Growing up in the suburban Boston area a constant mainstay of our breakfast table was Dundee Marmalade that came in a white crock jar with a bail top lid. We had so many of those crocks around the house because “they might come in useful someday” that you might have thought we ran a store specializing in the stuff. We didn’t but I grew up loving that marmalade.
As I grew into adulthood I tried to keep some in my own home and depending on where my wife and I lived it was harder to find Dundee Marmalade in some areas than others. After we settled in New Jersey there was a time we could buy it pretty reliably but then over the years I noticed the stocks of Dundee Marmalade became scarcer. After a while it just stopped showing up in the stores at all never mind the fact that it stopped coming in those neat little bail top crocks. After we weren’t able to find it at all as the meme says “I had a sad.”
Well, anybody that really knows me will understand that if I cannot find something I want by golly I’ll put my mind to figuring out how to make it or something darn close myself.
I researched orange marmalade recipes and focused on some that were purportedly Dundee style and took a lot of notes. There was a small challenge. Very small challenge but a challenge none-the-less. The last time I tried to make a jelly was in 1977 or so (strawberry) and it was an unmitigated disaster I’d rather forget. But I can’t forget because I tend to learn by my mistakes and remember them even longer than my successes.
What is marmalade anyway and why isn’t it called “jelly” or “preserves?” Along with other sources WikiPedia marmalade is defined as a fruit preserver made of citrus fruit along with the peels and sugar. So the thing I remember most about my childhood experiences with marmalade the fruit peels probably is a big part of why I like marmalade so much.
If you’d like to read about the origins of Dundee marmalade I’d recommend this article (offsite)
For a while my wife and I were buying Smucker’s Sweet Orange Marmalade. While I like the Smucker’s product it does not “fill the hole” like the Dundee did. As far as I’m concerned Dundee is real marmalade and all others are fakes.
That said, what was it about the flavor of Dundee’s that stood out. Certainly the flavor by virtue of how it was cooked candied orange peels was a big seller for me. But here is where my memory may be suspect: I remember there being a ginger back flavor so my recipe had to have fresh ginger minced (not grated or dry) cooked with the fruit peels and fruit. Result would be what I remember was that odd bit of ginger that would show up and help establish a life long love of the flavor of ginger for me.
Most recipes I read called out for Seville oranges. I live in North Carolina and most of the stores in my area (Piggly Wiggly, Food Lion, Harris Teeter and friends) stock what I call “basic good food.” I go to “the Pig” (Piggly Wiggly) for pork products, Food Lion for most all else and Harris Teeter for hard to find stuff in the produce department (for instance kimchi vegetables). None of them stock Seville oranges so I’m stuck there. Closest I can come to is according to Google Harris Teeter might have “bitter oranges” which I believe might be close to the flavor of Seville oranges.
Another consideration (and where went wrong in 1977) is how long to cook the combined ingredients to get it to gel. Turns out the answer is not a time duration but a temperature. Here is where research starts to go off the rails. Some recipes said 120F and others went as high as 132F. Knowing what I do know about heating sugar up to a high temperature I was a bit “goosey” about going as high as 132 knowing some sugar shacks burned down from sugar fires back in the day. Not doing that to Cowdawg Kitchens if I can help it. Erring on the side of caution I went by the lower (not lowest) temperatures offered and targeted a 124F temperature. It worked out but in the future I may go as high as 128F so the product really gels.
The recipe I present is a snapshot in time for my continuing research and development of this recipe. Next improvements as mentioned will be final temperature and replacing the oranges I used this time for bitter oranges.
- 2 lbs oranges
- 2 lemons
- 3 inch piece of fresh ginger diced in to 1/16th inch bits
- 4 lbs sugar
- 4 quarts water
- Bring the water to a boil and place the oranges and lemons into the water whole
- Boil the oranges for 1½ hours
- Remove from heat
- Remove the oranges and lemons to a plate and allow to cool.
- Cut the oranges and lemons to the point the peels are the size you want
- Bring the water back to a boil and reintroduce the fruit to the water
- Add the ginger and sugar to the water
- Reduce the heat to just below a boil. At this point you are not allowed to leave the room.
- Allow to reduce and with an instant read thermometer check the temperature occasionally.
- Starting when the temperature hits 122F start taking a teaspoon sample of the marmalade and pouring onto a cool plate. When the plate is tipped and your marmalade stays together and forms a wave you are done.
- Put into clean hot jars and put the lids on snugly not not over tight. Leave ¼ to ½ an inch headroom in each jar. This will be an important detail.
- Process jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes This will force air out of the jars.
- Remove from the water bath and place on a dry soft dish towel out of the path of any drafts. Allow to sit overnight.