Bergamot (or Orange) Marmalade

When you watch snowflakes swirling outside your window on a grey November afternoon, it’s hard to imagine that somewhere else there are flowers blooming and citrus trees laden with golden orbs. On the southern coast of Italy, Calabrian bergamot farmers are preparing to collect fruit, and for most of the month, the air in Reggio Calabria will be thickly perfumed with a peppery citrus essence as bergamot rinds are processed into essential oil.

bergamotsbergamot-jam1

Although we usually encounter bergamot as essence perfuming our cologne or Earl Grey tea, the fruit itself is a marvel. It has a heady aroma, and it tastes exactly the same way it smells–spicy, acidic, with a hint of green jasmine. It’s much sharper than lemon but also more complex and fragrant.

Bergamot juice can be substituted for lemon in marinades, sauces or dressings. Imagine poached salmon with bergamot mayonnaise or bergamot-basil pesto rubbed over pork chops. The juicy flesh can be tossed with salad greens, onions, and parsley to accompany grilled meat or seafood.  But in Calabria and much of southern Italy, bergamot usually ends up candied or in a jam. Bergamot jam is one of my most vivid memories of southern Italy, and whenever I get a chance, I recreate it at home.

Once the bergamot season starts in Italy, we, the sun deprived folk of the northern lands, benefit as well. I can’t speak for other places in Europe, but in Brussels and Paris, both green and yellow bergamots are available at the farmer’s markets and well-stocked supermarché. The fruit lasts for a couple of months stored in a cool, dry place, but for the best flavor, it should be used within the first two weeks.

citrus-slivers

Since bergamot is far from a supermarket staple, this marmalade recipe can be successfully used with other citrus fruit such as tangerines, clementines, kumquats, yuzu, Meyer lemons, and of course, oranges. While other bergamots have a strong flavor, oranges take kinder to experiments, and a dash of orange blossom water gives marmalade a bright floral accent.

If you’ve never made jam before, citrus marmalade is a good one to try first. Unlike more temperamental berries or peaches, it always sets, because citrus is rich in jell-producing pectin. Finally, the perfume filling your kitchen as you cook marmalade is reason enough to give it a try.

citrus-jamjam-ready

You can puree the fruit coarsely in a food processor or slice the rinds by hand into thin slivers. I prefer the texture and jewel-like look of the latter method, but there is no doubt that the food processor saves a bit of time and the resulting jam has a finer texture–perfect to be used as a filling for sponge cakes, crepes or as a sweet glaze for grilled chicken. However you prep your citrus fruit, the result is heady and perfumed. Smucker’s doesn’t even come close.

bergamot-jam-food processor

Bergamot (or Orange) Marmalade

Makes 2 450g/1lb jars

Besides bergamots and oranges, you can use clementines, tangerines, kumquats, or yuzu for this marmalade.

Taste your bergamot first. Some varieties have a mild bitter flavor, but others are much more pungent. If your fruit has overly bitter peel, then you can use the following procedure for blanching. Peel the fruit and set the flesh aside to be chopped later. Bring a pot of water to boil, add peel and simmer for 2 minutes. Rinse well with cold water for 2 minutes and repeat the process one or two more times, as needed. The peel is now ready to be used in the recipe.

1lb (500g) bergamots or oranges (3 medium bergamots or 2 large navel oranges)
2 cups (400g) sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) water
1 Tablespoon orange blossom water (if using oranges)

Puree fruit, skin included (but not the seeds), in a food processor. Or cut the fruit into quarters and slice the quarters into thin slivers. Save any juice and tie the seeds in a piece of muslin.

seeds1

In a large heavy bottom pot, add the citrus fruit mixture, juice, muslin bag with seeds and water. Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer and cook until the peels are translucent, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture rest for 2 hours. (It helps to release pectin and essential oils from the rinds).

Add the sugar to the citrus fruit mixture, bring it to a boil again and reduce to slow simmer. Stir from time to time to make sure that the fruit doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. The marmalade will take about 15-20 minutes. Fish out the muslin bag, squeeze any liquid out of it and give the marmalade a good stir. Remove from heat and check if it is set.

To test, spoon a bit of hot marmalade onto a small plate. Transfer it to a freezer for 1 minute. Now, tilt plate and see if the jam “wrinkles.” If so, it’s done. (If you’re using a candy thermometer, the temperature should be around 221F/105C).

Once the marmalade is cooked, stir in the orange blossom water, if you were using oranges, then ladle into clean jars and twist on the lids tightly. Cool and store in the refrigerator.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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42 Comments

  • maja: Ah, gorgeousness! I have to pick my bitter oranges soon and make a jam. (Blanching the rind necessary with these) Last time I made it my friend said it was “an orange experience” so I had to let him have a jar. :)
    Thank you for inspiration. And a tip for adding orange blossom. It would be wonderful to mix some green bergamot rind into my jam. I am wearing, by coincidence, my Mito sample today, the citrus opening is spectacular :) December 18, 2013 at 7:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Bitter orange jam and butter on a slice of toasted country bread is my idea of great breakfast. I also add bitter orange (or sweet orange) zest and juice to quince jam, and it makes quince taste even more floral.

      Bergamot is definitely a big flavor, so your idea to mix it with oranges is great if one wants just a subtle bergamot accent. December 18, 2013 at 8:15am Reply

      • maja: Oh, no, I used all of my quinces the other day! I made what appears to be a Persian recipe of quince jam with cardamom and rose water. Great flavors. Gone in a week :) Wish I could make a small batch with orange zest. December 18, 2013 at 8:28am Reply

        • jillie: What a beautiful combination of scents/flavours – cardamom, rose and quince!

          By the way, I recently got some Mito too, and also love the opening. Citrus addicts unite! December 18, 2013 at 8:38am Reply

          • Victoria: I’m wearing Mito right now after all of this talk, and yes, it starts with an absolutely wonderful blast of citrus before jumping into jasmine and moss. December 18, 2013 at 1:02pm Reply

        • Jenna: What does quince taste like? December 18, 2013 at 10:49am Reply

          • Victoria: To me, it’s floral, a bit violet like, with a hint of clove. You need to cook it before eating, since it’s not really edible otherwise. December 18, 2013 at 1:23pm Reply

        • Victoria: That sounds so delicious, Maja! Persian jams are renowned for their intricate flavor combinations, and I now want to try that too. Quince is so perfumed that it can take pretty much any spices. December 18, 2013 at 12:59pm Reply

  • jillie: How delicious that sounds. I think we have been very deprived of bergamots here in the UK, and am so looking forward to getting my first fruits tomorrow. Sadly, they will be too few and too expensive to make marmalade from, but perhaps they will become cheaper in the future. Thank you for making my mouth water! December 18, 2013 at 8:36am Reply

    • Victoria: The season is too short, unfortunately, but at least, the orange season is going to be in its prime soon, so I won’t miss bergamots for long.

      On the other hand, if you manage to get a hold of a couple of bergamots and can sacrifice one for jam, it’s really worth it! December 18, 2013 at 1:01pm Reply

  • Aisha: After successfully making your raspberry cognac jam this summer, I’m really eager to try this recipe. I just need to get a hold of a bottle of orange blossom water (no bergamots here). December 18, 2013 at 8:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, you can definitely try it without orange blossom water. It just adds another layer of flavor, but it’s not necessary. Homemade orange jam is one of my favorites, and it’s versatile. You can mix it with olive oil, garlic, chili flakes, lemon juice and use it as a glaze for grilled chicken or pork chops. December 18, 2013 at 1:10pm Reply

  • Andrea Marie: V, your photos are beautiful! I don’t think I have even seen bergamot here in Texas, but I will start searching… Thank you for such lovely articles. (I can’t wait to hear about your Shalimar tea!) December 18, 2013 at 10:12am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you! I realized that bergamots would not be very easy to find, but the same recipe makes very good marmalade with other citrus fruit. Mandarin jam is another heady and perfumed preserve. December 18, 2013 at 1:21pm Reply

  • Jenna: Looks beautiful! I’ve never tasted bergamot except in Earl Grey but the marmalade must be yummy. December 18, 2013 at 10:46am Reply

    • Victoria: It really tastes like Earl Grey. :) My husband called it the Earl Grey jam. December 18, 2013 at 1:22pm Reply

  • Marc: My wife has just made some delicious orange jam and she added a little stem ginger. It was very good. December 18, 2013 at 11:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Orange and ginger sounds like an excellent combination. I like orange zest in my gingerbread, but I haven’t tried orange jam with ginger yet. Thank you for an idea. December 18, 2013 at 1:24pm Reply

  • Liz: The pictures are beautiful! Last summer I made jam for the first time and it was easier than I thought. I made plum and apple jam. I’ll try your marmalade recipe with oranges. Is orange blossom water necessary? December 18, 2013 at 11:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Not necessary! It adds a stronger floral note, but you can make marmalade just with oranges, and it will be great.

      Plum and apple is a great combo! December 18, 2013 at 1:27pm Reply

      • Liz: It was very good if I may say so myself! OK, I’ll try your recipe without orange blossom water this weekend. December 18, 2013 at 1:56pm Reply

        • Victoria: I bet! Plus, it’s so satisfying to make preserves at home. At least, that’s what I find. When I open a jar of homemade jam on a cold December afternoon, it’s like getting a whiff of summer. Hope that you enjoy the orange marmalade. December 18, 2013 at 3:57pm Reply

  • rosarita: Another good recipe to try! I like kumquats, my mother in law had a tree at her house in Louisiana. I can probably find some here in the frozen north, at the grocery store, of course. My husband will love this. Thanks, Victoria! December 18, 2013 at 11:45am Reply

    • Victoria: My stepmother has a little kumquat tree in her backyard, but we always felt sorry to pick the fruit, because they looked so pretty among the dark green leaves. Of course, it was only a tiny tree back then, with a handful of fruits. Perhaps, now it’s bigger and more bountiful.

      Candied kumquats are such a treat. December 18, 2013 at 1:31pm Reply

  • solanace: Thank you so much for this recipe, V! The bergamotes are little yet this year, but I’ll make some with lemons this weekend. December 18, 2013 at 1:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also used the same recipe for lemons. I don’t blanch the peel, because I like my lemon jam to be bittersweet, but if you don’t, it’s probably better to do that. December 18, 2013 at 1:34pm Reply

  • sara: i want! i tried googling to find readymade bergamot jam but most sites don’t ship to the us. December 18, 2013 at 2:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: In the US I would buy bergamot jam from Gustiamo.com. The brand I liked was Caffe Sicilia, and all of their marmalades, not just bergamot, were great. December 18, 2013 at 3:58pm Reply

      • sara: thank you. the navigation was confusing but they have bergamot jam! i also ordered almond nougat from sicily. December 18, 2013 at 4:32pm Reply

        • Victoria: I’m so happy that they have it! It is delicious. Well, everything Caffe Sicilia makes is outstanding. I wish their products were available in Brussels. December 18, 2013 at 5:43pm Reply

  • behemot: This is just WONDERFUL! I am goinng to make it. December 18, 2013 at 2:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: Please let me know how it turns out! Citrus marmalades are some of my favorite preserves. December 18, 2013 at 3:59pm Reply

  • Lydie: Thank you for a beautiful story. I enjoy reading it and remembering my grandmaman making jellies and confitures. Someday i try too. December 18, 2013 at 2:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: This must be such a nice memory, Lydie. My grandmother is also an avid jam maker, and she always tries something new. This summer she has been experimenting with plum and orange combinations. December 18, 2013 at 4:00pm Reply

  • Martha: Thank you for this recipe. If I ever see bergamot fruits, I will buy them and make something. After the post the other day, I was inspired to look up internet recipes for cookies flavored with bergamot. I found a bergamot scented shortbread. Doesn’t that sound good? December 18, 2013 at 7:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: It sounds wonderful! Bergamot zest has so much flavor, and I can imagine how delicious these shortbreads would taste. It also goes well with chocolate, so I’m already thinking about chocolate bergamot cupcakes. December 19, 2013 at 3:31am Reply

  • nozknoz: I’m so intrigued by the idea of fresh bergamots! I did try Meyer lemons once and found them intriguing – more herbal and almost savory compared with regular lemons. I must track down bergamots when I get a chance.

    BTW, I’ve had a chance to try Hermes Epice Marine. It’s so unusual, and I am really enjoying it. To me, the only other perfume it resembles at all is the discontinued Embruns d’Ambre by Stephanie de Saint Aignan (that whole line seems to have disappeared form luckyscent, sadly), which I think was also inspired by France’s northern shore. December 19, 2013 at 1:02am Reply

    • Victoria: Meyer lemons remind me also of fir tree, or of something piney. I agree with you that the taste is savory somehow. We don’t get them here, unfortunately.

      How is the rest of Stephanie de Saint Aignan’s line? I tried only one perfume, a powdery floral the name of which I can’t recall. December 19, 2013 at 3:37am Reply

  • Emily: I have an idea, could one add Earl Grey tea instead of water to orange jam ? December 19, 2013 at 2:13am Reply

    • Victoria: What an interesting idea! I suppose that it could work really well, but I haven’t tried it. On the other hand, I have a book on preserves by the French jam maker Christine Ferber, and I believe that she had some recipes with tea. December 19, 2013 at 3:39am Reply

      • maja: I have tried once adding Earl Grey to my jam. It was peach-Earl Grey preserve and it was fantastic! There is a recipe on the Internet :) December 19, 2013 at 4:53am Reply

        • Victoria: Peach and bergamot is a fantastic perfume combination, so I can just imagine how good it might taste. :) December 22, 2013 at 7:42pm Reply

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