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Orange Marmalade from the Master

Growing up I always remember my father enjoying his toast smothered with orange marmalade. His supply of marmalade was always plentiful because neither I nor my seven siblings could stand it. When living with a big family, good foods were a commodity and ran out fast. Thinking back he probably developed a taste for marmalade because it was the one thing he could count on being in the cabinet.

A few years ago, my neighbor, John Cooper (his wife Deirdre is a regular contributor to Chef’s Corner), came to the door and presented us with a jar of his homemade orange marmalade. I politely thanked him because I did not have the heart to tell him of my disdain for it. Realizing it had been 30 years since I tasted it, I gave it a try and my whole world went upside down. Chunky, bitter, sweet – I loved it! The jar only lasted a couple of days and it turns out I was now spoiled with the homemade version because the store bought brands pale in comparison.

John is a master maker of jams and marmalades. He has spent his entire life perfecting his craft. Making it the way he was taught by his mother, and adapting the recipes to work with the ingredients that can be found locally. While living in Puerto Rico, John made his marmalade at the frequent request of his neighbor and friend the famous cellist, Pablo Casals. This is truly good stuff. After years of asking, John finally agreed to teach me how to make it. It is actually very easy and the results were fabulous. Ideally marmalade is made with Seville sour oranges, however, they are not easy to find here. John has adapted the recipe to include some grapefruit to give it more of the biting bitter flavor. Here it is:

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Yield: 7-8 jars depending on size of fruits

6 Navel Oranges
3 Grapefruits
Juice of 1 lemon
5 lbs sugar


1. Cut the washed oranges & grape fruits into large chunks and pulse in a food processor until you have an even consistency – leaving a little chunky.

2. Place in a pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for approximately 20-30 minutes until the liquid thickens slightly. Add the lemon juice.

3. Add the sugar, mix and cook over a low heat until it reaches 218 degrees on a candy thermometer, stirring regularly to keep from burning, until thickened – 3-4 hours. You are ready to jar…


Legendary Musician Pablo Casals, Loved his Cello and John’s Orange Marmalade – True Story!

by: Alan DeCecco
Alan is co-owner of the Philadelphia Catering Company
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