Making marmalade | Two Decades of Kids and Counting | Sally Torbey | Palo Alto Online |

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By Sally Torbey

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!