It might be hailing at this exact moment but it has finally happened. The signs of spring are here. The daffodils are out and I have stopped wearing socks. Still donning a wooly hat with a giant fur pompom and moth-eaten gloves but no socks. Given the winter we’ve had any little bit of brightness is greatly appreciated. It’s no wonder that the appearance of Seville Oranges in January or February has made such an impression on the English. Until very recently, I filed orange marmalade under peculiar British culinary fetishes, in the same box as Marmite and kippers. But also because of the bitterness. Bitterness is not my thing. Radicchio and endive make me unhappy. I don’t get excited by the very fashionable Angostura bitters that everyone else can’t seem to get enough of. Why should bitter oranges be any different? As it turns out marmalade does the bitter orange some favours and, unlike other jams, is multidimensional. Bitter and sweet. A combo I can live with.
The season for Seville Oranges is short. They appear in late January and disappear before the daffodils arrive. Like many things British, there is also the surrounding lore of an 18th century Spanish boat that ran aground in Scotland with a hold full of soon-to-be expired oranges that an enterprising grocer and his wife quickly swooped up and turned into marmalade. While true, this was nearly 300 years after the first appearance of Seville oranges in the UK. It was, however, the beginning of the commercialization of marmalade and the move from quince to Seville oranges; the word marmalade being derived from the Portuguese word for quince, marmelo.
The recipe for marmalade is straightforward, 1 kg oranges, the juice from one lemon, 2.5 litres of water and 2 kg sugar. Makes around a dozen 200g/7 oz jars.
- Wash the oranges and remove any knobbly bits.
- Juice the oranges. Do not attempt to do this on anything less than an electric juicer, you will give up before you even start. I used the juicer attachment to my food processor.
- Sharpen your knife and slice the orange peel, I chose to slice it quite thinly
- Put the sliced peel, juice and water into a big bowl and all to sit overnight or up to 24 hours.
- Transfer the whole mixture to a heavy bottomed pan (I used my biggest Le Creuset) Bring to a boil and then simmer until the peel is tender, roughly 2 hrs.
- Stir in the lemon juice and the sugar, boil rapidly for about 20-25 minutes until the setting point is reached (more on that in a minute) then remove from heat and allow to cool before pouring into warm sterlised jars. Seal immediately.
The setting point is the point where syrup becomes jam before it becomes a solid. Make sense? There are a couple of ways to test for this. The first and most straight forward is the Temperature Test. When the temperature of the mixture reads 104.5 °C, the setting point has been reached. The other, and my preferred, method, as I don’t have a candy or preserving thermometer, is the Crinkle Test. The name is even good. For this test, drop a little jam on a cooled saucer, allow it to sit for a minute and then push it with your finger. If it crinkles you are good to go.
You don’t need many specialized tools for making jams or preserves apart from the jars but if there was one I’d recommend it would be the jam funnel. It’s really helpful for getting the stuff in jars and not everywhere.
The above recipe makes about a dozen jars so, needless to say, I am rather long Seville Orange Marmalade. If you’d like to purchase a limited edition 2014 jar you can contact me here or use the form below.