It's genetic -or- Three ways to preserve honeybell oranges

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There have been several posts about citrus on this little site 'o mine. It is starting to verge on obsession. But, I can't help it you see. It is in my genes. I have a tendency to over-express my citrus gene.

Okay, enough nerdy gene stuff. Seriously though, my obsession is inherited. As evidenced by this large box of honeybells my Dad sent to me. It was such a delightful surprise to open this box.

You see, my grandparents grew honeybells in their orange grove. They used to send us large boxes of them every year. For those of you that have never had a honeybell before let me first tell you that these are the sweetest, juiciest oranges ever. They are a hybrid of grapefruits and tangerines. Usually, they are seedless, unless the bees pollinate them with some other fruit pollen that the growers wish they wouldn't use.

My Dad juiced almost every one and served it to us for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon snacks until it ran out. We ate some too, but honestly, in this family we like our orange juice so thick that you have to chew it, so it was practically the same thing. Just less messy.

The oranges my Dad sent were from a commercial grower. They were good, but not nearly as good as the ones my grandparents grew. After all, theirs went literally from the tree to my doorstep as fast as the mail could carry them. Plus, the frost that hit Florida this year might have had something to do with it.

Nonetheless, they were the best oranges I had this year. Their juicing ability astounded me once again. Most honeybells yield about a cup of juice each! With this large box Mr. Man and I ate some, juiced some, and still had plenty left over.

I decided to use the honeybells as my first experimental trip into canning land. It is something that has always seemed so involved in the past that I have never tried it before. Mamacita and my grandmother did plenty of canning when I was a young child, but I was too young to remember.

This year, we got a many gifts from friends for the holidays of homemade canned chutneys, jams, and sauces. I felt so rich having them in my cupboard that it inspired me. Making my grandparent's favorite oranges last just a little bit longer seemed like a great way to get started.

Honeybell Oranges Preserved Three Ways
all recipes adapted from The Joys of Jams, Jellies, and other Sweet Preserves by Linda Ziedrich

This book is the only one I own on canning so I can't really review it based on comparison. However, I can tell you that it has a very straightforward approach. If you have never canned before than you definitely need to read the "Preserver's Primer" at the beginning of the book before getting started. The recipes do not repeat the process of actually canning the preserves over and over again, so reading this first will save you the trouble later.

Honeybell Orange Slices in Syrup
makes three half-pints

These were so different from anything normally associated with oranges or how they are to be eaten that I had to try it. The result is a surprisingly intriguing blend of spicy sweet and bitter. I think that they would be good eaten alone, or chopped up and served over ice cream or a plain cake, like pound cake.

3 large oranges
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup honey
3 Tbs. strained lemon juice
2 cinnamon stick
9 cloves
9 allspice berries

To sterilize your jars just throw them in a boiling water bath before you get started. They should be done, dry, and cooled before the oranges are ready. Also, if you are good at timing, you can just throw them in your dishwasher. It gets hot in there.

If the oranges you have were purchased at the store and were not labeled organic than the waxy layer needs to be removed. Put the oranges in a colander in the sink and pour boiling hot water over them and scrum them well.

To slice the oranges first cut a thin slice from the top and bottom on the oranges so you can see the orange sections. Them begin to cut out the orange sections along the membranes, cutting through both the flesh and peel. Put the oranges into a sauce pan (anything but iron or aluminum) and cover them with water. Place the pan over high heat and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the oranges to simmer for 40 minutes, or until they are slightly tender. Then drain the oranges and set them aside.

Put the sugar, honey, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice into the same type of I saucepan (you know, the nonreactive one that isn't made of stainless steel or iron). This recipe calls for you to put the spices into a spice bag...but this sounds like more work than it is worth to me. I just removed them by hand at the end.

Put the pan over a medium heat, and mix the ingredients together until it comes to a simmer. Then add the oranges and simmer for another hour, or until the slices are very tender.

Remove the spices, or the spice bag.

Pack the orange slices vertically, peels out into the jars and add a slice to the center. This part is really just for effect. It does look pretty, and I am glad that I did it, but it does require a wee bit of patience. If you don't care how it looks just throw those suckers in there. Cover the slices with the syrup. Wipe the rim of the jar and them add the lids. be sure to not screw the ring on too tightly.

Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. There are some rules here for you first time canners. One is that you don't want your jar to sit on the bottom of the pan. You need a rack in there. I jerry-rigged (* Is this even the way that word is written? It has just occurred to me that I have never written it) one using the little thing I put in my pans to steam veggies. Also, grab yourself some tongs to put the jars in the water bath and to take them out. You want to try to keep them upright.

Once the jars are done you will want to cool them for a bit on a towel. After they have cooled check to see that the seal has been suctioned down (the fun button to press is no longer there). If they are not sealed then put them back in the boiling water bath and repeat the process.

Honeybell Orange Curd
makes about a pint

I love me some lemon curd. I had never had orange curd before, but now I love me some orange curd. I think you will too.

2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup strained orange juice
3 Tbs. strained lemon juice
6 Tbs butter, softened
1 cup sugar
Grated zest of one orange (optional)

Beat the eggs and yolks in a bowl until they are smooth, then add in the orange and lemon juice and beat again

This recipe calls for this part to be done in a double boiler. But I don't have one and I have made a mess more than once trying to jerry-rig one (twice! in one post!), so I usually forgo the use of this equipment. In the case if lemon or orange curd it doesn't really seem to matter as long as you keep an eye on the heat and stir it constantly.

Melt the butter in a pan over medium low heat. Stir in the sugar, then the egg-juice mixture. Continue stirring until the curd thickens, about five minutes or so. One great thing about this book is that Linda gives you lots of tests, which is great for first-times. In this case, the curd is done when you can draw a path on the back of the spoon with your finger (careful, its hot!) or a thermometer reads 160 degrees F. Stir in the optional zest.

Pour the hot curd into one or more jars and put the lids on tightly. The curd will keep in the fridge for a week or so and in the freezer for at least a couple of months.

Honeybell Orange Jelly Made with Homemade Orange Pectin

This is by far the most complicated of the canning I did. Mostly, because it requires you to make orange pectin first. And also, because I have a bad habit of not reading recipes before I plan to make something. I am often caught with my proverbial pants down. The orange pectin requires about 18 hours in all. I did not realize that the first time I tried to make it. Doh. But, I did eventually set aside time to make it. The thought that by making the jelly I used the juices and the membranes and the pith was very exciting to me. I love things that let you use the whole fruit. Had I been more zealous I would have also made candied orange peels to really use the whole thing. Anyway, back to the jelly.

Homemade Orange Pectin

Number or oranges depends on the size, but about 5 or 6
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cups water

Cut the oranges in half. Squeeze the juice out and save it for the jelly. Discard the seeds.
Scrape out the inside of the oranges so you get all of the membranes and some of the white pith. Keep doing this until you have enough to firmly pack into 2 cups. In a blender blend the orange insides along with the lemon juice and 2 cups water. Let it stand at room temperature for four hours. Then add another 2 cups of water and blend. Then allow it to rest again at room temperature for 12 hours.

Then bring the whole mixture to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a colander, and them through a jelly bag. Surprise, surprise, I don't have a jelly bag. I skipped it. It didn't matter.

Freeze the juice in one cup portions if you are not going to use them right away.

Vanilla-Honeybell Orange Jelly
makes about two half-pints

1 cup strained fresh orange juice
1 cup homemade orange pectin (see above)
2 Tbs. strained lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
Vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise (optional)

Put all of the ingredients into a non-reactive pan over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves and then raise the heat to medium high. Boil the jelly until it passes the spoon test (dribbles slowly off the edge of your spoon) or it reaches 220 degrees F.

Remove the vanilla bean. Put the jelly into the jars, wipe the rims, and tighten the rings. Follow the same procedure for the boiling water bath as for the orange slices. One you remove the jars leave them undisturbed for two days. Apparently, it can be slow to set. If if does not set after this time go back and retrace your steps. It might require you to cook it again if you did not get it to the right temperature or did not use enough sugar.


  1. I've been kicking around the idea of canning something this summer... good to know you can be my go-to woman!!

  2. Welcome back! I've missed your posts these last few weeks.


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