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Two Decades of Kids and Counting

By Sally Torbey

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About this blog: About this blog: I have enjoyed parenting five children in Palo Alto for the past two decades and have opinions about everything to do with parenting kids (and dogs). The goal of my blog is to share the good times and discuss the ...  (More)

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Making marmalade

Uploaded: Aug 3, 2016
We have a huge and prolific orange tree which bears fruit year round. This abundance is at once marvelous, as we have an unlimited supply of orange juice for breakfast and orange slices for soccer half times, but, like cleaning the ubiquitous dust bunnies under the couch and the cobwebs dangling from the ceiling beams, harvesting and consuming all these delicious oranges sometimes feels like another household task and source of ongoing guilt!

When we bought this home 15 years ago, the long-time owners gifted us a Gamble Gardens membership and a jar of homemade marmalade with a note admonishing us, “Don’t wait for 29 years (like we did) to make orange marmalade!”

The first obstacle I needed to overcome in making marmalade was my fear of poisoning my family and friends. I had worked in an immunology lab and tended cell lines. Despite my utmost dedication to sterile technique, my carefully-plated petri dishes were often contaminated and overgrown with colorful invading microbes. And this was while working under a sterile hood with a Bunsen burner flaming every test tube and instrument! How could I possibly be trusted to preserve food in my kitchen for human consumption?

Help came by attending a canning party hosted by a neighbor as a fundraiser for our elementary school. I took comfort in viewing her pantry full of hundreds of jars of radiant plums and tomatoes, and her steadfast assurance that she had been preserving produce for many years and sickened no one.

I invested in cookbooks, jars, lids, a canning pot, tongs, labels, and a cool little magnetic rod that lifts the lids out of hot water. My strategy: spend enough money on supplies and guilt will force me to sally forth.

My initial attempts were disappointing. After endless hours of dicing oranges, the first batch never jelled, the second batch burned, and the third batch was tasty but too firm to spread. The gear was stowed and gathered dust in the garage until a few days ago, when our two teenagers departed for sleep-away camp.

In their absence I scheduled an inordinate number of home maintenance appointments by folks who like to get an early start in the day. This week workers would be unencumbered by the teenagers sleeping in, but I would also need to be home more than usual, waiting and supervising. I vowed to chop till I dropped and master marmalade. I am thrilled to report I finally achieved success yesterday with the production of eight sparkling jars of perfectly sweet and textured spread. We even consumed a jar, and 24 hours later we are all still in perfect health!
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Comments

 +   6 people like this
Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Congratulations!

And welcome to the 19th century when the typical household did not have refrigeration.

People have been eating these kind of preparations for millennia. You have found what many have recently lost.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by PR, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 12:16 pm

I love it! Thank you for your very funny and inspiring blog! (Now I want to dig out all the jars I bought 10 years ago but never had the courage to use for anything edible...)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Bartholomew, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Your marmalade was great! Thank you and keep doing it!! I could help occasionally ... ;-)


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 12:23 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, Reader, for reading and commenting! Maybe it is that connection with our past that is exhilarating. Also, as a midwesterner, I still marvel that I can run outside and grab a lemon or orange right off the tree.

Thanks, PR. Bring those jars right over!

Thanks, Bartholomew, you might help me fend off a repetitive stress injury from all the chopping!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by LJ, a resident of another community,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Yum yum yum! As to the Petri dishes from lab -- you were simply cultivating "cooperation", right? Congratulations on your first batch of perfect marmalade!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 1:05 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi LJ,
Thanks for reading and commenting! Yes, I'm feeling quite emboldened. Next task, limoncello!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Marmalade, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 3:17 pm

You need bitter oranges for marmalade, otherwise it is just orange jam.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Marmalade,
Thanks for reading and commenting. What type of bitter oranges do you use?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Marmalade, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Best type of bitter oranges are Seville Oranges. They are not easy to find so call ahead but better supermarkets often have them or can get them for you.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 6:11 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, good to know. With 100+ oranges hanging on our tree I've got my work cut out for me, but when I catch up with preserving this crop I will give the Sevilles a try!


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 6:19 pm

No, jams are made from the fruit. Marmalades are made from the peel.

Seville oranges have been the favorite of British orange marmalade manufacturers for decades, but they are not the required component for something to be called marmalade.

Of course, some will insist on the strict adherence to sourcing Seville oranges for marmalade, but there is no governmental, institutional or other official decree stating that they are required.

There are foodstuffs on this planet whose names/monikers are closely controlled to ingredient source, place of manufacturing, procedure, etc., but marmalade is not one of them.

Sally, you made marmalade.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 6:24 pm

One thing I will acknowledge is that Seville oranges (the French call them bigarades) is that this particular cultivar has higher natural pectin levels which is beneficial for marmalade.

Seville oranges are mostly grown in Mediterranean countries, something to consider should you seek them out.

Frankly, I think you are wiser finding appropriate uses for *YOUR* oranges first before trying to tackle optimal marmalade production.

But that's just me...


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 3, 2016 at 6:38 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, Reader, for reading and sharing your knowledge of marmalade. I probably would never have attempted this feat of producing marmalade if it weren't for our heavily laden tree and all the guilt associated with it! Our usually voracious squirrels can't even get through all the oranges.
Speaking of pectin, my canning-expert neighbor clued me in that less ripe fruit has more pectin, so I attribute my recent successful batch to using slightly underripe fruit- I didn't need to add pectin and it still has great flavor and texture.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Teresa, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive,
on Aug 4, 2016 at 12:59 am

Thanks for that very entertaining story and congrats on your latest batch!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 4, 2016 at 5:43 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Thanks, Teresa, for reading and commenting!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Marmalade, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 4, 2016 at 8:23 am

Want to know a good way of using your marmalade (or orange jam) other than spreading it on toast?

This is one of the best marmalade cake recipes I have come across.

Web Link


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 4, 2016 at 9:17 am

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Marmalade,
Thanks for the suggestion! I will give it a try today while I wait for the window washer. Just hope I can handle the ml, gram, and centigrade conversions! I remember in 3rd grade having to learn the metric system because the US was on the verge of adopting it. At the time I dreaded making the change but now so wish we used metric exclusively!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Marmalade, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Aug 4, 2016 at 11:10 am

Reader, thanks for your suggestion that marmalade is made from the peel while jam is made from the pulp. I hadn't heard that one before, but it made sense. I did some research and this discussion seemed interesting to me. Web Link There are many opinions included. I like the fact that the word marmalade comes from the Portuguese word for quince, and I would love to taste that. BTW, I love ginger in my marmalade too.

As so many descriptions of foods are quite amusing, Canadian bacon not coming from Canada, Greek Yogurt not coming from Greece and my favorite - English cucumbers and English peas, I often look into the origin of food names. Since English peas come in pods, why do regular peas only come frozen or canned?

The history of food is very interesting. The idea that Italian food and pasta sauce is usually associated with an ingredient that was unknown before the discovery of America, the typical Italian recipe without using a tomato would not seem very authentic!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Katie, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Congratulations on your successful marmalade.

I also, grew up in the Midwest so I know the Summer ritual of canning. We had an over abundance of tomatoes one year and my mother (along with my three sisters) canned 368 quarts of stewed tomatoes. I could not look another tomatoe in the eye when I had to go out and retrieve them from the garden. The next year we had a lousy crop of tomatoes. So there was a method in my mother's madness. This did not include the other fruits that we canned for sauces.

Good luck in your endeavors.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Maria, a resident of University South,
on Aug 4, 2016 at 3:30 pm

My family had also a tradition of jam making. Everybody was involved in this ritual, from cleaning the proper copper pots to cooking the jam for hours. Thank you for introducing marmalade making in my life again. I will continue with this tradition using less or no sugar.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 4, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Katie,
Thanks for reading and commenting! That is an incredible number of tomatoes you picked! And I thought eight 8-oz jars was a lot of work!

Thanks, Maria, for reading and commenting. Please let me know how it goes with less or no sugar!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Lisa Y-H, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Aug 8, 2016 at 3:39 pm

Yay, Sally, for marmalade success!!!! I am so happy to hear that you and your family are enjoying the fruits of your labor. You are going to be hooked now on canning, I promise! (I loved reading this; Robin e-mailed me the link to your blog post). Happy canning and e-mail me if you have any questions. Sending love from Paris, Lisa Y-H


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 8, 2016 at 6:05 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi Lisa Y-H or rather Bonjour!
Thank you so much for reading and commenting! You are my inspiration and I am waiting for you to write the definitive book on canning. Or, at least come back and host a few more parties so we can all advance in our skills!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by jylouise, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 9, 2016 at 12:33 pm

As a senior resident who no longer cans, but did my share some years ago, I enjoyed readying your Marmalade story & admire you for trying until you succeeded. Years ago I had a friend who had a Seville Orange tree (yes! right here in Palo Alto) so I was often gifted with enough Seville oranges to make a batch of marmalade. It's wonderful to pull out a jar of something when it's not in season & enjoy the treat.
Homemade jams, jellies, marmalade make wonderful gifts!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Karen, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland,
on Aug 9, 2016 at 3:14 pm

Congratulations - quite an endeavor! My oranges have to be used in smoothies and given to neighbors ("no, please, pick a few!"). I take advantage of the kids wanting to use the juicer, but that wears thin quickly.

I'm sure that felt good to accomplish!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sally Torbey, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Aug 9, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Sally Torbey is a registered user.

Hi jylouise!
Thank you for reading and commenting! I agree that preserves make wonderful gifts. I love receiving them so I'm looking forward to having jars to pass on to others.

Hi Karen,
Thanks for reading and commenting! Smoothies are a great idea. I know what you mean about the juicer!


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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