‘Tis the Season… to make marmalade!

orange marmalade

We’ve had the season to be jolly – now we have the season to make marmalade… If you’ve never done jamming/preserving before but fancy giving it a try, marmalade is the easiest , most satisfying of jams. I’m always amazed at how many jars of the stuff you get for so few oranges.

The secret to a really tangy marmalade is to get the Seville oranges that are only available at this time of year. You do have to have a bit of patience with the slicing of the skin, but the results are worth it. The flavour of your marmalade is super-tangy and you can use it to give an orangey zip to all kinds of cakes and sauces.

My favourite recipe is from Delia – but like all of us, I adapt to what suits and the time I have available. You will need a big preserving pan as when the mixture boils it froths up no end. If you have only a large saucepan I suggest using half the ingredients listed below.  This recipe makes about 6lb of marmalade so you’ll need some glass jars which have previously been storing jam, honey or marmalade – don’t use pickled onion, olive or any savoury jars as they may impart a nasty taste. The other odd thing you’ll need is a square of muslin fabric – this is used a bit like a tea bag – I think the foot of an old pair of tights (clean of course) works just as well, providing there are no holes!!

Ingredients –

1kg Seville Oranges

1 lemon

2.5 litres water

2kg sugar (I use normal granulated)

Method

1 Measure water into the pan.

2 Cut oranges and lemon in half. Squeeze juice out using a juicer and add the juice to the pan.

3 Collect all the pips and pith from the insides of the skins to a square of muslin (or clean tights foot). (Also here you can be creative with your marmalade – adding flavours to the pip/pith bag such as fresh grated ginger, crushed cardamom pods, chai tea, cinnamon stick and so on (NB not whisky at this stage) – you have to play around with the quantities to get the pungency of these additions that suits your taste.) Tie up your square to make a bag of magic and suspend this in the pan by tying it to the handle so it floats about in the water/juice mixture.

4 Now cut the orange peel into quarters and then thin or thick strips. This is tedious and can be done with a food processor – but you get ‘bits’ rather than pretty ‘strands’. Personally, I sit at the kitchen table and try my best to do all the skins but more often than not I end up doing 3/4s and calling it a day. I certainly haven’t got the spit to do the lemon peel – but you can do if you want.

5 Add the shreds to the pan and bring it up to the boil.  Allow it to simmer gently for about 2 hours, filling your kitchen with a wonderful fruity aroma.

6 Place a tea plate or 2 in the fridge – this will be used later to test the set of your marmalade.

7 When the peel is soft Remove the bag of magic and allow it to cool in a dish.

8 Add the sugar to the pan and continue to cook over a low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar in the liquid until all the crystals have gone and it looks clear – this takes a little while, so have patience.

9 We need to extract the ‘pectin’ from the bag of magic – the best way is with your hands, but if it’s too hot or you don’t want to dirty your hands, you can use another dish squashed down into the first. The thick, sticky substance is to be added to the pan – as much of it as you can muster. If you have added flavourings to the bag, this process will bring more of them out too.

10 Now put the pan onto your biggest ring and turn it up full. When the mixture starts to boil set the timer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally – don’t leave your marmalade unattended at this point.

11 Meanwhile, wash your jars and lids thoroughly in hot soapy water. (You’ll also need a jug to use to fill the jars so wash this thoroughly too.) Put the glass jars onto a baking tray and into the oven – turn it on to just over 100 degrees. This will sterilise them and help to keep your marmalade from going mouldy. Leave for at least 15 minutes.

12 When the timer beeps, drop a couple spots of your extremely hot mixture onto one of the plates from the fridge. Put it back into the fridge for a minute or 2. You can turn the heat down on the marmalade while you wait for the results.

13 After a few minutes, see if a set has been achieved by pushing the blobs of mixture on the cold plate – if it wrinkles then you have done! If not you’ll need to boil up the mixture for another 5 minutes or so. You may need to test 2 or 3 times – it’s not an exact science as the amount of juice, number of pips, evaporation surface area of your pay etc varies. I have found that it works pretty much first time, and compared with making jam from strawberries is an absolute breeze. When happy with the ‘set’ turn off the heat and allow the pan to settle down and cool.

14 (neally there) Get the jars out of the oven – this part is quite dangerous I find, as the marmalade needs to be bottled into hot jars while it is still hot.  Again this helps to preserve it so that it will keep well. Take as many precautions as you need to – I work using the jars still in the baking tray placed on a trivet onto the table and then place the pan next to it on another trivet and use a measuring jug to scoop up the marmalade pour it into the jars.  Any spillages go into the baking tray so it’s easier to clean up – or you can use the tray to make a bread and butter pudding (wipe out the jug and pan with your slices of bread, arrange and then pour over your milk and egg mix).

15 Put the lids on your jars when still hot. Clean and label when cold, then store in a dark place.

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