Bergamot (Sweet Lemon) Marmalade

bergamots

Like Pistachio Gelato or Polenta Ice Cream, this recipe might fall into the category of “Things You Can’t Make” for some of you.

Yes, bergamots aren’t something one runs across everyday in the supermarket, or even at greengrocers. But mid-winter, depending on where you live, you just might get lucky and happen across some, as I recently did. Twice! (Although the second time took a bit of moxie.)

bergamot marmalade

There’s conflicting information what a bergamot actually is, but it’s definitely a member of the citrus family and most consider it to be a relative of the bitter orange, which might have been mated with a lemon at some point in its dubious past.

Often the peel is used to flavor Earl Grey tea, and in France, many people are familiar with bergamot as they’re used to make the balmy-tasting Bergamots de Nancy hard candies, from the Lorraine region.

citron bergamot halved bergamots

When buying citrus for jam-making, be sure to source out organic or unsprayed fruits. There’s a certain poo-pooing of the organic movement out there. “Bio [the organic movement] is a waste of time…” says actor and restaurateur Gerard Depardieu. But since he also went on to say that his grandmother put uncomposted waste on their vegetables (although he used more, um, colorful language), well—let’s just say if that’s what they called ‘organic’, I’d want to avoid the movement as well.

chopped bergamots

I had a friend who felt the same way, and I handed her some lemon peels that I had candied from citrons that were marked “Non traitée après recolte” (untreated after picked). I picked them up at my local market, imagining they were fine, but found the peels (which took me quite a while to make) were inedible. And from the look on her face after she ate half of one, I think I converted another person to the importance of organic citrus.

citrus/agrumes

Another thing that puts a lot of people are the prices of organic produce and the prices at the organic stand at my market are completely beyond astronomical. And the vendor isn’t even a farmer, they’re just selling produce that they buy from Spain, Cameroon, France, Morocco, and whereever. But for folks worried about eating raw eggs and getting nasties from meat, it’s definitely worth buying from trusted sources. Citrus is no exception, and you want all your hard work to pay off with jars of delicious, clean-tasting marmalade.

Curiously, I bought my bergamots at Naturalia, a local health food chain and the eight I picked up cost me €2.33 (about $3). The bag of sugar I bought (non-organic, since it’s hard to find refined organic sugar that melts clear) cost around €1, so this marmalade clocks in at less than one buck a jar. That, in France, is what we call a bon marché (good deal).

bergamots in pot jam jar

After I made my first batch, it was pretty darned tasty, but was lacking the brilliant yellow intensity that I was hoping for. I was intrigued by a technique that I’d seen in a recipe in The Independent for Bergamot and Cedro Marmalade, which called for blanching the bergamots, draining them, then commencing the marmalade from there.

So I went back to the store to get more fruit. I don’t know how the stores here manage to do it, but whatever I seem to be looking for on my shopping list, they’re invariably have everything—but the one thing I desperately need. I’m beginning to think that there’s a hidden webcam in my apartment, and they see what I need, then take it off the shelves before I get there.

bergamot marmalade jam spoon

And sure enough, where the full box of bergamots was barely a week ago, there was now kohlrabi. (Which I like, but didn’t think would make good marmalade.) So I searched and searched. Then finally left my neighborhood and found another Naturalia which carried some, so I scooped them up.

I did a side-by-side tasting of the two batches of marmalade and found the flavors similar, but the color of the pre-blanched bergamot marmalade (on the right, above) was brighter and sunnier.

bergamot marmalade

I’m going to consider myself lucky I was able to find bergamots. Twice. But I’m not pushing my luck, and will have to make this last batch of marmalade last until next year. And I don’t give a s&$t what anyone says about organic produce; if you’re going to make this, it’s worth searching it out.

Bergamot Marmalade
Make about one quart (1l)

Before making this marmalade, be sure to check and make sure your fruit resembles mine. What are called bergamots in France, go by different names elsewhere. Just below, I’ve linked to Wikipedia entries describing bergamot oranges and citron Limetta, which are what they refer to bergamots in France as. And that’s what I used.

You can read more about them at What is a bergamot? For this recipe, you could substitute any sweet lemon, such as a Meyer lemon.

  • 8 bergamots (about 700g), organic or unsprayed
  • 3 cups (600g) sugar
  • 4 cups (1l) water, plus more for blanching the bergamots
  • pinch of sea salt
  • optional: 2 teaspoons kirsch or lemoncello

1. Rinse and dry the bergamots, trim off the stem ends, then cut each in half and pluck out the seeds.

2. Cut the bergamots into quarters and using a sharp knife (I used this one), slice the quarters as thinly as possible.

Tip: If you have trouble getting them very small, after slicing, you can use a chef’s knife to chop them to the right size. Don’t use a food processor, as that will make the marmalade muddy.

3. Put in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Let boil for five minutes, then drain well.

4. Return the bergamots to the pot, add the sugar, 1 quart (1l) of water, and salt, and bring to a boil. Cook the bergamots, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade begins to set using the wrinkle test: turn the marmalade off and put a dab on a plate that’s been in the freezer then check it after five minutes; if it wrinkles when you nudge it, it’s done. If not, continue to cook, repeating this step, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Depending on the heat, the marmalade will take at least 30 minutes to reach this point, although if you’re used to making other jams, it will look slightly more liquid than others when done. You can also use a candy thermometer; the jam will be done when the temperature reaches around 220ºF (104ºC).

5. Once done, stir in the liqueur, if using, then ladle into clean jars and twist on the lids. Once cool, store in the refrigerator, where they’ll keep for at least six months.

For those interesting in canning and preserving the marmalade, you can find downloadable instructions at the USDA website.



Related Links and Recipes

What is a bergamot?

Bergamot orange (Wikipedia)

Citron Limetta

Candied Citron

Beguiling Bergamot (Daniel Patterson)

Bergamot Madeleines (Chez Pim)

Bergamot Growers Get a Whiff of Success (BBC)

Bergamot Marmalade (Yum in Tum)

Bergamot Orange Custard Cups (Hungry Cravings)

Seville Orange Marmalade

Shallot, Beer and Cocoa Nib Marmalade

Apricot Jam

No-Recipe Cherry Jam

Rhubarb-Berry Jam

109 comments

  • You rock for posting this. I just did a post the other day about these magical perfumed lemons here in Morocco that I have come to live for!!!! I had no idea that they are like a thing. I have also been searching for lemon recipes!!! Two for one! Thanks you.

  • It would have been so great to have this recipe two weeks ago. I just spent my last day in Paris hunting in vain for bergamots. Now I’ll have to wait till next year to try this. Unless I luck out at Fairway market, you never know…

    GT’s honey-citrus marshmallows also sound fabulous. I’ll have to try those if I find the elusive fruit.

  • Oh, I’m going to try this recipe asap! I’m lucky enough to live in CA and have my own bergamot orange tree. I’ve made bergamot marmalade before, but I like the sound of your version.

    I am probably going to stop mentioning weight of fruit in recipes from here on out, because of the variations in them, to avoid confusion. -dl

    No, no, if you’re going to drop one, drop the number rather than the weight! 700 grams is 700 grams, but 8 bergamot oranges could be anything. Mine look like yours, but I suspect are larger, and I’m glad you included the weight.

    Mine are also tart like a lemon and very perfumed. I used them once to make Shaker Lemon Pie, the one where you slice the lemons thinly, peel and all, and macerate in sugar. It’s divine with lemons, but with the bergamot oranges. . . well, it was like eating perfume, and I don’t mean that in a good way!

  • Bonjour David
    I have discovered bergamot very recently and I have been amazed by the flavour of it !I even have posted a recipe with this fruit :
    http://pierre.cuisine.over-blog.com/article-sur-un-sable-gelee-de-kumqat-espuma-de-lime-poudre-de-bergamote-44500258.html

    Pierre another french foodie blogger based also in Paris!

  • I second the question of Pavitra – doesn’t all the juice leave the bergamots while blanching? I bought some last weekend but still haven’t got round to using them, hope they’re still ok – looking forward to making the marmalade tomorrow!

  • Jule and Pavitra: I had the same concerns as well. But most of the flavor in marmalade is from the pith and skins, which in the case of bergamots, are extremely strong in flavor.

  • WOW!! I did not even know that bergamots were fruit…I thought it was an herb, thanks for the info, I bet that marmelade is divine!! Does it have somewhat of that Earl Grey flavour?? Thanks, Patricia

  • When are you coming to Texas -I miss seeing you!

  • Check out this woman’s marmalade David. It is absolutely stunning. I am a marmalade fanatic and hers is very good.
    http://forwardthinkingfoods.blogspot.com/2010/04/beautiful-by-design.html