Christmas came along and I’d only managed 11 days of my 12 days of making. So, here is no.12 to complete the run. It’s not a festive make, but I think it is perfect for the start of the New Year. Fresh, homemade marmalade. You can’t beat it. I get quite excited by the sight of the first Seville oranges in the supermarket. Usually, I’m seduced by the pretty boxes of Sevilles in Waitrose, but they are much more expensive than my local Morrisons, so this year, I picked up a budget-friendly £2 bag instead.
I can’t lie: marmalade is a bit of a faff. There is a lot of scooping, slicing, juicing and cutting of peels, and that’s before you’ve even started simmering and boiling, so it’s not for everyone. But, I was in need of something to help me with a rather sad start to 2019. Within a couple of weeks, I have lost a much loved aunt, and also a schoolfriend, in tragic circumstances. When I’m coping with feelings of sadness, I often find that a repetitive, routine task like this really helps. I get the radio on (so long as it’s not Brexit news), and just focus in on the task in hand.
The recipe I chose was from Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles, which is a lovely, comforting book and again, just what was needed in the circumstances.
Seville oranges don’t look very glamorous. They are small and sometimes a bit shrivelled. But cut them open and you release a fabulous blast of citrus scent, and glistening flesh inside the thick white pith.
Here’s the recipe that I used.
I did reduce the sugar to 1.2 kg, as I prefer my marmalade tangy rather than too sweet and I made a few modifications which I’ve noted here. I loved the idea of the pomegranate addition, it just adds a subtle depth of flavour and richness of colour.
750g Seville oranges (you’ll find them in the market or supermarket)
400ml pomegranate juice (from a carton)
1.2 litres of water
1.5 kg granulated sugar
Cut the Sevilles in half horizontally and use a squeezer to squeeze the juice into a large pan. Put it through a sieve, so you catch the pips, and keep them. Turn the oranges inside out and scrape out the flesh and pith with a sharp spoon edge. Let this go into the sieve with the pips. Put the pips, flesh, pith and skin on to a square of muslin. Cut the lemon in half, squeeze out the juice into the pan, and then put the lemon skins in the muslin. Pull up the muslin corners to make a pouch and tie with string. Put this in the pan with the juice.
Now slice or cut the orange skin into thin strips, according to your preference. I do this with a very sharp knife, or, if it gets very repetitive, a pair of scissors. Add the shredded peel to the juice in the pan, and pour in the pomegranate juice and water. Push the pouch of skin etc under the liquid and leave overnight.
The next day, put the pan over a high heat, and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for up to 90 minutes, until the shreds are soft. Keep an eye on it, as you don’t want too much of the liquid to evaporate. I topped mine up a bit as it was getting low.
Take the bag of pips etc from the pan, put in a sieve, and squeeze down hard with a spoon to extract as much of the liquid as you can. It contains precious pectin, which is a setting agent. Nigel Slater warms his sugar in a low oven for ten minutes. I didn’t bother, but it may speed up the process if you do. Tip the sugar in the pan, and allow it to dissolve. Turn up the heat, bring to a boil and let it simmer for about 8-10 minutes (if you have a sugar thermometer, the temperature needs to be 105 degrees).
Test to see if the marmalade is ready by dropping a teaspoonful on to a cold saucer. If the skin wrinkles when you push it, then the marmalade is ready.
Pour it into sterilised jars and cover with a lid.