Adventures with Mulch and Marmalade

(Not mixed together, of course. That would be gross.)

This is our yard right now. Or, rather, this was the yard yesterday morning.

Yesterday, I got to see a dump truck unload ten cubic yards of sweet, sweet single-grind mulch on top of my grass. You see, there’s a sawmill about a mile down the road, and they sell and deliver mulch for cheap cheap cheap. To say it was an excellent morning is an understatement. I may also be a weirdo for getting exciting about a giant pile of decomposing wood. Don’t care. No more plastic bags of sub-part mulch, and plenty to go around. Woohoo!

I’ve already used a chunk of it to FINALLY mulch around the berry bushes.

It actually looks like something planned now, rather than a few scraggly-looking bushes in a row. Also, grass control. Yay!

If you’re not interested in mulch like I am, and get happy with the smell of fresh-cut wood, you might be more inclined to get happy about marmalade. The end of the school year is finally upon us, which means a lot more time for cooking and gardening. And one of those tasks two days ago was making marmalade.

I’m a big fan of marmalade for many reasons. Firstly, it’s delicious, and that’s reason enough – a delightful combination of sweet, bitter, and toothsome. It’s super versatile for sandwiches, toast, fillings, and whatever else your heart desires for sweet jam.

Secondly, it uses just about every bit of the fruit – rind, pulp, pith. (The seeds can even be used as a source for extra pectin in the boiling process, but they do have to be removed before adding the sugar.) This means less food waste, and more chew. Yes.

Thirdly, it’s easy. It’s time consuming, but mostly hands-off, so you can do what I did and let the mixture come to temperature on the stove, checking periodically, while in the meantime, taking a nap, reading a book, and playing video games doing something immensely productive and contributing to society.

Fourthly, you can use any citrus fruits you want. You are not beholden to only orange marmalade – so far, I have made orange, grapefruit, and lime marmalades, all of which turned out beautifully. (Husband liked grapefruit more than I did, but that’s because I’m not the biggest fan of grapefruit.) Today’s marmalade was made from limes and one lemon, and has been my favorite so far, because limes are the best citrus fruit. Fight me.

And finally, I get to use my mandolin for slicing the fruit. Like most cool things, mandolins are both fun and dangerous – using one is a super efficient way to evenly slice your fruit (I use a 1/8 inch slice), but it’s also a super efficient way to slice your fingers off. Either use the guard, or get yourself a pair of Kevlar gloves and go to town.

Onwards!

Marmalade Recipe

You will need:

  • 2 lbs citrus fruit (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, kumquats, whatever)
  • 1 lemon
  • 6-7 cups sugar (add 1 cup more if using grapefruit)
  • 2 quarts water

Directions:

  1. Wash the fruit thoroughly, making sure to remove remnants of wax and whatnot. Slice the stem ends from the fruits.
  2. Using a knife or a mandolin, slice the fruits to about 1/8 inch thickness. Remove any seeds. (Again, you can use seeds to add extra pectin – just put them into a cheesecloth, tie it together, and use it in Step 3.)
  3. Place sliced fruit and water into a large pot. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and simmer the fruit until the pith becomes translucent, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove seeds afterwards, if using.
  4. Place a small plate in the freezer.
  5. Add sugar to pot, and bring the mixture back to a boil. Attach a candy thermometer. Reduce the temperature to medium, maintaining a steady almost-boil until the mixture thickens and reaches close to 220 degrees F. (This can take up to an a hour and a half, depending on a number of factors.)
  6. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, or you’re like me and like checking things in multiple ways, you can do the cold plate test as the mixture thickens considerably. Using the cold plate from Step 4, place a drop of the marmalade mixture onto the plate, wait a minute or so, and push your finger through the marmalade. If it wrinkles and stays separated, it’s done. If it comes back together easily and doesn’t wrinkle, keep on boiling!
  7. When the mixture is ready, remove the pot from the heat. Put hot marmalade into clean jars and allow to cool at room temperature until cool enough to handle comfortably. Transfer jars to the refrigerator.

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