Today I have a special treat for all you grapefruit lovers out there. Or any citrus fruit lovers for that matter, because this recipe can be used to make an orange, tangerine or lemon marmalade as well.
I even made a mixed citrus marmalade this way recently (using oranges, grapefruits, lemons and tangerines), and it turned out heavenly. It was an excellent way to preserve some of the beautiful, locally grown citrus fruits that we have in such an abundance each winter here in Croatia.
It is a custom in the Balkans to use all the variety of fruits that ripen in late summer and throughout the autumn season for making different kinds of preserves, most often jams. But for some reason, people seem to be making citrus jams or marmalades more seldomly in the wintertime. Or, maybe, I just got that experience from having lived most of my life in the continental Croatia rather than at the coast.
Anyhow, if you are one of the lucky people who have citrus trees growing in their gardens, and just happen to have stumbled upon this blog after wondering how to use up all those fruits that you got this year, it is never too late to turn some of them into a batch of delicious marmalade. It can be a nice present for friends, or a cool thing to bring to a family lunch.
A simple, sugar-free recipe that doesn’t call for added pectin.
A bomb, right?
This winter I have already made at least six or seven batches of grapefruit marmalade, so I got to experiment with it quite a bit. I wanted to come up with a simple recipe, without too much mess, too much chopping or too many ingredients.
I also wanted to avoid the usual amounts of sugar that give marmalades their proper consistency. In order to keep the flavours fresh and not destroy the fruits, I decided to keep the cooking time as short as possible.
Fulfilling all these conditions AND not adding any pectin might sound a bit insane, but bare with me. It did not only work perfectly, but it also resulted in one of the most popular winter treats in my friends and family circles. I am actually sharing this recipe because people have already asked for it.
Working with the naturally occurring pectin
Grapefruit (and other citrus fruit) peels are naturally packed with pectin, and we can create the conditions that will help us make the best use of it.
First of all, we need to soften the peels. As I already mentioned, long cooking time is not really an option for me – we want to preserve as much of that beautiful fruity freshness as we can. This is why I like to soak the chopped grapefruit in water overnight.
Soaking will soften the peels and make the pectins more accessible. The last batch that I made was actually soaked in grapefruit juice rather than water (I used the “leftover” peels to make candied grapefruit peels, as shown in this recipe). If that one was a cake and I needed to give it some cheesy name, it would probably be called something like a Double Grapefruit Fantasy… Not just your everyday marmalade, an experience…
So much flavour, insane.
After soaking, the best option is to either mince the fruit into an almost a mash-like texture, or – much easier and less messy – to grind them a bit using a stick mixer or a food processor. We don’t want a real fruit mash here, but we want to break down the peels into much smaller pieces. That way we will need less cooking, and the marmalade will not separate once it is cooked.
The acidity on the mixture is also important. Lowering the pH will help neutralise the negative charges on pectin molecules, making them suitable for forming a “net” that is responsible for setting the marmalade. If your grapefruits are already really sour, that is great in this case. If not, you can use a lemon in the recipe, to lower the pH a bit more.
Cooking time is also essential when working with pectin. You need the heat to form a “gel”, but too much heat can destroy them and make the marmalade loose its natural gelling properties. It is good to start checking if the marmalade has set after about five to ten minutes of cooking (depending on how well ground or minced the peels are).
You can do this by pouring a few drops of your marmalade onto a cold glass or ceramic dish, preferably one that was properly cooled down in a freezer. If the marmalade forms a light gel when cooled down, you can remove the pot from the heat.
Or, you can skip all that.
After having said all this, I have to admit something. This marmalade will actually turn out amazing even if you forget about all the cooking and setting adventures. You can simply let it boil for only 5 minutes, and then transfer into the jars.
The consistency will be so nice that you will not miss the gelling part at all. It made my life a bit easier and most of the times I will do it the savage way, with the shortest possible cooking time and no setting tests. There, now you know my grapefruit secret. Works every time.
My choice of sweetener for a fresh tasting and sugar-free marmalade.
This recipe works great with xylitol, and I created it this way because there are not that many recipes for sugar-free marmalades out there. Also, I do prefer fruit marmalades without added sugar, and since grapefruit is naturally really low in sugar, the recipe calls for some kind of a sweetener.
Xylitol is a naturally occurring polyalcohol (sugar alcohol) that is often derived from birch bark or corn cob. Its naturally sweet taste and low glycemic index make it an excellent sugar replacement for those who avoid carbohydrate sugars for whatever reason.
I agree that any non-refined sugar would be the most natural option (since you do need to use some sweetener, especially with the sour yellow grapefruit variety), but I also know that using anything in moderation can be a perfectly fine option for our health and the environment. I rarely use pure sugar alcohols in my recipes, but this is one of the exceptions that are 100% worth it.
If you are in the traditional sugary marmalade team, don’t worry – I’ve got you covered too.
Nevertheless, if you are more of an old-school sugary marmalade kind of person, you can still make it your way – this marmalade will also turn out amazing if you use the equal amount of raw cane sugar instead of xylitol.
It won’t work as good with sugars that are high in molasses, such as muscovado, or coconut sugar. It is possible to use them, but you might not get the proper marmalade consistency.
Also, with molasses rich sugars, the colour and flavour of the marmalade will change, and I think it is a shame not to preserve the best from grapefruits – including their rich flavour and aroma, and beautiful light colour.
That is why I normally choose xylitol for this recipe. It will keep the marmalade looking and tasting fresh, and it doesn’t call for a long cooking time. Equally important (for me at least) – it makes this marmalade sugar-free, which is a better option for your teeth AND blood sugar levels. Everything on point.
Combine the grapefruit marmalade with…
- these delicious vegan spelt flour thin pancakes that taste just like the real old-school crepes;
- the tasty and fluffy gluten-free oat pancakes;
- a slice of this pumpkin and cornmeal soda bread;
- some homemade spelt sourdough bread;
- chia breakfast bowl, instead of the classic autumn flavours in the recipe.
- 2 cups of chopped grapefruits with peels (2 whole large grapefruits, chopped)
- 1 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (juice of 2 large grapefruits)
- 2/3 cup water
- 1 lemon (juice and peel)
- 1 cup xylitol (200 g or 7 oz)
- Cut two large grapefruits into 1 - 2 cm (0,4 - 0,8 inch) long pieces.
- Squeeze the juice from the other two grapefruits. Save the peels for another recipe (for example this one for candied grapefruit peels).
- Squeeze the lemon to get the juice, and chop the peel.
- Put the chopped grapefruits and lemon peel into a glass or ceramic bowl. Pour the squeezed grapefruit juice, water and lemon juice over the fruits. Press gently if needed, to keep the fruits submerged.
- Let the fruits soak in the liquid for about 8 hours. If it is warm in your kitchen, you can keep the bowl in the fridge.
- After the chopped grapefruits have soaked for long enough (you will notice that the peels have gotten softer), gently blend them with the soaking liquid to break them into smaller pieces. The best way to do this is by using a stick mixer or a food processor, but a low-speed blender can also work. Just make sure you don't overdo it - we want to mince the fruit (mainly to break down the peel), not blend it or turn it into a fine mash. An equipment-free way to do it would be to simply mince the fruits with a knife.
- Transfer the minced fruits into a cooking pot, add the xylitol and stir to combine.
- Put it on the stove, start cooking over a low heat and bring to a boil.
- Cook for 5-10 minutes over the lowest heat, while stirring regularly.
- After 5-10 minutes of cooking, you can start testing if the marmalade has started setting. You can do this by pouring a few drops onto a chilled glass or ceramic dish. If the cooled marmalade has a somewhat gel-like, even a bit wobbly texture, it is the time to turn off the heat. From my experience, this doesn't take more that 10 minutes to happen, so be careful and make sure you don't overcook it - if cooked for too long, the marmalade could loose its setting ability.
- Pour the marmalade into sterilised jars.
* in case you find grapefruit flavour and acidity a bit intense, you can replace the squeezed grapefruit juice in this recipe with water. I tried both versions, and loved them equally. The one with water turned out milder, less sour and a bit less bitter. In both cases I used the yellow grapefruit variety, which is naturally more sour and bitter, with almost no sweetness to it.
* if you are the brave grapefruit lover who will use the grapefruit juice as instructed, you can save the leftover peels for later - i created a really nice candied peel recipe (without refined sugar!) especially for cases like that.
* you can skip the last step with the setting test and simply turn the heat off already after 5 minutes of cooking. I have done this multiple times, and the result was always great. The marmalade consistency was really nice, it was not watery and did not separate while cooling down.
* after filling the jars, it is the best to keep this marmalade in the fridge - that way it will last for months. Since this is not a classic preserve with a lot of sugar and long cooking time, I would not rely on its longevity if stored at the room temperature (my concern here is that it might catch mould if kept in a warm place). In case you decide to test this, I'd be happy to hear how it went!