Sweet and sharp homemade grapefruit marmalade, with a hum of Indian chai spices running through it.
When we moved into our current home about five years ago, I was so happy to discover the backyard had lots of established fruit trees already – including the largest grapefruit tree I’ve ever seen.
It takes up too much space, we don’t eat even anywhere enough of the fruit it produces, but still I love that we have it. The old girl grows beautiful, sweet, but very tart grapefruit, perfect for juicing or making marmalade. I’ve also experimented with using it in cheesecake, which works amazingly well.
It’s only taken me five years, but I thought I’d finally have a go at making marmalade to use up some of the glut of fruit. I had to laugh though, the grapefruit are so huge and juicy that this recipe only used three. THREE. That’s three out of approximately 759 still on the tree.
I may have failed at using up much of the fruit, but I did succeed in making a delicious homemade marmalade my grandmother would have been proud of.
How to make homemade grapefruit marmalade
The basic premise of making homemade marmalade is a 1:1:1 ratio of fruit, sugar and water, cooked until the setting point is reached.
There are a few tricks though. For best results you want to slice the skin away from the fruit and thinly slice it, before trimming excess pith off the fruit and dicing it.
I trimmed the toughest, pithiest parts out of the centre of the grapefruit and set them aside with the pips. The pips have pectin in them, which helps set the marmalade, so you want to include them – but who wants pips on their toast or crumpets?
It’s an easy matter of tying the pips up in a square of muslin before popping them in the pot with everything else. Then you can remove the little bundle later with no drama.
Seeing as I was making a little bundle of pips anyhow, I thought it was a good opportunity to pop some other flavours in there too.
I know black pepper plays nicely with grapefruit, as does ginger. It’s only a short hop from pepper and ginger to full blown chai spices, so that’s where I went, adding cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, pepper, allspice and cloves. I used whole spices so that the finished marmalade would still be clear.
Once the ingredients are in the pot and ready to go, cover them with water and simmer for an hour to soften the skins.
Then the sugar goes in. Oh my does the sugar go in. I did have a moment’s pause mid-way through tipping a whole kilogram (just over 2lb) of sugar into the pot. I can’t remember the last time I used so much sugar in the kitchen! This is a treat though. No guilt here.
The sugar is stirred through the reduced fruit mixture until it has dissolved, then brought to a hard boil for five minutes. That was all it took for the marmalade to reach setting point, which I tested by dropping a little onto a cold plate. Once it’s cooled on the plate you can test whether it’s ready by running your finger through it. If a channel forms and stays there, it’s done. If not, cook it for another minute or two and try again.
Needless to say, be really, really careful when you have sugar on the boil. Make sure you’re organised and don’t need to walk away during this part of the process. You don’t want to burn the marmalade after all this cooking time, and if knocked, it would cause the most horrific burns to a little person.
As the victim of a serious childhood burn, I’m very careful with this kind of thing and I urge you to be too. My story involved boiling water down my back on Christmas Eve, just before I turned four. I still vividly remember the pain.
Store your marmalade safely
I’m not a canning and preserving expert, but it’s actually not hard to safely preserve jams or chutneys. The key is to have clean, sterile jars and seal them while the mixture is hot.
Sterile is pretty easy to achieve if you have a dishwasher, alternatively wash the jars and lids well in hot, soapy water, then pop the jars in the oven at 100C (215F) for at least 15 minutes.
It’s easiest to put all of the jars into a roasting dish or similar, so you can lift them out of the oven in one go when you’re ready to pour in the marmalade. I sterilised the lids in boiling water after washing them.
Cozy homemade grapefruit marmalade
There’s something really cozy about this chai spiced marmalade.
The house smelled absolutely amazing while it was cooking, and the finished marmalade has a really pleasing mellow hum of spices running through it. To be honest, I thought the flavour of the spices would be stronger, but I guess it’s hard to compete with the power of grapefruit.
I suggest enjoying this marmalade on toast or crumpets, with a cup of earl grey tea on the side.
This recipe makes around 1.5 litres (three pints) of marmalade, or 4-5 jars depending on size, which means you’ll have plenty to gift to a friend too.
- 1 kg grapefruit (2.2lb)
- 1 kg sugar (2.2lb)
- 1 litre water (2 pints)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 10 cardamom pods lightly crushed
- 6 black peppercorns
- 6 allspice
- 4 cloves
- 3 slices fresh ginger
- 1 square muslin cloth
- Clean and sterile jars with lids
- Trim skin from grapefruit, cut into strips about 2cm (just under an inch) wide, then thinly slice. Put the sliced skin into a large pot.
- Trim excess pith away from the fruit and discard. Chop into quarters, then trim away the tough, pithy centres and seeds and set these aside. Cut the fruit into small chunks and add to the pot.
- Using a piece of muslin cloth or similar, and some natural string, tie up a bundle of the pithy centres, seeds, and all of the whole spices. Add the bundle to the pot.
- Cover everything in the pot with 1 litre (2 pints) of water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring every now and then. Pay attention during the last 15 minutes or so, once the mixture has reduced it may start to stick.
- Once the time is up, use tongs to remove the bundle and squeeze the juice out of it into the pot.
- Put a plate in the fridge or freezer to chill.
- Add sugar to the pot and stir to combine. Turn the heat up to medium and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up again to medium-high and bring to a rolling boil, stirring often, for five minutes.
- Test whether the marmalade is done by dropping a small amount onto the chilled plate and letting it cool for a minute. Run your finger through it, if a channel forms and remains, the marmalade is done. If not, cook for another 1-2 minutes then try again.
- Turn the heat down and wait for the marmalade to stop bubbling, then carefully pour the marmalade into hot jars and seal immediately.
- Nutrition information estimated based on using 1 tbsp of marmalade per serve.
- Recipe makes about 1.5 litres of marmalade, or three pints.