Rhubarb, Tangelo & Cardamom Marmellata

Early spring rhubarb, tangelo and cardamom meld in this lovely, soft-set Italian marmalade.

Rhubarb & Tangelo Marmellata | LunaCafeLast week, looking over the dessert menu at Cantinetta in Seattle (@Cantinetta_Sea on Twitter), I came upon something new and intriguing–Marmaletta. The sound of the word alone made me want to order it.

If you head to Cantinetta soon, while Northwest field-grown rhubarb season is still in full swing, you may be lucky enough to score the Rhubarb Zeppole with Orange Rhubarb Marmaletta. (Spellings vary. So far I’ve seen Marmeletta, Marmaletta, and Marmellata.) One word of advice here: DO NOT offer to share this dessert with your table mates. The order consists of four zeppole, and you will want four more when you’ve eaten those.

Rhubarb & Tangelo Marmellata | LunaCafe

But as good as the zeppole certainly are, it’s the Marmaletta that has taken up residence in my cranium.  And what, pray tell, is Marmaletta (or Marmellata, which seems to be the most official of the various spellings)? Well, to be completely prosaic, it’s jam.  Yup, jam. The best darned jam you’ve ever tasted.

Rhubarb & Tangelo Marmellata | LunaCafe

Actually, that’s not quite right. Jam is usually thick, too thick for my liking. Marmellata should be loosely set. So perhaps it’s best to think of it as a kissing cousin to a fruit confiture, condiment, conserve, or compote. All of these are simply fruit stewed in sugar. But, oh, the magic that happens when fruit meets sugar meets heat in just the right combination.

Rhubarb & Tangelo Marmellata | LunaCafe

I thought of calling Caninetta’s talented pastry chef, Lorna Stokes, and asking her for the recipe—perhaps proposing a blog post around her and it. But first, I hit the web and my cookbook library. Interestingly, I found very little. (It does appear, however, that a Marmellata can be sweet-tart or savory.)

Rhubarb & Tangelo Marmellata | LunaCafe

One thing led to another, as the saying goes, and I soon found myself staring at a heap of glowing orange tangelos and crimson rhubarb on the kitchen counter. Taking a cue from Chef Jerry Traunfeld of Poppy in Seattle (author of The Herbfarm Cookbook), I soaked the tangelo slices in water overnight before cooking. This step allows the rind to soften and release its pectin into the water. It’s the natural fruit pectin, when combined with sugar, correct PH (acidic), and heating to 220° (the gel point) that cause the fruit mixture to set or gel. I knew I would need plenty of pectin because while citrus fruit contains an abundance of the substance, rhubarb contains hardly any at all. It is, after all, actually a vegetable. I was prepared to add powdered pectin if the Marmellata did not set sufficiently, but it wasn’t necessary.

Rhubarb & Tangelo Marmellata | LunaCafe

I have no idea whether what I just created is anywhere close to the original inspiration, and I suspect that it has a distinctly different flavor, with more emphasis on the citrus component. Regardless, this Marmellata is so beautiful on the palate, so redolent of early spring, so completely satisfying, that I can’t wish for anything better.

Rhubarb & Tangelo Marmellata | LunaCafe

Jar Notes

Where oh where to get pretty canning jars? Weck has the market cornered in my estimation. The jars are absolutely elegant and yes, a bit pricey. Ball also has some pretty new options under the banner Collection Elite. I especially like the brushed silver, wide mouth, 1 cup jars. Sur La Table carries the lovely Bormioli Rocco line of Italian canning jars. For a few additional options, see Resources at the end of this post.

Safety First

As it turns out, there is now a big hoopla about the traditional canning jars that we all know and love. Canning jar lids from Ball, Kerr, Golden Harvest, and Bernardin are coated with bisphenol A. If the lid comes in contact with the food inside the jar (duh!), it’s a potential health concern. BPA-free canning jars are produced by Weck and can be ordered online (pointer below). A lot of folks also swear by the old-fashioned wire top canning jars.

On another safety note, you will find fabulous recipes by some of the best cooks that do NOT call for a final boiling water bath. Jerry Traunfeld and Christine Ferber are among these esteemed cooks. In their recipes, that step is abandoned in favor of simply turning the filled jars upside-down on a clean towel. The FDA does NOT recommend this method, however. To be on the safe side, I always include a final boiling water bath of 5-10 minutes for preserves, jams, and jellies. Of course, if you intend to refrigerate your preserves and eat them within a few weeks, you can certainly skip this step.

Rhubarb & Tangelo Marmellata | LunaCafe

17 Delicious Ways to Use Rhubarb, Tangelo & Cardamom Marmellata

Now that I have 5 jars of this delightful Italian marmalade, here are 17 ways I intend to use it over the next few months:

  • Serve over Maui Jim’s Cottage Cheese Pancakes.
  • Slather on warm croissants or toast.
  • Heap on top of cream cheese slathered, toasted bagels.
  • Serve with fresh goat cheese, crostini, and a handful of ripe olives.
  • Use to make a simple deglazing sauce.
  • Serve over fresh ricotta, yogurt, panna cotta, cheesecake, or ice cream
  • Use to make a sorbet.
  • Serve alongside pound cake or financiers.
  • Serve with zeppole, beignet, fritters, or donuts.
  • Add to a turkey, ham, or pork sandwich.
  • Serve alongside roasted pork tenderloin or chop.
  • Swirl into a muffin batter.
  • Serve with smoked salmon, cream cheese and crostini.
  • Serve over cheese blintzes or crepes.
  • Use to make an open-faced jam tart.
  • Serve with a ginger soufflé.

And then there is my FAVORITE way:

  • Eat with a tiny spoon right out of the jar.

I’m sure I’ll think of a few more ways before I run out of Marmellata. But for now, I’m off to look for my tiny spoon.

Rhubarb, Tangelo, & Cardamom Marmellata

This flavor combination is made in heaven. The Marmellata is intentionally on the softly set side so that it can be used as a sauce, as well as a jam. It’s so delicious that you will be tempted to slather it on everything.

4 large tangelos (or cara cara or blood oranges) (2 pounds)
2 pounds fresh rhubarb, trimmed of leaves and ends, sliced lengthwise, then sliced crosswise into ½-inch chunks (1 pound 8 ounces trimmed weight; about 6 cups chopped)
4 cups sugar
12 cardamom pods, pods removed, then ground in a mortar with pestle (2 teaspoons ground)
1-2 Serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced, optional

  1. Using a mandoline or thin slicing disk of a processor, slice the tangelos as thin as possible, preferably 1/16-inch thick.
  2. Stack the tangelo slices in a narrow pitcher or other container, picking out any seeds as you go, and cover with cold water. Seal the top of the container with plastic wrap and weight slices down with a heavy object to keep the top slices under water. Let soak for 12-24 hours.
  3. Remove tangelos from their soaking water and cut each slice into 8 equal wedges.
  4. Add the tangelo wedges and their soaking water to a large nonreactive (stainless steel) pot. Bring to a boil and boil for 30 minutes.
  5. Stir in the sugar, cardamom and optional chiles and continue boiling for 15-30 minutes, until the mixture reaches 220°, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add the rhubarb and simmer for 5-8 minutes. The rhubarb should be softened but not falling apart. The mixture should be somewhat thickened but not overly so. It will thicken more after a few days.
  7. Sterilize your jars. Fill a large pan with water and bring to a boil. Carefully add five 1-cup capacity glass canning jars and boil for 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the jars in the hot water until you are ready to use them.
  8. Sterilize your bands and rings. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, remove from the heat, wait a minute, and then add five jar bands and five new canning lids. Leave the bands and rings in the hot water until you are ready to use them.
  9. Using a jar lifter, remove one of the jars from the hot water and drain all water from it back into the pan. Set the jar upright on a clean towel. Ladle the hot Marmellata into the jar, filling to ¼-inch from the top. Use a damp paper towel to remove any Marmellata from the rim. Using the jar lifter again, remove a lid and band from the hot water. Set the lid on the jar and then screw the band firmly but not over tight. Fill and seal the remaining four jars in the same manner.
  10. Set the jars into a large pot fitted with a canning insert, if you have one. (I used my pasta pot with its perforated insert and arranged some clean towel strips to keep the jars from clanging into each other.) Cover by 2 inches with boiling water and bring back to a boil. Boil for 5-10 minutes. (Many folks say that 5 minutes is sufficient for safety, but 10 minutes is cited in the official directions of the major jar manufacturers.)
  11. Using a jar lifter, remove jars from the water bath and set on a clean towel. When cool, check the seals. If the jars are properly sealed, the center of the lid will NOT yield when you press it. Store these sealed jars in a cool, dry location for up to a year. If any jars do not seal, store them in the refrigerator and use within a few weeks.

Makes about 5 cups.


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  1. says

    Love anything with cardamom so I can imagine how tasty this marmellata must be. Glad that you also added ways on how we can fully enjoy this yummy preserve! Pinned.

  2. says

    I love ANYTHING with Rhubarb! Being from the Midwest, it was a staple in any dessert that showed up after Easter dinner. When we moved to Texas (and other locales, for that matter), it wasn\’t as common. I always think of using it in traditional desserts like pies, tarts, and crumbles. But this version is going on my \”learn to can\” list immediately. Can\’t wait to try it out! Thanks!

  3. says

    I’m with you – I much prefer a more loosely set jam so I think this Marmellata would be right up my alley. I love that you added rhubarb as well, what a stroke of genius. And it’s just so pretty!

  4. says

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  5. Penny Wolf says

    Marmaletta to the rescue! I have a recipe for frozen maple mousse pie(Food Gal) that I want to try now.
    Maple is Spring, despite how it pairs with Fall fruits. Anyway, what to pair with the pie instead of the cranberries? Your “rhubarb marmaletta” will work wonders I bet. Thank you as always for recipes tried and true.

  6. says

    what a sexy post! Those pictures are fantastic, I love all the possible uses provided. Thanks for explaining what Marmelatta is and also fo talking about the pectin and why soaking is important. I just made my first batch of freezer jam, so this is a really exciting (and tasty sounding) post. But of course, your posts are always top of the heap!

  7. says

    Great recipe!

    Appreciate your suggestion especially because you use rhubarb that is available at the moment as a seasonal product here in Germany!


  8. Sistah Sue says

    Hi Susan,
    I LOVE this rhubarb thing. I even found some nice fresh rhubarb in the veggie market here in Mesa. I ate that all gone by-by in a hurry. So I’ll go get some more and try your Mexi-Jam.
    By the way, I just heard a funny tech word on TV: Apphole. Could be my new name for stupid drivers. Also BTW, your photography is simply stunning (is bro Jim still your photog?)
    Anyhow, much love and keep up the good work!

    • sms bradley says

      Oh Sistah Sue, so good to hear from you! :-) You have rhubarb in Arizona? Well of course you can grow just about anything with all that sunshine. And all those trees full of citrus fruits just waiting to be preserved.

      We didn’t make it to Arizona this year unfortunately. But those Santa Fe style houses in the Troon Hills have my name all over them. :-) Maybe one day we will have a winter place in the sun.

      We spent the winter this year in Portland, which was cool but awesome. Walked for miles every day in and around the city. Now back in the Cascade foothills for a while. Someone has to tend the gardens and grass. Saw a bobcat in the yard this morning. Two deer yesterday. Hummingbird looking at me through the window. And the rascal chipmunks eat all the peanuts I can buy them. Rhododendrons are ready to burst. Should be a beautiful show.

      Oh yes, MauiJim is official site photographer, with me as his food stylist. I set the shots up in his photo studio and then leave him to his creative muses. I sometimes think he won’t get a decent shot out of what I have given him, but he continues to surprise me. We both love taking shots at the farmers markets.

      Love to you and “other” Jim. Looking forward to seeing you if you get to the Northwest this summer. MauiJim sends his love too!

  9. Susan says

    Ah, so it’s cooking too long that does it! Thanks for the tip about removing the fruit as well. That will help my sad looking apricot jam this season to appear to actually have ‘cots in it!

    • sms bradley says

      Susan, yes, it seems obvious, but we cooks are usually so concerned about the set that the state of the fruit gets lost in the process. The idea to remove the fruit and bring only the syrup to the gel point is very exciting to me. I fear I am now going to be preserving every fruit I can get my hands on this summer. :-) Do keep me apprised of your canning adventures. So fun to see what other cooks are creating with the season’s bounty.

  10. Anonymous says

    My sister recommended this blog, and she was totally right. You are a brilliant chef with the most imaginative combinations of flavors. I learn so much from reading your posts. You inspire me. Keep up the fantastic work!

  11. says

    Oh yummers! What fabulous colors and flavors! Your jam is gorgeous. :-)
    .-= Krista´s last blog ..Cinco de Mayo and Clementine Ceviche =-.

  12. Susan says

    I have been kicking myself for the past two days for not buying the sweetest Cara Cara oranges that I tasted at the farmers mkt on Sunday. Now, I’m really pist at myself! Dang!I’m so glad that you made your marmalatta,letta,lata..soft serve. It’s my favorite set for jam. You should see me tipping all the jam in the stores hoping for a rising air bubble! Almost never happens. I can’t wait to try this. Quick question: Will this hold it’s color without darkening?

    • sms bradley says

      Susan, you tip the jars too? :-) Cara Cara oranges would be wonderful here. Besides being too stiff, most jams are far too sweet for my palate. The rhubarb takes care of that nicely. I’m assuming this marmellata will hold its color. So far so good, but its only been a couple of days. In my experience, the color darkening issue more often happens by long cooking of the jam and can be seen right away.

      I am rereading Mes Confitures tonight and will try the author’s method next time in which she removes the barely cooked fruit from the boiling jam and then continues to cook only the syrup to 220 degrees. That way the fruit does not disintegrate and has more integrity in the finished preserves. As you can see in the photos, the rhubarb did not hold its shape very well, although the color is lovely. Very excited to do a lot more small batch preserving this summer. Those softly glisening jars of goodness are magical to the spirit.

  13. sms bradley says

    Lebanese Honey, thank you! I sliced the tangelos on a mandoline cutter set as thin as possible while still keeping the slices intact. I completed the recipe as directed in the post. However, next time, I will remove all of the fruit after only a few minutes of cooking the rhubarb. Then continue cooking the syrup to 220 degrees, the gel point. That way the rhubarb should hold its shape better. Delicious either way though.

  14. sms bradley says

    Healthy, yes, you really must give this a go. It’s not difficult, and you will be very happy with the results. And thank you!


  1. What a fabulous post. This looks so delicious. You have given me the confidence to actually give it a try. I have never canned anything in my life, but I have to make this. I love this blog!

  2. This looks amazing. What a combination. You are so creative. I can smell the aroma halfway around the world. Oh the cardamom. How did you slice the oranges so thin? Do you recommend removing the rhubarb before it collapses? You don’t say in the recipe itself.

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