Us English believe that we are the only nation that appreciates marmalade but I am sure that we are wrong. Once, on a trip to the States, a friend insisted that I took my own marmalade supply telling me that I would never find any over there. She was wrong, of course, and I was lumbered with an unnecessary jam jar on my travels which I ended up giving away to an American who wondered what all the fuss was about..
Marmalade is important though – she was right there and life on a morning without toast and our traditional orange preserve is almost unthinkable.
Now is the time when the Seville oranges are in season and all over the nation, well in select pockets like Lewes, everyone is out buying them because they are the best oranges, with their distinctive bitterness for making marmalade.
This year, I was persuaded to make my own and, dear readers, this is how I got on.
There is something about the colour of oranges, they remind me that not that long ago they were the very symbol of exoticism in these temperate climes. They are still a treat – as is Seville Marmalade.
As on previous culinary adventures, I relied on good old Delia Smith, the idiot’s guide to cooking anything and everything with her no-nonsense and explain everything attitude. If she wrote a sex guide, it would leave nothing to the imagination.
So here goes….with some nerves it has to be said because this is an epic undertaking and, if it goes wrong, a monumental waste of time. First cut the orange in half…well I told you Delia says it as it is.
Squeeze out its juice….
…trying to keep the pips and the pith in the little central bit of your lemon squeezer…..
…pour the juice into a stiff bottomed pan with two pints of water….
…put the pips and pith onto a square of muslin on a dish. This will add the pectin to the mix, the essential ingredient for setting the marmalade.
… then just the rest keep going with your two pounds of oranges….
…building up a lovely mushy mess in the muslin…..
..making sure that you have emptied the peel halves of all their pith…..
…then you cut the peel into fine strips…….removing the remains of the pith and wasting nothing…..
…the peel slices go into the water with the juice…..
….then you gather up the end of the muslin square…..
and tie it up with a piece of string long enough to tie the bag to the saucepan’s handle……
…..you then place it in the pan……
…and tie it into position so that it is in contact with the water…..
…then bring it to the boil and let it simmer for two hours…….keeping it stirred regularly…..
…two hours later, remove the muslin bag and place it on a plate to cool…..
By then, the muslin bag should be cool enough to allow you to get a grip on it, squeezing its mushy contents into the saucepan……this is a wonderfully messy and highly tactile moment – enjoy!
…then bring it to the boil and keep it bubbling away for fifteen minutes….you put some saucers in the fridge now so that they will be cold for when it is time to test if it is ready to set……after the fifteen minutes you spoon a little of the mix onto one of the saucers and return it to the fridge to cool. If after a short time it has a wrinkly skin when you touch it with your finger, then it is ready, if not carry on boiling for another ten minutes and so on, keep testing it on the cold saucers. Then, delia didn’t say this, lick your finger to see what your marmalade tastes like. Hmmm….delicious.
…I then tried to get rid of any scum floating on the surface by adding a half teaspoon of butter and mixing it in, thanks to Delia’s advice….then I left the mixture to settle for twenty minutes….
..had it all been worth it? I wasn’t sure. It looked dramatic enough and tasted nicely bitter without being too much so. It was now time to ladle the marmalade into jars that had been warmed in the oven for ten minutes at a moderate temperature.
…it looked OK…..and wasn’t so stiff that it had turned to toffee…..
…once in the jars, I covered the tops with greaseproof paper to keep out any air bubbles……
and put on the lids to my very first jars of homemade marmalade…..
0h, I forgot to mention an important point. Choose the right music for this operation as it does take some time. Perfect for me was Icelandic band Sigur Ros especially if you don’t speak Icelandic. It created just the right rapt atmosphere for concentration without being too distracting……have a listen: