I love phone calls like the one I received the other day from my neighbor, Nathalie.
“Suzanne, I have too many bitter oranges, would you like some?” I didn’t hesitate a minute. This is the season for bitter oranges (Seville oranges – they come from Spain) and each year I turn them into marmalade. Because marmalade is a French specialty and bitter oranges have a short season, everyone rushes to get them. I’d rushed myself, but the supply had dwindled so that I barely had enough for a batch. Nathalie’s call couldn’t have been more welcome.
Making any kind of jam ranks as a satisfying occupation; making orange marmalade is something more. It is magic. I spent a good chunk of my childhood in England where orange marmalade was always on the breakfast table, a symbol of that country and that time. To make this same, bitter/sweet substance is like corralling a memory and making it palpable.
And it’s easy. The biggest trick is finding bitter oranges. If you cannot, use regular oranges. (Do your best to find organic fruit, since you’ll be eating the rind). Once you do, the process is simple. You need to scrub them, squeeze them (save the seeds), then soak them overnight. The next day tumble in the sugar and cook the mixture until it is the color of seasoned bricks.