On the last day of the first month of the year, I woke up to dark skies, snow-covered roofs, and a chilly wind fighting with the trees – ah ha I thought ‘the perfect weather for the ritual of marmalade making!’
Marmalade making is one of those seasonal food rituals right up there with ramsons pesto, steaming the first, first early potatoes, and covering sloes in gin and sugar! As soon as I’ve sliced the first Seville orange and released its citrusy zest, I’m transfixed by a mountain of oranges, slowly transforming into slithers of peel perfect for thick-cut marmalade.
I made a little pledge to myself at the beginning of the year to cook using more whole foods and less processed ingredients. At the moment I am still using up some my pre-pledge store cupboard (or ikea wire basket draws) staples including refined white sugar. Refined sugar seems to be the basis for most jams, I guess because it doesn’t impart too much flavour only sweetness. I’m keen to try some alternatives and have come across a few recipes using golden caster sugar or honey. Although I’m not sure if honey marmalade is one that keeps.
Marmalade making is also about creating patterns, and its great for ordered minds. I love each stage from chopping spherical orange into semi perfect circles, then triangles into messy match sticks. This process, according to the recipe takes half an hour – but I would say its more like an hour and half.
I’ve used a recipe from Good Housekeeping’ Cook’s Year . It’s a book I’ve had for 20 years. The recipe is straightforward and gives good results.
Notes: The potency of Seville oranges’ pectin can diminish the older the fruit is – which is something I’ve experienced. After 3/4 hour my marmalade was still runny, so I cheated and added some jam sugar – there you go!
Good Housekeeping’s Seville Marmalade
- 1.4 kg / 3 lb Seville oranges
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 6 pints of water
- 2.7 kg / 6 lb sugar
Halve the oranges and squeeze out juice and pips. Pop the juice in a very large pan. Save the pips and pith and tie up in a muslin square secure to the side of the pan so it doesn’t sit on the base of the pan but still remains submerged. Chop the rind into thin matchstick slices and add to the pan. Cover with 6 pints of water and bring to the boil and simmer for 2 hours until the fruit is soft and the liquid has reduced by half. Let cool and remove the muslin bag. Squeeze the bag – you want to remove as much of the sticky stuff as possible as this will help the marmalade set. Add the sugar and reheat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and rapidly boil for 15 minutes or until the mixture has reached setting point. To check setting point chill a plate in the fridge/freezer. Put a small amount on the plate and gently push with your finger – you are looking for a skin to appear, or crinkle on the surface of the marmalade. To sterilise your jars either use sterilising fluid, or place the jars in a cold oven and heat to 150 degrees (fan oven). Let the mixture cool and spoon into jars – use a jam funnel – its much easier. Cover each jar with a wax disk and using gloves attach lid well.