For a number of reasons, I am delighted to get Christmas over and get on with the new year, bringing with it the promise of more sunlight
and not long to wait till my birthday – quite why I should be willing age along, I don’t know, but I’m a fan of presents, fun and friends which come with birthdays! There’s something of all of this in making marmalade. It’s the first bright sign the work of the new year has begun, and a batch of aromatic marmalade provides a store of gifts (I might even prefer giving to receiving gifts these days!) including my own breakfast treat. The scope of the task can be daunting, until you begin delegating. I find in my classes and at home, men chop so much better than me… they are neat and exact – if slow… finding patience in time is my current practice, and marmalade is the perfect muse.
Enter teenage son, in need of extra pocket money – to him delegate orange peel chopping whilst taking the opportunity to explain the work of pips in pectin,(which it occurs to me is similar to stock from bones) whilst admiring the calm diligence with which said son gets a tedious task done. By watching and working alongside him I found the pleasure in patience.
I come from a long line (as many an English lass does) of marmalade makers. I’ve always loved the home-madeness of it, and now for my own kitchen, the exciting smell and comforting feel of fulfilling my birthright is delicious. I’m sorry to say my domestic skills do not run to keeping things clean, so I hope you can read my Grandma’s recipe through the fog of spills (and here’s an early photo of gran on the right, great gran in the middle).
What you need to make marmalade:
1kg seville oranges, 2-3 lemons, 2+kg preserving sugar, 6 pints of water (and more for soaking pips)
chopping board, good knife, friendly patient hands x 2-3, small bowl for pips, lemon squeezer, preserving pan, muslin and string to tie, rubber gloves (to be explained…!), measuring jug, jam jars with lids if poss. plate and spoon (to test for a set), two evenings in and around home, about 2-3 hours of hands on time. radio/conversation catch up.
How to make marmalade:
Best to work in pairs, whilst one squeezes juice from oranges and lemons, reserving the pips in small bowl and juice into preserving pan; the other finely chops the peel into pretty even jewels – adding them to preserving pan, along with 6 pints of water.
You leave both pips and peel to soak for 24 hours, to soften. Coming back the next day, you tie the pips into a muslin bag, pouring left over water into the preserving pan.
Put your pan on to boil, having tied the muslin pip bag onto the handle, so that it will bubble away with the peel. This releases the pectin we need to set the marmalade – the more pips the quicker the set. I’m sure you can imagine the smell that will reward your labours. The kitchen is filled with orange steam, as you simmer for 2 hours. Next bit is tricky – use the rubber gloves to squeeze as much gooey pectin from the muslin bag into your marmalade, as you can. It’s so hot, this is not easy, but quite satisfying. Get as absolutely much as you can muster, then you add scary amount of sugar (I use 2kg rather than the nearly 3 suggested!), stirring till dissolved.
Boil hard for 1hour, testing for a set by cooling a little marmalade on a plate and if it jelly-jams to a sticky end, you know it’s done. Obviously you want to do this as quickly as possible, rather than boiling your hard work away into the marvellous steam! You can check your marmalade is sweet enough for you at this point too. Take off the heat, and leave to cool for few minutes.
Warm plenty of clean jam jars – always optimistic for making lots! Pour into the pots, leaving a centimetre or so in case you would like wax lids (not a standard I’ve ever reached). Leave to cool over night. Eat with toast, butter and delight.
Marmalade Muse – The Three of Hearts
The suit of hearts is all about love – of course. As we enter into valentines week, we dwell on the pleasure of spending time with our loved ones. Making marmalade always makes me feel marvellous, as I use it as time to spend at home, with favourite people. She shares a few nutrients (fibre, vitamins A and C), but she’s mainly about the shear joy of sweet orange jelly, home made, eaten in the quiet of morning. The taste of comforting connection past and present.