Photo by Rachael Brugger
As I lifted my suitcase onto the scale, checking in to my flight home from Florida, the airline attendant eyeballed the weight of my bag. It was teetering just under the maximum weight for checked baggage—a relief considering that my bag contained a more than 12-pound bushel of Florida-grown oranges with all my other travel essentials.
Unlike my home a bit farther north, Florida's southern region produces juice-dripping, sun-sweetened oranges during the cooler seasons. Since I started visiting my grandparents in Florida as a teenager, a trip to the local orange grove always remains on my itinerary when I return. Nothing comes close to guzzling down just-squeezed juice, crisply chilled and loaded with bits of pulp.
Having preserved a variety of fruits grown in my area, I was determined to dabble in orange preservation with my smuggled bushel straight out of the Sunshine State. Browsing through my collection of canning and food preservation books, I’d always tag pages with orange marmalade recipes but never felt that grocery store oranges were worth the effort. Now, with my fresh bounty, I was prepped for an orange-preservation experiment. And because oranges are usually picked at peak ripeness, I had to get to work right away.
Traditional orange juice is a breakfast staple—but marmalades, jellies, marinades for all kinds of meats, pastries with orange glaze, orange slices in salads, festive cocktails and a sprinkle of zest on just about any edible item are all options for using the orange. Fortunately, citrus is packed with natural pectin, which makes it ideal for a few simple at-home preservation methods. I extended the life of my lovely collection of Florida oranges in three ways: Orange Marmalade, Orange Peel Candy and Fermented Orangina.
Photo by Rachael Brugger
One of those ingredients that seems to pop up unexpectedly in recipes, orange marmalade is more than just a sweet topping for a buttermilk biscuit. This recipe can be paired with a creamy cheese and stack of crackers as an easy appetizer. Or smear it across a grilled chicken breast or use as a glaze for a roasted pork butt to surprise dinner party guests. The following recipe makes six to eight half-pint jars and can be stored for more than a year in a cool, dry place.
For this recipe, I used the waterbath-canning method. It’s important to first sterilize all your jars and canning supplies before you get started. Also, start the water early—it can take up to 45 minutes to reach a rolling boil. Place all your supplies (except the lids and screws of the jars) in the water and gradually bring it to a rolling boil, leaving the supplies in the boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Carefully remove the items (I advise wearing long sleeves and oven mitts through the process—the water is scalding hot!) and allow them to cool. In a separate heatproof bowl, use a ladle to pour boiling water over the lids and screw tops for quick sterilization.
Yield: 6 to 8 half-pint jars
- 6 to 8 medium oranges (fresh as possible)
- 1 lemon
- 7 cups water
- 3 pounds sugar
Use a mandolin to slice oranges and lemon as thin as possible, picking out seeds and setting them aside in small bowl. Do this on a cutting board, and capture all the juices in a bowl placed at the edge of the board. Place sliced oranges along with collected juice in large bowl.
Working in batches, pulse orange and lemon in food processor. Pulse about three times, just enough to break up slices into about 1-inch pieces. If you don’t have a food processor, roughly chopping the slices with a sharp knife, but prudently catch those juices as they try to escape.
Add water and chopped citrus into large preserving pan or pot—the shallower, the better. Place seeds in cheesecloth bag, tie securely and add to pot to enhance pectin level. Bring mixture to boil, then reduce heat to steady simmer for about 45 minutes. Oranges should turn tender and some water will evaporate. Stir in sugar and return to high heat, stirring occasionally.
Using a candy thermometer, watch carefully until the mixture reaches 221 degrees F. After about 30 minutes, mixture will suddenly turn golden-orange and reach gel consistency. To test the marmalade gel, place plate in refrigerator before canning. Dab marmalade on plate and return to refrigerator. After 5 minutes, poke jelly and make sure it wrinkles at contact. If it’s leaky and watery, cook a little longer.
To can, fill half-pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, and screw on lids until finger-tight. Bring canning water to rolling boil. Place jars on rack, carefully lower into pot and process 10 minutes. Let jars rest on towel for 24 hours before moving.
Orange Peel Candy
Photo by Rachael Brugger
Although it evokes nostalgia for the holidays, this chewy orange candy recipe can be enjoyed year-round. If you have green speckles on your oranges, don’t fear making this simple candy recipe—the speckles are just a sign of authentic oranges and are hardly noticeable on the final product. These sugar-coated candies can be stored away for weeks in a sugar jar and even frozen for long-term keep.
Yield: 5-6 cups, depending on size of oranges
- 10 to 12 medium oranges
- 1½ cups pure cane sugar
- 3 cups sugar
Scrub oranges and peel into 2- to 3-inch-wide strips with a wide-mouth peeler. With a paring knife, slice peels into 1/4-inch pieces, and trim away any jagged edges, making sure strips are uniform. Do your best to cut away the white pith, removing just enough to see the translucent orange peel. Soak peels in the refrigerator overnight.
Prepare bowl of ice water and cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with 1½ cups pure cane sugar. Boil large pot of water and add peels in wire basket or steam basket, boiling for 15 minutes. Remove basket and immediately shock peels in ice water. Return water to boil and repeat process three times, or until peels are pliable.
In a separate large stockpot, bring 3 cups water to boil and stir in 3 cups sugar until dissolved, creating a simple syrup. Add orange peels, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook peels for about 40 minutes, or until they turn dark-amber. Using tongs, scatter hot candies on baking sheet to coat with sugar, then move to wire rack to cool.
Fermented Orange Juice
Photo by Rachael Brugger
Nutrition scientists have pronounced the benefits of fermented foods and beverages, such as kimchi, kombucha and yogurt. Fermented foods contain probiotics that help with digestion and immune function, boosting the amount of good bacteria in our bodies. This delicious and bubbly fermented orange beverage—a homemade version of Orangina—is a natural alternative to orange soda and another great way to prolong the life of your oranges for a couple weeks.
Yield: 2 quarts
- 12 peeled oranges (Use the peels for your orange peel candy!)
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 tsp. orange extract
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 cup of liquid whey (*extract from 16-ounce tub of plain yogurt—see note below)
*Whey is the key ingredient for fermentation in this recipe and will create the bubbly effect in your orange juice. To extract it from the yogurt, spoon the yogurt onto a piece of cheesecloth. Wrap the yogurt securely and hang it over a bowl overnight. (I used the knob of my Kitchen Aid, though a cabinet knob would be slightly higher and more preferable.) The whey will drip from the cloth, leaving you with an ample amount of whey for your orange beverage and a leftover ball of yogurt cheese, which you can enjoy with your marmalade and crackers!
Juice oranges with your preferred method. I recommend an electric juicing system, but if that’s not available, a hand juicer will work. Include pulp or strain to your taste.
Fill two quart-sized mason jars half full with fresh orange juice. Dilute orange juice with about 1 cup of water in each, leaving few inches of headspace. Add 1/2 teaspoon orange extract,1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1/8 cup whey into each jar. Screw on a lid, making sure there’s at least 2 inches headspace.
Let beverage sit for 24 hours untouched before consuming. For extra fizz, add in some soda water before serving.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Troutman Adams is a public-relations specialist and freelance writer based in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky. She's a food preservation addict who loves old-fashioned cooking traditions. In addition to gardening, cooking and homesteading, she loves riding horses, practicing yoga, and spending time with her French bulldog Linus and husband Shawn. She blogs at bluegrassgoodness.com.