Il Bronzino’s magnificent portrait of Marie de Medici hangs in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. As a 12- year-old girl, I stood in front of this painting of a young woman. The famous Mannerist artist immortalized her with luminous ivory skin, large blue eyes, sensuous coral lips and a striking widows peak. Befitting her status as the daughter of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Francisco Medici, jewels adorn her headband and her black gown. She wears stunning pearl drop earrings and a double strand necklace studded with pearls.
The enthusiastic young tour guide tells us that Marie has been betrothed to King Henry IV of France to be his second wife. He needs her large dowry to pay off his substantial debts. When she arrives in France, Marie is unimpressed by the crude, rustic cuisine of the royal court (think a lot of roasted meats). So she imports Florentine chefs. Whenever she is feeling unwell, the chefs stew oranges with sugar. When the French servants rush around to serve her the jam, they say “Mar malade!” Marie is sick. The tour guide tells her enraptured audience that this is how the word marmalade enters the English language and I’ve been telling that story for 40 years.
This week, Rachel decided that she would like to make marmalade. When I did a little research, I discovered that while it’s a nice story, marmalade has nothing to do with Marie de Medici.
Historians agree that the name for citrus preserves comes from the Portuguese word marmelada. Marmela is the Portuguese word for quince, a high pectin fruit which is too sour and bitter to eat raw, but perfect as a jam. Seville oranges are also sour and bitter and high in pectin and perfect for preserving. There are records that Portuguese quince marmalada was gifted to Henry VIII. When Seville oranges made their appearance on British shores in the sixteenth century, orange marmalade became a staple of British cuisine. And marmalade became synonymous with citrus preserves.
Every year, the Brits import thousands of tons of Seville oranges from Spain to make marmalade to eat on toast for their breakfast. —Sharon
THE BITTERSWEET AND CITRUSY FLAVOR OF MARMALADE INSTANTLY TRANSPORTS ME TO MY CHILDHOOD IN MOROCCO AND TO THIS DAY, ORANGES AND ORANGE BLOSSOM WATER ARE A MAINSTAY IN MY KITCHEN.
The bittersweet and citrusy flavor of marmalade instantly transports me to my childhood in Morocco and to this day, oranges and orange blossom water are a mainstay in my kitchen. Every Shabbat, I serve a salad of sliced oranges and dried salty black olives. A favorite dessert is orange slices steeped in a sugary orange blossom syrup. I love to brew a tea with fresh orange blossoms and lemon verbena. Orange Dulce (dried orange peel preserved in syrup) are a favorite at teatime and a must at festive holiday meals.
The piece de resistance in the marmalade menu is the cake called Plato Montado for Spanish Moroccans and Le Pie for French North Africans. Imagine many layers of sponge cake that have been soaked in orange blossom water and rum, layered with orange marmalade and marzipan, then layered with chocolate. The exterior of the cake is meringue and it is decorated with tiny edible silver balls. This is the special cake that is served at a Henna or an engagement party. It is hard to imagine the amount of work that this cake entails. Every year, my mother would serve this magnificent cake for our birthdays. I don’t know how she did it, but she made it look effortless.
It turns out that I buy a lot of marmalade because my mother’s standard breakfast is a slice of homemade gluten-free almond bread with butter and marmalade and a large mug of green tea.
But recently I was on Pinterest and stumbled on a very simple homemade marmalade recipe.
The last time I made marmalade, it was a whole day fiasco involving hours of simmering on the stovetop. There was a lot of panicking that it wouldn’t thicken, which resulted in adding more and more sugar.
This time I made it in my instant pot, which was truly life-changing. The combination of pressure cooking and slow cooking meant that the preserves were ready in an hour. While Seville oranges are typically used in marmalade, I used locally sourced organic California grown Valencia oranges. The aroma in my home was intoxicating and the resulting marmalade was incredibly thick and delicious.
We hope you will try this no-fuss recipe with its simple ingredients. – Rachel
2 pounds organic oranges (about 8 small oranges)
5 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
Remove all stickers and stems and wash the fruit.
Fill a large bowl with water and add 3 tablespoons of white or apple cider vinegar. Add oranges and let soak for 15 minutes.
Drain and dry oranges, then using a very sharp knife, mandolin or food processor, cut oranges as thinly as possible. (Cuts can vary in size and can be long and short.)
Add the oranges and juice to the Inner Pot of the Instant Pot.
Place the pot inside the Instant Pot and add the water.
Close the lid and press Pressure Cook Mode to HIGH for 10 minutes. After the timer goes off, allow the Instant Pot to release naturally.
Open lid and set Instant Pot to Sauté Mode and set for 25 minutes on NORMAL mode. Add the sugar and stir well.
Cook for 20-22 minutes, continuously stirring to ensure that the sugar doesn’t burn on the bottom.
If you have a candy thermometer, when the temperature rises to 220°F, the preserves are ready.
Remove inner pot and place on the counter to cool. (Do not leave inside Instant Pot as it will continue to cook and the bottom will burn.) The marmalade will continue to thicken as it cools.
Place in prepared sterilized mason jars.
STERILIZING MASON JARS:
Fill a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Place glass jars and lids into the water and boil for 15 minutes.
Remove the jars and lids from the pot and dry.
When the marmalade has cooled, fill the jars and store in the refrigerator.
Rachel Sheff and Sharon Gompertshave been friends since high school. They love cooking and sharing recipes. They have collaborated on Sephardic Educational Center projects and community cooking classes. Find recipe video clips and recipes on Instagram SEPHARDIC SPICE GIRLS and Facebook SEPHARDIC SPICE SEC FOOD.