Liz’s visit to Seville prompted me to dust off my preserving pan and forage into the back of my kitchen cupboard for my empty jam jars. Orange trees are everywhere in Spain, but funnily enough they are purely ornamental as the flesh is far too bitter to eat – unless of course you make marmalade. The alchemy of taking just three ingredients, fruit, sugar and water and transforming it into a tangy preserve is so satisfying. It isn’t a quick process, but one that needs time and patience – I find tuning in to Radio 4 to the Archer’s omnibus is the perfect accompaniment.
Seville oranges are the best for marmalade, but if you can’t get them then any citrus fruit will work – grapefruit, mandarin, Clementine or lime. The season for Seville oranges is very short, from January to early February so you’ll have to get a wriggle on if you want the real McCoy. I got mine from Get Fresh, the greengrocer in Swansea market.
1 kg Seville oranges or the
same weight of other citrus fruits.
2 kg granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
2.5 litres water
Start by scrubbing the fruit to remove any dirt or wax. Then put 2.5 litres of water into your preserving pan.
Halve the oranges and lemons and squeeze the juice into a bowl. Now scoop all the membrane, pips and pith from the oranges into a square of muslin and tie into a bundle, leaving a length of string long enough to tie to the pan-handle. It’ll make it easier to fish it out at the end.
Arm yourself with your sharpest knife and cut the peel into fine strips – alternatively cut it into chunky pieces – the choice is yours, but be consistent as it has to all cook through at the same rate. Patience is your watch word.
Now is the time to start preparing your jars.
Wash them in hot soapy water and rinse well.
You could run them through the dishwasher on a hot wash if you want to – they need to be sterile. Put them on a baking tray in a warm oven to dry off completely and leave them there until you are ready to fill them.
My motley assortment of old jars was too sparse so I got some from Lakeland – they have every-thing that you could possibly need to make jams, chutneys and marmalades.
Meanwhile add the sugar to the pan and stir over a gentle heat until all the crystals have dissolved. This bit is important as you don’t want grainy marmalade.
Squeeze the muslin bag into the pan. You want to get every little drop of liquid out of this squidgy bag as it contains the pectin which is the setting agent. Stir the mixture well and bring up to the boil. After about 15 minutes at a rolling boil, spoon a little onto a cold saucer – if it sets and wrinkles when you gently push it – then it’s ready, if not boil on for another 5 minutes or so. This may take a few tries – patience again.
When you achieve the right wrinkle, take the pan off the heat. If there is any scum on the surface now is the time to skim it off. Try stirring in a little knob of butter – about half a teaspoon should be enough. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes then give it a good stir, to distribute the peel throughout.
Now you can bring your jars out of the oven and fill them. Use a ladle and a jam funnel if you have one – it will be messy. Fill right up to the neck and pop on the lid while still hot. This will cause the vacuum to form and keep the marmalade air-tight. If you are using old jars without lids, then get a pack of wax discs and cellophane covers – again Lakeland will have them. When the jars are cool you can put on a label – there are some free to download ideas on the internet – or again Lakeland has some pretty ones.
I made 6 x 1lb jars plus a half a jar over from this recipe at a cost of less than £4 for the fruit and sugar – which is about 66p per jar.
LAKELAND, Trostre Retail Park, Llanelli SA14 9UY Tel: 01554 777444