I've been trying for years to find a homemade orange marmalade that I really like, but the result has always been super bitter, even with blanching the Seville orange peels. I wasn't entirely sure this one would work either, but there's something about the multiple days of cooking that makes this marmalade special. It also doesn't hurt that it's got some fabulous rum and vanilla flavors to complement the orange.
Note: I used vanilla bean paste in place of the vanilla extract.
Seville Orange Marmalade with Vanilla, Rum, and Piloncillo
3 pounds 3 ounces Seville oranges, cut into eighths
2 pounds seeded Seville oranges, halved crosswise, each half cut lengthwise into quarters and sliced crosswise as thinly as possible
5 pounds 3 ounces white granulated sugar
3½ ounces strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
Several gratings of piloncillo
A scant ½ ounce vanilla extract (preferably Mexican)
1½ ounces amber or dark rum
Place the orange eighths in a nonreactive kettle where they will fit snugly in a single layer. Add enough cold water for the fruit to bob freely. Cover tightly and let rest overnight at room temperature.
Bring the pan with the orange eighths to a boil, then decrease the heat to a lively simmer. Cook the orange eighths, covered, for 3 hours, or until they are very soft and their liquid has become slightly syrupy. As the fruit cooks, stir it gently every 30 minutes or so, adding a little more water if necessary. The water level should stay consistently high enough for the fruit to remain submerged as it cooks.
When the orange eighths have finished cooking, strain their juice by pouring the hot fruit and liquid into a medium strainer or colander suspended over a heatproof container or nonreactive saucepan. Cover the entire setup well with plastic wrap and let drip overnight at room temperature.
Meanwhile, prepare the thinly sliced oranges: Place the slices in a wide stainless-steel kettle and cover amply with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain, discarding the liquid. Return the orange slices to the kettle and add enough cold water to cover them by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and cook, covered, at a lively simmer for 2 hours, or until the fruit is very tender. As the fruit cooks, stir it gently every 30 minutes or so, adding a little more water if necessary. The water level should stay consistently high enough for the fruit to remain submerged as it cooks. Remove the pan from the heat, cover tightly, and let rest overnight at room temperature.
Place a saucer with five metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer for testing the marmalade later.
Remove the plastic wrap from the orange eighths and their juice and discard the oranges. Strain the juice well through a very fine-mesh strainer to remove any lingering solids.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, cooked orange juice, fresh lemon juice, and orange slices and their liquid, stirring well. Transfer the mixture to an 11- or 12-quart copper preserving pan or a wide nonreactive kettle.
Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, then stir in a small handful of grated piloncillo. Continue adding piloncillo until the mixture darkens perceptibly. Carefully taste the marmalade and add a tiny bit more piloncillo if necessary; the flavor should be subtle.
Cook the mixture for 5 minutes more, then stir in the vanilla. Continue cooking the marmalade at a rapid boil over high heat until the setting point is reached; this will take a minimum of 20 minutes, but may take longer depending on your individual stove and pan. Initially, the mixture will bubble gently for several minutes; then, as more moisture cooks out of it and its sugar concentration increases, it will start to foam. Do not stir it at all during the initial bubbling; then, once it starts to foam, stir it gently every few minutes with a heatproof rubber spatula. As it gets close to being done, stir it slowly every minute or two to prevent burning, decreasing the heat a tiny bit if necessary. When nearly done, stir in the rum. The marmalade is ready for testing when its color darkens slightly and its bubbles become very small.
To test the marmalade for doneness, remove it from the heat and carefully transfer a small representative half-spoonful to one of your frozen spoons. It should look shiny, with tiny bubbles throughout. Replace the spoon in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove and carefully feel the underside of the spoon. It should be neither warm nor cold; if still warm, return it to the freezer for a moment. Tilt the spoon vertically to see whether the marmalade runs; if it does not run, and if its top layer has thickened into a jelly consistency, it is done. If it runs, cook it for another few minutes, stirring, and test again as needed.
When the marmalade has finished cooking, turn off the heat but do not stir. Using a stainless-steel spoon, skim off any surface foam and discard. Pour the marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace, and wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth. Put the lids on, being careful to screw them on just until they are snug.
Place the closed jars in a large pot of hot water, covered by 2 inches. Bring the water to a full boil and boil for 10 minutes (adjusting for altitude), then transfer the jars onto a thick towel to let cool. Leave them undisturbed for 24 hours. Check to make sure that all lids have sealed by pressing on the center of the lid. If the lid moves, place the jar in the refrigerator.
Makes 10 to 11 half-pint jars