Bitter & Sweet

text by Allison Carroll Duffy

When I was a child, my family used to go to Quebec for a week-long ski vacation every February.  We went with a church group, and we’d take the train from DC to Montreal, then catch a Greyhound from there to Mont Tremblant.  Other years, after we moved to Maine, my parents would pile us into the big green Dodge station wagon and we’d drive.  This was in the back in the 70’s—long before Mont Tremblant morphed into the fancy mega-resort that I hear it is now.  In the years we were there, it was a low-key, family kind of place.  Our group would take over a cluster of pastel-colored cabins at the base of the mountain, and we’d eat all of our meals in the dining hall at the lodge along with the other guests.  It was an old-school, old-timey place, showing a bit of wear, and we loved it.  There was a game room with a ping pong table and a few pinball machines, and there was bingo in the evenings.  The dining room had a dated, old-world fancy, slightly-stiff feel to it, but we kids got to sit together at tables away from the adults and order whatever we wanted, so we loved it.  It was all so new and different for me, and it was here that I tried a number of foods for the first time, with mixed reactions—things like Coq au Vin (OK), endive salad (No—too bitter), and tomato aspic (No—too wobbly), as well as fresh, warm, from-scratch croissants (YES!), and orange marmalade.  I have to admit that upon first taste, I was not a fan of marmalade.  (What are all those pieces of peel floating around in the jelly? Are peels OK to eat? And, it’s too bitter!).  That’s what I thought then, anyway.  I think marmalade (like endive, for that matter) qualifies as an acquired taste, and maybe this is due to its bitterness.  Perhaps our tolerance for bitterness increases with age—my boys (ages 2 and 4) can’t stand marmalade (or anything else that’s bitter), while I find its touch of bitterness is a perfect counter-balance to what might otherwise be cloyingly sweet.  It’s precisely why I enjoy marmalade so much these days.   I’ve recently been making marmalade with fresh ginger.  I really enjoy it, as it adds just little bite to the traditional orange flavor.

To do ahead of time:

*If you are new to canning, please familiarize yourself with the safest and most up-to-date boiling water bath canning techniques.  The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving (often available where canning supplies are sold—make sure to get the most up to date edition) is a great resource for this, as is the National Center for Home Food Preservation

*Wash and rinse half-pint jars, lids, and screw bands.  Set screw bands aside until ready to use.  Place jars in hot water bath canner, fill at least 2/3 of the way full with water, and bring to a boil.  Sterilize jars for 10 minutes, then turn down heat and let jars stand in hot water until ready to use.  Place lids in water in a small pan, bring to a low simmer, and hold there until ready to use.

*Prepare the calcium water (included in the Pomona’s Universal Pectin package).  To do this, combine 1/2 teaspoon white calcium powder with 1/2 cup water in a small, clear container with a lid. Shake well before using.  Note that you will have more calcium water than you will end up using in this recipe, and can save it for later use

Orange Ginger Marmalade

(Yield: approximately 7 cups. You will need about 7 half-pint jars for canning this recipe.)


5 oranges (enough to total 6 cups of cooked fruit)
2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
2 1/2 cups of sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin powder
3 teaspoons calcium water


1.) Thoroughly wash oranges. Then peel, seed, remove membrane, and finely chop the flesh of the fruit.
Scrape off the white part and discard.  Then thinly slice the peel of 2 of the oranges. Discard the other peels.

2.) Peel and grate the ginger root.

3.) In a large saucepan, combine fruit, sliced peels, and grated ginger. Add 3 cups of water, and bring mixture to a boil. Simmer covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4.) Remove from heat. Measure 6 cups of the cooked fruit, and combine in a large saucepan with the lemon juice.

5.) Add 3 teaspoons of calcium water from jar into pan; stir well.

6.) In a separate bowl, combine 2 ½ cups of sugar and 4 ½  teaspoons of pectin powder. Mix thoroughly.

7.) Bring fruit to a boil. Add pectin-sugar mixture; stir vigorously 1-2 minutes while cooking to dissolve pectin. Return to boil and remove from heat.

8.) Remove hot jars from canner and fill jars with marmalade, leaving ¼  inch of headspace.  Remove trapped air bubbles, wipe rims with a damp cloth, and put on lids and screw bands.

10.) Place jars in hot water, cover with lid, return to a rolling boil, and boil for 10 minutes.  (Add 1 minute additional processing time for every 1000 feet above sea level.)

11.) Turn off heat and allow canner and jars to sit for 5 minutes.  Then, remove jars from canner.

12.) Allow jars to cool undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Then, confirm that jars have sealed.  Enjoy your marmalade!  Or, store properly for later use.