Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Marmalade Time!

Seville oranges have a longer season than they used to - was a time when I was a kid when you didn't see them until February, and the older cookery books tell us they're in season in March. These days you see them from more or less the start of January - first ones I spotted were on the third of January.

All the marmalade you need for an entire week (foreground), and the best gadget in the world (background)
While the term 'marmalade' comes from the Portugese word for quince (I believe 'marmelo'), its Seville oranges you want for marmalade. Fantastic things, unbelievably sour, thick skinned, dried up balls of pips though they are, they're possessed of a fantastic flavour, high acidity and plenty of pectin to make them set. Either alone or combined with other citrus fruit, they're better than anything else for a good, orangey marmalade. 

And thats a point I can't stress too strongly - proper marmalade, made with Seville oranges, is one of the most outstanding preserves you can make. Its so good that unless you've eaten it, made at home, with whole oranges, then I'm willing to say you don't know what marmalade really is. And it comes just at the darkest, most miserable time of the year when what I'm really craving is something sweet and fruity. Its also a good keeper - its almost as good after eleven months in the jar as when you first bottled it. 

So for all of those reasons, making marmalade is an annual event in our house, I can't get enough of the stuff, and I can't imagine not having home made marmalade in the store cupboard. 

This year I picked up a job lot from these guys here - I split a box of them with a friend, who promptly had hers nicked by her mum and an entire village load of old dears who know the value of a good marmalade orange! 

My standard recipe is adapted from a Womens Institute book of preserves (yes, I know, that IS the best preserving book ever) and I once wrote up my method and put it on a website. There are a gazillion recipes for marmalade out there, so I won't bore you with posting mine again - you'll find many recipes elsewhere online anyway. Suffice to say that I use a recipe that uses the whole orange, I use a pressure cooker to process the oranges and then I slice them up, remove the pips (which are boiled again), add lemon juice, and cook with the sugar before bottling. If you can make jam you can make marmalade, all you need to remember is to let the preserve cool a little before putting it in the jars.

The only part of the process that sucks - chopping oranges after pressure cooking
One other thing to remember is that you can always vary your marmalade recipe to make a range of different things - but you use basically the same technique. A dark Oxford marmalade is made by substituting half of the sugar for dark muscovado sugar. Mrs. Beetons book gives us a honey marmalade recipe - simple enough to do, substitute some or all of the sugar for honey (and bottle a preserve thats guaranteed to attract almost any fictional bear). Swap out some of the oranges for the same weight of limes and lemons and make a mixed fruit preserve - basically play with the recipe to come up with your own distinctive preserve.

Another use for Seville oranges is to make orange wine - lots of recipes out there again, but I use the one from CJJ Berrys seminal wine making book - so I need as many sweet oranges as Sevilles in mine. A bit more fiddly than some - lots of juicing and zesting, but its worth it.
The tedious task of zesting enough oranges for a dozen bottles of wine...

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