It is that time of year again and Seville oranges are in the shop! This is delightful news to me, as I love making marmalade, and I like eating it even more, but it has to be home made! After all the excitement of Christmas and New Year, it is something to look forward to and my long dreary winter nights will be filled with the frenzied activity of marmalade making in my kitchen
I have a friend in Spain who claims that I will never be able to make really good marmalade as I can’t use fresh Seville oranges. He is obsessed by marmalade making and even enters his preserves into the annual Marmalade Competition in Cumbria at Dalemain House. Sadly I can’t go to Spain to pick my Seville oranges straight off the tree but this is the best marmalade I have ever made:
Buy at least 1 ½ lbs Seville oranges (I buy more just for the pips!) – usually rather shrivelled and unattractive looking by the time they get to Hay on Wye! However vital for their high pectin content – then buy another 1 ½ juiciest most delicious citrus fruits but not satsumas they don’t work as well! Maybe a grapefruit, lemon, lime or different type of oranges! If you don’t have the time to do it all now, just buy the Seville oranges and freeze them, as they are only around for about a month.
Put all the fruit in a giant pan (I have my granny’s old preserving pan) and cover with 4 pints of water and simmer gently for about 5-6 hours (I just leave mine in the simmering oven of my old range overnight) If you can cover with foil and a lid so much the better to stop water evaporating
Remove the fruit from the water and cut all fruit in half – scoop out all the pips and put the pips/pulp in a saucepan, covered with about ½ pint water and simmer for about 10 minutes. When this liquid is cool, strain the liquid into the jam pan with the water you cooked the fruit in! To ensure a really good set, I put the pips/pulp in a sieve lined with an old square of muslin, I then collect the four corners of the muslin to make a pouch like bag which I twist into a ball, squeezing out all the extra pectin I can into my jam pan.
Meanwhile cut up the fruit – I throw all mine in the magimix and give it a blast! Then put your cut up fruit back in the jam pan. Add the sugar, all 6lbs of it, and cook gently on a low heat until all sugar is dissolved, the bring up to the boil and boil furiously WITHOUT BURNING IT!! You can’t go off and do something else whilst making marmalade!(Whilst doing all this I put all my old kilner jars and recycled glass pots and lids in the bottom oven or on a very very low heat to kill germs etc and sterilise them ready for this year’s version!)
I have now invested in a jam thermometer having waisted hours at the stove with saucers in the fridge trying to achieve a good set and never sure how wrinkly the blob of jam or marmalade should be!!! So boil away without burning the bottom of your pan until the jam thermometer reaches about 105 degrees centigrade!! I would make sure the marmalade is at a rolling boil for a good ten minutes. Remove the pan from heat, and allow to cool a little and pot up into your warmed jars, cover with waxy paper circles and seal with cellophane circles and rubber bands and a lid if it will fit on! There is nothing more satisfying than labelling all your own pots of marmalade, jams and jellies and then smugly assembling them on shelves in your larder or cupboard and then just periodically taking a look at it all!!! Even better is eating it as nothing tastes better than homemade marmalade generously spread on a toasted and liberally buttered crust of bread!!! Homemade of course!!!
OK so having written this blog – I have now made my first batch of marmalade and for the first time ever it has refused to set so I am going back to putting saucers in the fridge again!! If in doubt add 1/2 a bottle of Certo!!!