August is Marmalade Time in Australia. I had a hunt around local greengrocers during the week until I finally found a small pile of squat, firm Sevilles, and snapped them up.
Marmalade making is a bit more time consuming than jam making, so it’s just as well it only happens once a year. The extra effort is, however completely worth it. Everyone says this about their homemade stuff, but seriously, no shop-bought in the world is as good as homemade marmalade. Because it’s an annual process, every year I’m tempted to make just a bit more than last year, as it never lasts until the season hauls round again.
This time I went with 2 kg of oranges, about double than usual.
You can do this in 2 parts if the thought of spending 4 or 5 hours at it make you feel, as it does me, tired before you even start.
Ingredients, makes approx 12lbs*
- 2 kg Seville oranges (must be Seville, no other type will do!)
- 3.5 kg granulated sugar
- 4 lemons
- 3 litres water
- booze of your choice (optional) – 12 tablespoons or to taste
Start by scrubbing the lemons & oranges with a stiff brush until perfectly clean. If you can find unwaxed oranges so much the better. Someone once told me Seville are partly special because they aren’t waxed but I have no clue if this is true or not! The orange variety must be Seville as they have the right acid content and nice thin skins with minimal pith.
Place a muslin bag or large muslin square in a bowl. I used 2 j-cloths (Chux) this time around but I won’t bother next time as they were tending to split when I squeezed them later on.
Place both the pith/membrane and pips in the muslin – this will be the source of the pectin which will thicken the marmalade later. Slice the orange skins into thin strips (you can cut them more thickly if you prefer a chunkier marmalade):
Your pile of pithy, seedy stuff will look a bit like this by the time you’re done:
Yummy looking, huh?
Knot or tie your j-cloth/chux/muslin bag carefully so that there is room for the cooking liquid to permeate, but no pulp will escape. Stick it in with the juice and peel. If you’re giving up for the day at this point, put it all in the fridge and get it out the next day, then place in a preserving pan. Add the water.
Doesn’t look gorgeous at this stage, I will freely admit. Remove from the heat, take out the bags and set them aside in a bowl to cool.
When cool enough to handle, squeeze the bags over the cooked oranges. Clear shiny fluid will ooze out – this is the precious pectin and will make your marmalade set. Squeeze out as much as you can from both bags, and then discard the contents of the bags. (Composts well, by the way.)
Now, to the sugar. Normally, recipes will tell you to use twice as much sugar as fruit. For my quantity of oranges, this would be a whopping great 4 kilos of sugar.
This is what we like to call a fuck load of sugar. Obviously it’s there to sweeten an otherwise fairly unappetisingly sharp fruit, but it also serves to preserve it against spoiling. But golly, 4 kilos does look pretty bad, eh? So I’ve taken a punt and cut it down to 3.5 kilos of sugar. I’m confident this will be fine but if it spoils in 2 months time I will be certain to let you know….If you’re of a nervous disposition, or like your condiments to be achingly sweet, feel free to up this it 4 kilos. I found, taste wise, 3.5 kg worked for me – not too sweet, not too sharp. Goldilocks.
Place 2 saucers into your freezer. Wash 12 – 15 jars & lids in hot soapy water, rinse and drain. Pre-heat your oven to moderate.
Warm the sugar in the microwave for a minute – this helps it dissolve into the jam – and add to the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and boil until setting point is reached. With my batch, this took around 15 minutes, but will depend on lots of factors so it’s best to keep checking. My favoured method of telling is to blob some of the marmalade onto a frozen plate, and wait until it cools – minute or so – then push it with a finger. If you can see a wrinkly skin form where you’re pushing, it’s set. As soon as you get to setting point, take the pan off the heat.
Place your jars in the oven for 10 minutes, then remove carefully. Pour boiling water over the lids.
Fill your jars! If you are using booze, either add it to the pan now and stir through, or, as I do, add a tablespoon to some of the jars. I’ve tried cointreau, rum and whisky; a nice peaty Lagavulin, and my preference is for the whisky, but this is a great time to experiment. I suspect creme de menthe is not going to work, however, but hey ho, everyone’s different. Top with the lids as soon as you can so that a vacuum is formed when the marmalade cools. When they’re cold, wipe the jars to remove any dribbled stickiness, and label.
As always, Mr C and I wiped round the empty pan with toast (just to make sure that it was edible, you understand) and then kept going until we felt sugar high & pretty hyper. Yum.
* I know it doesn’t make sense to give ingredients in metric measures and jar sizes in imperial, but I just can’t help it; a pound jar is a pound jar. Metric just isn’t the same.