The rule is, as soon as you have put the Christmas decorations away, you go in search of Seville Oranges! They are in the shops from the second week of January to the end of January and then they are not. So if you miss them, you miss them for a whole year, and it is very hard, almost impossible (unless you have a very savvy WI lady or granny nearby) to find homemade Seville orange marmalade. It is wonderful almost addictive – and even mum, lifts her sugar ban in honour of proper marmalade. If the thought of making marmalade is too daunting in January, remember they freeze very well, and you then have the choice to make it throughout the year (the advantage here is that the chopping is a lot easier as the peel is softened by freezing). You need about 9 oranges for a 1.5kg batch (roughly) which is the right size for a jam pan. This recipe has been tweaked over the years. It started off with Gary Rhodes’, but, sorry Gary, yours is just too sweet - and has ended up nearly the same as Grampie’s recipe. Look, if you like sweet marmalade, you just add more sugar (I’ll put it in for you softies below), and the more sugar you add, the more pots you make for the same effort (so, that’s why it’s done), and if you have wimpy kids who are scared of the peel, you just put the peel in the bag, with the pips – it saves an awful lot of chopping too! I use organic oranges – as the peel is boiled to death and you eat the ‘stock’, I think this is really important (and I have read that they put colouring on non-organic Seville oranges which is why the washing is particularly important). Download a good podcast to listen to, or rope in the family, as this is a fine example of ‘slow food’ and make sure the knives are super sharp.
A good large pan with a thick bottom – a jam pan is ideal. Mine is 27cm across and 15 cm deep
A muslin cloth (preferably) or clean tea towel (boil it first if you are worried about its history or colourfastness)
A jam funnel – a wider spout than a ‘funnel funnel’ (for filling the jars, not essential, but saves wiping sticky jars) – I love my funnel and wouldn’t be without it
A jam thermometer – Not necessary, but if you happen to have one, dust it down and use it. I don’t have one anymore, mine lost all its calibrations when I made soap with it once
Rubber gloves for testing setting and filling jars
4-6 Clean jars, put them in the dishwasher, or oven on 100C for 15 minutes.
Seville Oranges, 1.5kg (approx. 9)
Sugar, 1.5kg (but some people use as much as 3kgs)
Wash and cut the oranges in half. Squeeze the juice out and put it in your best bottomed pan or jam pan (if using frozen oranges miss out this stage). Using a large metal spoon (or a knife) scrape out the innards of the orange, the pips and pith - and retain them in a pudding bowl lined with a muslin cloth. How much of the pith you scrape out depends on your patience and time, but it is worth having as little left on the orange peel as possible.
Cut the peel into ultra-thin shreds, again this is not crucial, but I find the extra time taken here makes the product better. I would not recommend using a food processor, it makes the marmalade cloudy and bitty, however, it is all about taste, and Sue from the country market does it, and her marmalade is quite good.
Put the peel shreds into the orange juice in the pan and add the water. Squeeze the juice out of the lemons, and add to the pan. Roughly chop the lemon rind and put it in the muslin bag with all the bits and bobs. Tie up the bag very securely with string and put it into the jam pan with the peel, water and juice. Tie the bag onto the handle of the pan to keep it from floating off. Bring the pan to the boil and simmer until the peel has softened and the water has reduced by about a half. It probably takes about an hour and a half. Cool the pan and remove the muslin bag. With clean hands squeeze as much as you can out into the marmalade, but don’t get hung up about every last drop, there will be plenty of pectin already released. Discard the contents in the compost bin.
I sometimes carry on the next stage the following day.
Add the sugar and heat gently stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved. Carefully try it. If you want more sugar, add it at this stage. Bring the pan to the boil and boil rapidly (I use my biggest ring, top left, on the highest setting), but you will have to assess and keep an eye open. Put a saucer in the fridge to cool. You will know it is nearly ready when the boiling changes. The bubbles will become smaller, more fizzy, and will rise up the pan, if it is dangerously near the top, turn the heat off immediately, until it retreats a bit and continue heating and watching. After about 15 minutes start testing for setting. Put rubber gloves on, and place a small amount of boiling liquid onto the cold saucer in the fridge. Leave it for 5 minutes to cool. Poke it with your finger, if it starts to get a skin or jellify, you are nearly there. Test every 5 minutes. You don’t want it rock solid, you want a soft jelly to form. If you think it is done, turn off the heat while you wait for your final test – you can always turn it back on and carry on if not ready, but you don’t want to risk burning it. If you have a sugar thermometer, it will tell you when you have reached setting point. But your nose, and your eyes will also help you.
Leave to cool for about 20 minutes. If you are too eager to jar it up you risk burning yourself, and the peel will float to the top of the jars and you won’t win first prize at the county show. Wipe off any scum from the surface – it is still edible, so keep it for breakfast. Stir in the peel. Put the funnel over the first jar. Put on the rubber gloves, and use a jug to ladle the marmalade out of the pan, holding a saucer underneath to catch the drips. Fill the jars and wipe around the top if there are sticky bits. Put the lids on. They should pop and suck in as they cool.
Look forward to breakfasts to come when marmalade is best served on crisp cooled whitish toast with thick unsalted butter with tea (following eggs). For treats it is nice with blue cheese instead of butter. I can’t like marmalade on bread, but Paddington did, and so might you.