around me-just me and my Seville oranges. I think of the sunshine and tending that created these oranges-where they may have grown. My imagination wanders to a grove somewhere in the south of Spain along the Mediterranean sea, picked and then what? Transported by small trucks to a port? How did these oranges make their way to my little pinpoint on this big world map as I carefully julienne my peels.

I think about life, what I like, what I want to change, where I'm going and where I've been. Not unlike how I make marmalade: I think about the orange's origin, what tastes I'm going to play up by tasting and adjusting with sugar and lemon juice and gently stirring. I taste my boiling marmalade all along the way. It isn't don't until it's done and capped, it needs attention, tweaking and nurturing. A lot like life!

Now you see why I need to make marmalade because it is meditation to me. Then I have have all those pretty colorful jars to remind me of our peaceful afternoon just me, life and my oranges. How could I not smile...

Seville Orange Marmalade

3 pounds Seville oranges
1 single Meyer's lemon
5 cups sugar
6 cups water

The first thing that I do is with a very sharp knife I cut the peel away from the fruit, just the peel with no pith-the white bitter membrane and set aside. Take the oranges and lemon, cut them in half and extract the juice.

Take all the debris of seeds and membrane that's left after the juicing and place in several layers of cheesecloth or a jelly bag if you have one. Tie up the bag of seeds that is full of the magic pectin, the natural thickener for all preserves. Now it's time to julienne that mound of peels. Pour a cup of tea, take your time and do good work. The thinner the peel the better chance of a blue ribbon and what the heck how often will you ever make this?

Cover the peel, juice and seed bag with 6 cups of water in 6 or 8 quart heavy pot and bring to a good rolling boil for 20 minutes, stir tenderly with your favorite wooden spoon. Let cool and refrigerate overnight.

The next day bring the cooled mixture to a happy, rolling boil with a candy thermometer attached to the pot, add all the sugar at once. Keep stirring until the sugar has vanished. Your marmalade is coming to life as the boiling bubbles change as it thickens. Remove the white raft of foam that collects on the surface as the boil keeps tossing it out. We want a perfectly clear marmalade,don't you? Watch that thermometer for 220°F, no hotter or it will be too thick or worse, caramelized.

You can either pour it directly into clean jars and refrigerate them or you can process it. I prefer to process my marmalade. Boil jam jar and covers for 10 minutes, remove from the boiling water, fill each jar to 1/4 of the top, tighten the covers and immerse in that same boiling pot of water for 10 minutes. Remove from the water bath and wait for the pleasant pinging sound of the caps sealing. Are you smiling, yet?

The Seville orange season is short, from December to February, so it's best to make enough marmalade for the whole year while they're available.

- By Brenda Athanus