What's that, ABOVE? Right—lemons.
And what's this, BELOW:
Of course—they're oranges.
Now, what are these:
Look closely. Consider your answer carefully. Give up?
Those are orange lemons. Not orange-lemons, but orange-colored lemons. Look at them, BELOW, with a yellow lemon in front (the one with the stem). The color contrast is less striking in this picture than in real life, but you'll get the idea:
These curiosities come from Mud Creek Ranch at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, and they speak to the rampant sexual proclivities of a culturally and commercially important genus of fruits known as Citrus.
The citrus family is a promiscuous bunch that readily cross-pollinates to create new variants all the time. Indeed, all the countless citrus varieties in the world descend from three ancient species of proto-citrus that originally grew in northern India, southern China and Southeast Asia: the citron (Citrus medica), the pummelo (Citrus grandis) and tangerine (Citrus reticulata).
Across 3,000 years of cultivation, the original citrus have produced myriad hybrid offspring, some of which developed into distinct species and have continued to crossbreed to create still more species. The grapefruit (Citrus paradisi), for instance, originated in the Caribbean as recently as the 18th century, when the sweet orange (Citrus sinensis, itself probably a hybrid of the pummelo and the tangerine) crossed with a pummelo to create the favorite breakfast fruit of sour-faced old WASP patriarchs. Botanists have decided in recent years that the kumquat is not a true citrus, and they have assigned it its own genus, Fortunella. It does nonetheless cross-breed with true citrus, resulting in still more potential varieties in the sprawling orchard of bastard citrus offspring.
The orange lemons from Mud Creek are, I was told, a color variant of the common Eureka lemon (Citrus limon, perhaps a triple cross of citron, sour lime and pummelo). They taste like lemons, but the wonderful color instantly made me think of combining them with yellow lemons to make a multi-lemon marmalade. While I was at it, I decided to also include some Meyer lemons (probably a cross of C. limon with c. reticulata).
For this three-pound batch of marmalade, you could use any combination of lemons that you can lay your hands on. I used the "escaped" lemons I foraged last week, as well as Meyer lemons from my own trees—the only fruit I grow at Greenvalley.
The technique is a slight modification on TIME TO KILL MARMALADE.
1 lb Mud Creek orange lemons
1 lb yellow Eureka lemons
1 lb Meyer lemons
4 cups water
3.5 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey
optional: 1 Earl Grey teabag (for the flavor of bergamot, yet another citrus variety)
optional: 2 Tablespoons homemade citron vodka
1 Since marmalade uses the fruit peel, try to work with un-sprayed, organic (or backyard) fruit if at all possible. Also note that store-bought citrus is often coated in wax to extend shelf-life, so if that's what you're using, first rinse the fruit with boiling water to remove all traces of wax, then scrub well in cold water.
2 PEEL Remove the citrus zest (the colorful and fragrant top layer of the peel) in wide strips using a vegetable peeler. Put the zest in a preserving pan with 4 cups of water, bring to a boil, then turn off heat and leave covered while you prepare the pulp.
3 PULP First remove all the albedo, the bitter white pith beneath the zest. The technique is to take a peeled fruit and slice a round off both ends, deep enough to reveal the pulp beneath the albedo. Then stand the fruit on one of its flat ends and slice downwards along the fruit's outside edge to cut away the albedo. Work your way around the perimeter of the entire fruit until you're left with the beautiful "heart" of the fruit. (Set aside the pith for making homemade pectin "stock." Recipe to follow soon) Note: you can skip this step on the meyer lemons, since their peels and pith are less bitter than that of Eureka lemons.
4 PULP, PART 2: Now slice your prepared citrus "hearts" into 1/2" rounds and chop into 1/2" cubes. Remove whatever seeds you find, but be sure to collect all the juice that puddles on your cutting board.
5 PEEL, PART 2: Lift the peels out of the preserving pan. (Leave the water in the pan!.) Chop zest into 1/2", confetti-like strips.
6 COOK Now put the chopped zest, pulp & pulp juices in the preserving pan with the liquid from cooking the zest. Add the tea bag. Bring it all to a modest boil and cook while stirring for about 15 minutes until the pulp has broken up and peel is translucent. Remove the tea bag, squeezing it to extract its flavor.
5 Stir in the sugar and honey, return to a boil and continue reducing. When the mixture is nearly to the jell-point, add vodka if you're using it and cook a few minutes longer until you've achieved a jell set. Ladle into prepared jars, seal and process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes for half-pint jars.
about 3 pints
4 x 8 oz
4 x 4 oz
The amount of sugar I suggest is based on an approximate 1:1 ratio, by weight, of pulp & peel to sugar. So, in other words, I weighed the pulp and peel and got about 2 pounds. That equals four heaping cups of sugar. Since honey is a bit sweeter than sugar, I used 3.5 level cups of sugar and 1/2 cup of honey.
If you're using all Eureka lemons instead of a mix of Eureka and the milder Meyers, you might want to increase the total amount of sweeteners slightly. Perhaps a half-cup more sugar.