Ah, marmalade. Sparkling citrus transformed into a soft jelly with zest suspended within. Unlike our stone fruit conserves, which we make year-round, the laborious marmalade-making process can only happen this time of year when citrus is at its freshest. We must also be far more exacting when measuring the Brix of an orange for a marmalade than we need to with a peach for a conserve. Especially with the Navel orange marmalade: the ratio of sugar to juice must be exact. The chemistry of marmalade is unique and delicate. And it all comes down to two primary elements that make or break the texture and flavor: pectin and sugar.
Pectin is a naturally occurring starch in fruit that affects thickness in a jam, conserve, or marmalade. Citrus fruits have thick rinds, made up of the peel plus the white, meaty part called the “pith”. This is where you find the pectin. If we kept both the peel and the pith in the mixture, it would upset the delicate ratio and you’d get too firm a marmalade. But if we got rid of the rind entirely, we’d miss out on all that pectin. So Chef Becky and the kitchen team separate the rind from the pith—all by hand.
The team doesn’t throw out all the pith, though. They boil it down and add it back into the mixture in liquid form to capture the natural pectin. “I like the marmalade to be a jelly of the juice with the rind kind of in there suspended,” says Chef Becky. “It’s very labor intensive to make it the way we do though.”
Step 1: Juice the fruit
Step 2: Boil the peel until it’s soft
Step 3: Separate the peel from the pith and put pith in a bag on the side
Step 4: Cut peels into strips
Step 5: Cook the juice, peel, sugar, and bags of pith all together
Like many of the most well-known Frog Hollow Kitchen delights, inspiration for our wide-range of marmalade flavors was born from an abundance of good fruit. “Someone gave me all these Navel oranges!” says Chef Becky. “They made really nice marmalade, sweeter than the Bergamot or Seville, which are more traditional with that classically bitter taste.”
After that, Chef Becky honed the recipes for the Navel Orange, Seville Orange, Bergamot Orange, Meyer Lemon, and Blood Orange Strawberry marmalades. And they’ve remained almost entirely unchanged for just about two decades since.
If she had to pick a favorite, Becky loves the more traditional Seville marmalade the most of all. “It sounds so boring, but I just love it on toast. I also like to add it to salad dressing with mustard. Or with a scone with lots of butter. I just love the penetrating aftertaste of the orange rind. It’s a true marmalade.”