The Huntington Library may be best known for its botanical gardens and art collection, but in the museum's kitchen, the citrus trees on the property are the main draw for the on-site chefs, who make some pretty fantastic marmalade from the fruit.
If you're a Huntington regular, you probably already know that the San Marino property was originally a working ranch with citrus groves, fruit orchards and various other crops. Which gets us to that really great marmalade.
Made on-site, it is fantastically chunky and has that batch-specific charm (erratic sizes of orange peel, a just-made vibrancy) that makes homemade marmalade so great. Orange is the mainstay variety on the tearoom menu and makes regular appearances at museum events. But according to Huntington staffer Chris Springhorn, other citrus varieties — tangerines, lemons — make appearances throughout the year, albeit in controlled, museum-appropriate quantities. “Oh, those Meyer lemons, they will take over everything if you let them, bless their hearts,” Springhorn said in Southern tearoom–appropriate lingo.
When not under citrus quarantine, which Springhorn notes occurs frequently (and is currently the case), Sierra Madre's E. Waldo Ward processes the museum's fruit for retail sale. The E. Waldo Ward version, available in the gift shop, has more of that “souvenir marmalade” flavor (good but not as good as homemade), as is to be expected when chef spontaneity is traded for a prescribed retail recipe formula.
If you can't make it by the tearoom for the handmade version (and we highly recommend that you do), we suggest picking up a copy of A Celebration of Herbs for modern and historic recipe inspiration from the library's former herb garden curator, Shirley Kerins.
The cookbook, published in 2003, includes plenty of inspired savory-recipe ideas (cream of carrot and lovage leaf soup, cold cherry soup with sweet woodruff). But it's the dessert recipes (carnation petal candies, an Indian rose pudding) and the chapter on jams and jellies (candied citrus peels with tarragon sugar, thyme-grape jelly, lavender-peach conserve) that still entices us to flip through the pages nearly 10 years after it was published.
Curiously, though, there is no recipe for orange marmalade. A recipe under quarantine, we presume.