I’ve been slightly obsessed with making marmalade this year, keeping an eye out for Seville’s in the shops and hoarding empty honey jars. I nearly missed the season, none of the shops I usually frequent had any Seville’s for ages and then, when I was in a farm shop on Thursday doing field work, I saw them. Of course, because I was working, I decided against making a rash purchase and then immediately regretted it. I phoned up my local grocer and they said they were sold out for the season. I decided to go around anyway, on Friday afternoon, just to check and I did find blood oranges but, sadly, no Seville’s. But then I went into Tesco, (yes, yes, I know) to buy washing up liquid, and low and behold, the last of the season’s Seville oranges.
I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who makes marmalades and jams and chutneys and things but the truth is I hardly ever eat jams and marmalades so it has always seemed a little silly to keep jars of things I have only a few times a year. But, for you, dear readers, I have decided to venture into the world of marmalade. Call it a new years resolution if you will. Jams and marmalades are not part of my skills set so I figured I could learn to make them and tell you all about the process.
I consequently read a lot about marmalade making this week. I even watched this rather amusing and helpful video about the process. It turns out none of my recipe books contain marmalade recipes, although there is a recipe for blackberry and nectarine jam which I am totally going to try when the season arrives. I was rather surprised at this absence and thus turned to various online sources to try and discover more about making marmalade. Delia and The Guardian proved to be the most helpful and I eventually followed the method set out by Felicity Cloake in her ‘How to Make’ series. There seems to be debate about whether you should juice the oranges (and lemon) first or boil them whole and then slice them. I decided to go with the juicing first method but I shall at some point (in a few years, when this marmalade is all used up), try out the other method. I made it over two days, starting on Saturday afternoon, but you can totally (and I think it is probably faster) make it in one day. Just make sure you have things to keep you occupied whilst you wait for things to cook. (I went through my magazine stash, tearing out recipes and photographs I liked, whilst watching Covert Affairs. It’s a very therapeutic way to spend an afternoon.)
My original intention was to buy only 500g of oranges so that I could make a little marmalade and then, if it went horribly wrong, I wouldn’t have wasted loads of oranges but, in Tesco, they were selling boxes of oranges and lemons for marmalade making (and had no loose Seville’s) so I bought the box. This amounted to 1.4kg of oranges. The recipes I found called for 1kg of oranges but I couldn’t see the point of having 5 Seville oranges hanging about so I ended up juicing and slicing all of them. (So much for only making 500g.) I decided, after tasting the simmering mixture, to add in an extra cup of sugar. Not exactly what you would call scientific but I figured the extra 400g probably required slightly more sugar than not. The whole process was fairly easy – the biggest job is slicing the skins. I have always been a no peel/thin cut marmalade girl but, after orange number five, I sort of gave up on uniform thin cut slices and just went with it. So mine is more thick (read rough) cut. If you have patience, feel free to make thin cut marmalade. After that it is simply a matter of boiling the peel and pips and pith, tied nicely in a muslin bag, until the peel is soft and translucent. This did bring back a lot of memories of the torture of making candied peel for dessert garnishes, which has to be sliced super finely and then boiled three times before being cooked in syrup – but marmalade is much more forgiving, mainly because no one is checking the thinness of the peel slices. Then you add in the sugar, squeeze out the juice from the muslin and, after dissolving the sugar, boil the mixture until it reaches setting about. (Conveniently marked ‘jam’ on my sugar thermometer – about 104C.) I used a thermometer but also tested the marmalade on plates I put in the freezer, you know, to cover my bases. I ended up with marmalade that is quite thick set, gloopy and good, which starts off sweet but has a sour kick near the end (which forces you to take another bite, and then another). I’m planning on giving most of the jars away – I made three 500g jars and six miscellaneous jars (ranging from 250g to 400g) and had some left over to pour into the Nutella jar in the photographs (yes, I am the girl who saves Nutella jars and uses them for excess marmalade). I think you should end up with about seven 500g jars (according to Delia anyway).
Seville Orange Marmalade
Adapted from The Guardian ‘How to Make’ series
1.4kg Seville oranges
500g golden caster sugar
500g golden granulated sugar
1kg granulated white sugar
250ml white caster sugar
Place a large pot on the stove (I found a maslin pan in Lakeland which I fell in love with and had to buy – it turns out I don’t possess a pot large enough for jam/marmalade making, not having anything practical like a stock pot) and place a sieve over it.
Squeeze the lemon and oranges into the pan, using the sieve to catch the pips and any pith.
Place a muslin piece over a bowl and place all the pips and pith onto the muslin. Discard the lemon.
Slice the orange skins to the required thickness, removing any remaining pips and pith and placing them on the muslin.
Add the peel to the pot. Tie up the muslin and place in the pan (it floats, so no real need to tie it to the handle as suggested by Delia).
Add in 2.5L water and simmer for two hours – until the peel is translucent and soft.
This is the point where I placed everything on hold until the morning, but feel free to continue.
Remove the muslin bag and put to one side to cool. Remove the pan from the heat.
When the bag is cold, give it a good squeeze over the peel mixture – thick, syrupy juice should come out. (Be careful not to split the muslin – which is of course what I did so I had to be super careful not to lose any pips into the mixture.) Stir this in and then add your sugar. At this point you should wash your jars in soapy water, rinse them and place them in a cool oven (100C – 120C) to sterilize (basically until they are hot and dry, at which point you can remove them and put them to one side).
Bring everything back up to a simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and boil rapidly until you reach ‘jam’ set – about 104C. You can test this by placing some saucers in the freezer. Place a teaspoon of marmalade onto the saucer and then put in the fridge for a minute. Drag your finger through the marmalade, it should crinkle and you finger should leave a path through it. If it doesn’t – if the marmalade comes back together quickly, keep boiling. Apparently this can take as little as five minutes but it took me more like 20 – I think because the mixture was coming back up to temperature after being cooled overnight. You can continue to test every five minutes or so until you get the right consistency.
Allow the mixture to sit for 15 minutes (apparently this prevents the peel from sinking to the bottom of the jar) before pouring into your jars. Seal the jars. Eat lots on toast.