Snow. Winter. Blizzard. Ice. Sub-zero temperatures. These words have become anathema to so many people due to this season’s exceptionally cold and harsh weather. For the first half of the winter, I was its outspoken advocate. Summer’s heat and humidity really drag on my ability to enjoy the outdoors and the dangerously high pollen levels of the last couple springs & falls wreaked havoc for me and my fellow allergy sufferers. Therefore, I welcomed the cleansing, restful effect of winter. Even through January’s polar vortices (or vortexes if you prefer) I appreciated the change winter brings.
Then, more harsh weather came in February, but with the frigid temperatures also came the sun. Sunshine, glorious sunshine! It’s something we don’t see much of in the latter part of winter in Ohio. Typically, February seems to be filled with grey, cold, wetness that soaks its dreary way into the soul, causing lots of humans to develop symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. This year, the lack of cloud cover that let all of the heat escape from the planet’s surface let in the blessed rays of that giant flaming orb at the center of our solar system. For me, it’s been a game changer.
With all that said, easing our way to March and being but days until spring I’m ready for a warm-up. Things are already looking up as I’ve seen–or heard if I want to be truthful–more and more birdsong in the mornings. On a walk this past week, I squealed with delight seeing the tips of crocus, tulips and daffodils breaking through the frost-tipped soil like baby birds breaking their shells. Oh, how spring sings to my soul. Without a doubt, the best part has been seeing the return of bright green moss filling up the brown spaces between the bricks of our sidewalks.
All of this change is thanks to longer days with increasingly more sunlight. It warms the earth, stimulates plants to begin their annual process of budding out and sure as hell helps drag a lot of humans out of the grey/cold-induced blues!
In recent years, I’ve learned to ward off wintry blues by preserving a bit of the glory of the sun. That is, by making orange marmalade. It’s not something I grew up with, nor did I have much exposure to it. I was prompted into it by my love for preserving and lack of having done so in months. When my cousin clued me in to a Florida farm that brings boxes of citrus up to us poor sun-starved Midwesterners I jumped at the chance.
I used dear ol’ Alton Brown’s recipe as a basis for my method. The reason I used the term method is that marmalade isn’t going to turn out the same each time as it depends largely on how juicy and how sweet the oranges are. Marmalade seems to be a lot more forgiving than jams/jellies because the bitter pith of citrus is where all the pectin comes from so you needn’t mess with exact measurements the way many say you do with jams and jellies that use boxed or liquid pectin. The really great news is that one small batch only requires 2 or 3 oranges so even if it doesn’t work out well the first try, you’ll probably have a delicious orange sauce on your hands.