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Grapefruit and Smoked Sea Salt Marmalade

I have a new grapefruit benefactor.  He is a fellow glass enthusiast and purveyor of fine, just-picked-off-a-local-farm, fruit.  His parent retired to a small (40 acre) farm/orchard and now said parent pawns off fruit to family members as they have become overwhelmed.  And those family members pawn off onto others.  I'm one of the lucky people who enjoys the excess.   That parent has no idea how happy they've made me!  I do plan to share my creations with them shortly so maybe they'll get an idea of my happiness. 

Freshly washed grapefruit

Late last week, without announcement, I found myself sitting at home with 7 large, gorgeous, just-picked grapefruit and a vacation coming time to eat them all.   I'm an appreciator of produce and will get hives if I have to throw something out...or can't use a just picked anything within just feels wrong to waste such a wondrous commodity.  AND these were the last of the season, no possibility of waiingt for the next batch to come in.

Fortunately I've always been a preserver too.   In my formative years, I was in rural parts of the US and my parents had large gardens (think quarter acre+ garden plots).  I remember my mother being ecstatic when they remodeled a kitchen to include a floor to ceiling, 5-foot wide wall of shelves that were spaced just right to hold all her canning jars (quarts, pints, half pints).   By the end of summer the wall would be stuffed with myriad jars...stewed tomatoes, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, dilly beans, succotash, pickled beets, fresh corn salsa, peaches in light syrup, grape jelly, strawberry jam, get the picture.   And that was our main source of flavors for the rest of the winter...until the first peas would show up in our garden in early spring.  

So...never fear, I'm already familiar with a great recipe for Grapefruit and Smoked Sea Salt Marmalade, thanks to my prior subscription to Food and Wine.   My previous batch of marmalade was gone (some neighbors couldn't get enough of it) and that pointed me in a direction that needed to be followed tout suite!   

My mise en place

Mise en place...remember I like to harp on that idea...we'll get to why in just a moment.   Let's just say I'm not always the best at following my own recommendations.   Note the phone above, in case I need to phone my mother for help...this is one of the best things to have at the ready. 

Here's the recipe straight from the Food and Wine site -  


3 cups sugar

2 teaspoons mild smoked salt flakes

2 teaspoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin (see Note)

1/2 cup finely grated grapefruit zest (from 6 medium grapefruits)

6 cups strained fresh grapefruit juice (from 12 medium grapefruits)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon Pomona’s calcium water (see Note)



In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar with the smoked salt and pectin. 

In a large saucepan, whisk the grapefruit zest with the grapefruit and lemon juices and the calcium water and bring to a boil. Gradually whisk in the sugar mixture and bring back to a boil over high heat, whisking, until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam. Test the marmalade: Spoon 1 tablespoon onto a chilled plate and refrigerate until it cools to room temperature, about 3 minutes; the marmalade is ready when it is thickened slightly and a spoon dragged through it leaves a clear trail. If the marmalade is too loose, continue simmering and test every 5 minutes. 

Pour the marmalade into glass jars and let cool completely. 


Pomona's Universal Pectin (the brand favored by McCarthy for this recipe) is activated with calcium. A packet of calcium powder is included ?in each box--simply combine ?1/4 teaspoon of the powder with 1/4 cup water to make the calcium water, which can be refrigerated for several months.

Quick Note - I had a hard time finding Pomona's Universal Pectin when I went looking.  To be fair, I didn't look too hard - just made a quick pass through my local Whole Foods and Gelson's market.   But, I did find it on Amazon and because of that, i have 3 boxes of the good stuff.  (No, I'm not getting paid anything for this...I just liked Pomona's Pectin a lot!)

Pectin use has gotten mixed reviews in the preserving world, but there are so many variables to consider before deciding to use or not to use it.   I really appreciate this post from Serious Eats about jam making and how to consider the use of pectin.   Personally, I was pleased that this recipe was low in sugar (yes...that's LOW sugar for a marmalade recipe) and that instead it calls for Pomona's Pectin for the gelling.  

Can we agree that recipes are a good starting reference and shouldn't be followed exactly...or is that only how I approach them?   This is my way of saying....I didn't do everything just as they suggested.  

Here's what I did - 

Oro Blanco washed and ready

The variety of grapefruit I received was Oro Blanco.   These are mild grapefruit with a large pith ring and a soft, yellow skin.  Not only did I not start out with 12 grapefruit (I only had 7...some were HUGE and others were just medium sized), I had a less tart fruit to boot.   

Look at that lovely goodness! 

I did zest 3 of my largest grapefruit.  This yielded more like 3/4 cup of zest but because this grapefruit variety isn't as tart/flavorful...I decided I wanted more flavor from the zest to boost up the grapefruit experience.  I use a microplane grater but this could easily be done with a box grater (using the smaller size grates).   

I get a little sad looking at the tiny bits of zest that didn't make it into the measuring cup.  

I used my hand juicer to juice the grapefruit.   This proved interesting at times when those HUGE grapefruit needed to fit into that little space.   I ended up cutting each grapefruit into at least 8 pieces and sometimes 16 pieces. 

Remember how I said I didn't have 12 grapefruit but instead was using 7...well, since these were end of the season fruit to boot....I ended up with 5.5 cups of juice.   Fortunately I had a little tangerine juice in the refrigerator so I augmented with that.'s all citrus in the end and the little bit of orange color will just brighten the final product after all.   

Adding the calcium water.  

I wanted to add a little note about Pomona's Pectin.   I have already made this recipe once.  At the beginning of Ruby Red season...back in spring.   I decided to use that same calcium water that I had mixed up then (and hadn't used since but had kept in the refrigerator).   Note to self, to make sure that your marmalade gels quickly and to perfection (like that first batch) don't use products that have been waiting for you in the fridge for 5 months.   They do suggest that you keep it for a maximum of 3 months...which I would have noticed if I was more diligent about that mise in place thing....anyway.  So, when you've made this recipe and have some leftover calcium water in your refrigerator, consider heading over to Pomona's website for additional recipes to put it to good use.  

Starting the boiling process.

As you can see, the tangerine juice didn't really change that lemony yellow color from the grapefruit at all.   It's no wonder they are called Oro Blanco (White Gold)!

Right about now, I realized I didn't have any smoked salt (I was finally getting around to putting all my ingredients together).  If I had bothered to actually follow my own advice, I would have known this before I had already started to boil my ingredients!  To be fair, I have SOME smoked salt but it's smoked CHOCOLATE salt and that combo just wasn't sounding enticing.    I had to make a quick improvisation and found liquid smoke in the cupboard.  My judgement call on how much to add to my marmalade was just a single drop, being afraid of overpowering the grapefruit taste otherwise.  If you find yourself in this same quandary (mise en place!!!! There's a reason for it. )...I would suggest adding 3-4 drops of liquid smoke.   I don't have smoke flavor in my marmalade and I miss it.  The bite of smokiness really makes one stop and think about what you're unusual in a marmalade.   The salt in the recipe is also a great addition, the tang of the marmalade is offset by just a touch of salt that I feel just on the sides of my tongue...great combo.   Especially delicious on a piece of hearty toast...or in a gin or bourbon drink (as the recipe says)...but that's for a different blog post.   

I did use a whisk which surprised me the first time I prepared this recipe.   I couldn't figure out why I would do something like that (I've always used a wooden spoon) but once the dry ingredients are added, you'll understand why it was suggested.   The wisk makes incorporating the powders simple, and if you are using fresh pectin, your time available to mix is more limited. 

Sugar, salt and pectin waiting to be added

Remember I didn't have the smoked salt?   The picture above is just of plain kosher salt.   Because I was using liquid smoke, I added it to the juice ingredients first and then added the plain salt here.   Also, because my fruit was less tart to begin with, I cut back to 2 1/2 cups of sugar. 

Adding sugar to the bubbly goodness.

This step is where I realized my gaff with my Pomona's Pectin.   When I made the recipe the very first time, within minutes the concoction gelled to perfection.   I haven't seen anything so lovely in pectin jam before.   This time around, I never got to a point where it felt like the jam had gelled.   I let it boil for about 10 minutes (the recipe suggested 3 minutes initially) before testing...then another 10 never quite got there.  My final product is more of a soft jam consistency and not a more solid marmalade feel.  This is my fault though, nothing to do with Pomona's!   I've now reread the directions on the box and know what to do to prevent having a wonderful batch of soft gelled marmalade for the next time.   Don't leave your calcium water pre-mixed in the refrigerator for MANY months!

Looks, smells and tastes delicious!

Once I decided the marmalade was at the consistency I was going to get...I poured it into my waiting jars.   I used half pint canning jars for this recipe.   I had a total of 6 half pints plus one little 2 oz jar left over for sampling!  Now, there's no need to buy canning jars if you don't have any at home...any empty jar could be used at this juncture.   Just run them through the dishwasher to make sure they're clean and dry before adding your concoction.    According to the recipe, you can wait for these to cool off, add lids and refrigerate for several months.  I've found that people enjoy the final product and are more than happy to help take some off your hands if the idea of eating all within months scares you.   

I've also noted that the recipe on Food and Wine says it's good stirred into Gin or Bourbon I'm going to pass off a jar to my good friend Roman over in the Cocktails section for him to fill us in.   

Look Roman!  This is coming your way soon!