I first heard of Cara Cara oranges last year, when I happened upon a photo of a beautiful winter salad of dark greens topped with glossy coral-pink slices on a blog I follow.
Soon after, I spotted a bag of Cara Caras at the friendly neighbourhood greengrocer. Clearly, this was more than just coincidence.... it was the universe sending me a sign. It was obviously Meant To Be.
That was the beginning of a wonderful love affair, which lasted exactly one month before citrus season ended and my beloved Cara Caras disappeared. I made do with regular oranges, but it just wasn't the same.
It's the colour that makes a Cara Cara so special... a gorgeous pale pinkish hue that instantly cheers me up, no matter how grey and nasty it might be outside. It brings to mind sunrises on cold clear winter mornings, or the blush-coloured tulips that emerge from my garden as soon as the first rays of spring sunshine warm the ground. It's unabashedly girlie and delicate and optimistic, the very colour I've always imagined rose-coloured glasses would be.
The Cara Cara isn't nearly as delicate as its colouring might suggest, though. In fact, the flavour is essentially the same as a regular navel orange... though I like to believe that they're maybe just a little bit sweeter, a little bit juicier and a little bit more refreshing than their orange-coloured counterparts.
This year, I was determined not to let Cara Cara season slip by without finding a way to carry me through those long lonely months. And what better way to do that than a simple chunky marmalade?
Unfortunately, that gorgeous pinkish hue I love so much doesn't come through in this marmalade - it comes out a rather ordinary bright orange colour (which I still love, but in a totally different way from pale coral blush). To compensate, I added a splash of whiskey to the pot right at the end, giving it an unexpected boozy kick. (Shhh... don't tell The Boy I dipped into his precious Bowmore)
The result is a chunky marmalade with a classic bittersweet flavour and just a hint of smoky whisky. Just like the fruit it's made from, this jam may look all sweet and sunny on the surface, but there's a wonderful surprise waiting inside. Trust me, your English muffin won't know what hit it.
Cara Cara Marmalade
Makes 5 500ml jars
3-4 medium Cara Cara oranges (~1 kg)
1 large lemon
3 cups cold water
4 cups sugar
2 tbsp whiskey (or rye, if you prefer)
Using a very sharp knife, cut the oranges and lemon into halves lengthwise. Cut off the top and bottom ends of each half, then cut out seeds and white pith in the centre. Collect the end bits, seeds and pith in a small bowl - you'll need these later.
Slice the orange and lemon halves cross-wise into very thin slices, then chop up into smaller bits (how small is up to you - I like my marmalade quite chunky, so I didn't chop much at all, but you can mince the peel very fine if you prefer a less chunky marmalade). Transfer the chopped fruit and any accumulated juice to a large non-reactive mixing bowl.
Wrap up the seeds, pith and end bits you saved earlier in two layers of cheesecloth and tie off with cotton twine to make a neat parcel. Place this bundle in the bowl of chopped citrus, then pour in the water. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
The next day, pour the contents of the bowl into a large non-reactive saucepan. Stir in the sugar, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 hours or until the peels are quite soft. Remove the cheesecloth bundle from the pot, and discard.
Turn the heat up to medium, bringing the marmalade to a rolling boil. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the jam reaches 220F on a candy thermometer (or until it passes a set test).
Stir in the whiskey, and cook for 5 minutes longer. Immediately ladle the jar into sterilized glass jars.
Once cooled, the jars can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month. If longer storage is desired, process the jars immediately in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, after which they can be stored for up to a year in a cool, dry place.
I was looking for a Cara Cara marmalade recipe and now I have found it! Yes I agree with others “mad genius”!
I’ve made Cara Cara jam in the past with varying degrees of success. Sometimes it’s so bitter I have to toss the whole lot.
Are you separating the entire peel and stripping the pith from that as well as the Center pith? Or do you leave the peels on the fruit to make this?
Looks like a great recipe! And I have a bag of Caras, right here, right now.
Isabelle Boucher says
I like my marmalade to be a little on the bitter side, so for this particular recipe you just use remove the strip of white pith that run through the middle of the orange, and everything else gets finely sliced and thrown into the jam.
The Cilantropist says
Isabelle I have to tell you, your writing is really fantastic in this post; I esp love the paragraph where you are describing the color of the oranges, very well said. :) And of course, I love Cara Cara too though I have never seen them at the grocer only at the farmers market. I bought some last week with the intention of candying them or making marmalade... but then I ate them all. Just a testament to their goodness!
All That's Left Are The Crumbs says
I was thrilled that I was able to find these oranges in a big bag at Costco. I even have some canning jars so I am so excited to try this recipe this weekend.
When we were searching for Seville OR blood oranges recently, we kept seeing CaraCaras and rejected them. Hmmm, it sounds like it was a mistake.
Good idea to throw in a little whisky to the marmalade. Must try that....
Pacheco Patty says
I love this recipe and I will look for these oranges. The color is bright and happy but the whiskey flavor is a stroke of genius;-)
Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having says
I'm going to have to keep my eyes open for these oranges. As soon as I read they are like the colour of the sunrise on cold mornings I was sold. I love that colour, even though I hate being up to see it.
This also great timing because I was just thinking I should look up marmalade recipes. Thanks :)
Tonya - What's On My Plate says
Very lovely! I've been making jam for a few years but have never made marmalade. I'm totally intrigued by these cara caras...
Jill Colonna says
You have definitely touched a heart string with the Whiskey and Marmalade. As a Scot, this is our pièce de résistance and wicked! Now with cara cara you take it to another dimension...
I must get my hands on some cara cara oranges. Your marmalade is oozing with freshness and color. It looks so appetizing with your rustic bread. Maybe this will inspire me enough get over my fear of canning. Love this!
What a lovely idea...I love homemade marmalade. I have to try making this sometime!
Thanks for the kind words, everyone!
Pretend Chef, hopefully this is the marmalade that changes your mind. :) (And if it's not, it also makes lovely gifts)
Roxan, I know the amount of sugar may seem staggering, but it's one of the things that prevents the jam from spoiling... so I think of it as a necessary evil. One of the things I love about marmalade is that it's got a nice balance of bitter and sour to temper the sweet.
I love cara cara oranges. Those looks great.
It's amazing how much sugar goes into marmelades, jams, etc! But, they are so delicious (especially homemade ones like this) and it's not like I use large amounts of it anyways. This looks great, and I'll keep my eye out for the cara caras. I've never heard of them before.
Cara Caras are the best. I discovered them a year or two ago as well and just yesterday I bought a bag of them! I guess I know what I'll do with them now! ;)
I. LOVE. YOU.
Marmalade on its own is pretty perfect, but to add my fav whisky in there, is just mad genius!
Pretend Chef says
I love your writing style. I was smiling the entire post. There are certain foods that make me absolutely giddy, hello avocados, and this looks so bright and cheery. I've never been a marmalade fan but I keep giving it a shot when it's offered to me in hopes that my taste buds will change. I now like mushrooms so I'm not ruling anything out. I would love to give this a try. Who knows, I might become a marmalade convert afterall.