In recent months, I’ve logged an astonishing number of hours making marmalade. Many kinds of marmalade. I’ve learned that lots of recipes tell you to cut the peel into thin slices, but leave you alone to figure out the particulars. Other recipes require arguably unnecessary work to separate peel from pulp. We need some help here.
My favorite style of fruit slicing allows you to quickly cut out the pithy center and seeds (setting either aside if needed), while yielding slender, uniform slices of rind. I learned it from One Green Generation and made a couple of modifications to get the kind of slices I like best — thick enough to withstand processing and give you a good bite, but thin and even enough to pass for elegant. I’ve used this on lemons, oranges, limes. It will also work for grapefruit, but I don’t necessarily recommend that because grapefruits usually need to be blanched and softened before they’re sliced. Let your recipe be your guide.
Here we go:
1. Chill out! Wash or wipe your citrus clean, then put it in the fridge until it’s nice and cold. Cold citrus slices much finer — and much more easily — than warm.
2. Sharpen up your favorite knife. Of course you know most accidents happen with dull knives, and you’re going to get pretty close to your thumbs here. I assume you want to keep them.
3. Slice the fruit along the stem, like so . . .
4. Notch the fruit to remove the pith from the center, as shown.
6. Turn the pieces over, then finely slice the fruit. (Depending on the size of your fruit and the length you want your slices to be, you might like to cut the pieces in half again along the notch, then turn them over and start slicing.) Sometimes I’ll make larger slices — about 1/4″ — and sometimes I’ll make very thin slices, about the width of the knife. This is the part where the knife blade ends up very close to your fingertips, so curl them downward toward the fruit and stay awake!
7. Deal with the odds and ends. You’ll probably have some wide slices of rind from the very ends of the fruit. Depending on how ambitious you’re feeling, you can slice them up or discard/compost them.
Tips for pith and seeds: What I do with the notched-out pith and seeds depends on the pectin situation in the recipe I’m making. If I am adding the citrus slices to a high-pectin juice, like quince, apple, or a second citrus juice that I’ve cooked down using the whole fruit, I discard those pithy extras. (This Quince-Orange-Cardamom Marmalade is one example of a recipe that doesn’t use the pith.) But if I’m simmering my slices and soaking them in water that I’ll use to cook the marmalade, I often make a “pith bag” by tying up some pith and seeds in cheesecloth (well, honestly, it’s a clean piece of a porous old T-shirt) — and I include that bag with the slices during the simmer and soak to bump up the pectin content. (You can check out this Meyer Lemon-Strawberry Marmalade for an example of that.) You can also use just the seeds for a pectin boost — tying them up in a porous cloth or containing them in a stainless steel tea ball. Again, your fruit and the recipe you’re using — or inventing — should give you the clues and cues you need.