Someone asked me about how to find Seville oranges or some substitute to make real English marmalade. I figured after taking so much time on the reply, I may as well share it around:
It's only true that the best orange for marmalade is the Seville or any "sour orange"
IF you happen to like the bitter flavor they impart. If not, you would be
better off with sweet oranges for marmalade. Sour oranges are not sold at
all in the US even though they are common. I grew up with them as rootstock
trees in Florida, both wild and in people's yards. I lived in England and
made several large batches of the real thing for some people who'd bought
100 lbs of Sevilles. The species is C. aurantium, and they are bitter
and sour, both.
My suggestions include: looking for real British marmalades in fancy or
foreign groceries to see if you will like the stuff, or charging right in with variations on
the theme. There are other bitter type marmaldes made in Britain. Also the
acidity is another aspect that makes Seville marmalade more exciting than
anything made from sweet oranges. I've done plenty of experiments, and all
have turned out quite edible.
Here is the basic recipe: You squeeze the juice into a bowl. Then cut
up the peels and simmer them in water till soft. Commercial brands come
with either finely cut peels (get out the food processor) or thick cut.
Real afficionados prefer thick cut peels. (1/8-1/4" wide, easy to do with a
sharp knife on a cutting board)) I would use a minimum of water for boiling
the peels. After the peels soften, put them in a large pan. Measure the
pulp and peels into the pan, adding some of the water the peels were boiled
in if you desire. Add a little more than an equal volume of sugar. (It
should really be equal weights. There are 7 oz sugar per cup, 8 oz water)
THE PAN SHOULD BE NO MORE THAN HALF FULL TO START WITH, 1/3 TO 1/4 IS SAFER
Seeds are generally picked out, tied in a cloth bag and added to increase
the bitterness, I just ignore them so they wind up in my final product.
(seeds are optional, and a moot point with so many American seedless
varieties.) Cook the marmalade till it is at a boil that cannot be stirred
down. It must be stirred throughout the entire operation, and not cooked on
too high a heat, as it is prone to scorching on the bottom. The stuff is
ready when it gets thick enough that you get a sort of volcanic plopping.
It's a little dangerous, as the temperature at this concentration of sugar
will really hurt if it lands on you. Surejell will get you done much
quicker, but is unecessary unless you aren't an adventurous cook. The other
shortcut is to get the stuff boiling and slowly add sugar until it loses
that watery look and turns into the volcanic mud texture. Don't be so timid
that you wait till it goes on to the candy stage. (The change is pretty
easy to spot, watery bubbling to volcanic plopping, but from there to the
candy stage it gets more filled with air bubbles and a caramel smell.)
Ladle into the hot sterilized jars, etc. So here goes with recipes:
Orange and lemon: This gives orange flavor and acid, with no
bitterness. This will appeal to most Americans.
Kumquats or calamondins: Probably not available in Illinois, but ideal
marmalade materials due to high peel content and acidity. Not bitter.
Lime marmalade: Quite expensive to buy the imported stuff, but the
ingredients are in every grocery. Definitely bitter. Might want to make it
part orange or lemon because of this. Start with a small batch, taste after
mixing up the fruit and sugar, but remember it will become more bitter after
cooking, as the bitterness in the peels spreads throughout. (My husband is
Irish, and says that lime is the other standard marmalade. It is his
Grapefruit marmalade: Ditto above instructions. If you can find the
stuff, check ingredient list to see whether they have other citrus in it
too. I would try maybe 1 grapefruit to 3-4 oranges. Maybe throw in a lemon
too. Certainly grapefruit wine recipes tend to go easy on the grapefruit,
as the peels are strongly bitter.
Don't be afraid to experiment, as all results will be delightful to some
portion of the population. An English NAFEXer grew a trifoliate/grapefruit
cross. It was not edible, so he made marmalade. His wife spat it out. He
could not enjoy it. So they sent it to a garden club, and several people
commented it was just the way marmalade ought to taste, and where could they
Have fun! Donna Hudson