Sunday, 15 January 2012

How to make the best marmalade you’ve ever tasted

I’m not a great one for ‘the perfect this’ or ‘the perfect that’ in recipes but if you’re a marmalade aficionado I promise you this is as good as it gets. Intensely fruity, thick and sharply flavoured.

OK, I’m biased. It was my mum’s recipe so it carries a bit of emotional baggage. I can remember the kitchen filling up with a warm, comforting marmaladey fug and sitting alongside her as a child slicing the oranges. She wasn’t a wonderful cook but this was her pièce de resistance. I still have the original written neatly in blue ink on a piece of Basildon Bond notepaper.

I’d got out of the habit of making it but she died just after Christmas so I wanted to make it in memory of those companionable times. Besides seville oranges are in season so now’s the moment.

First a few practicalities to keep down the cost because you can of course buy marmalade much, much more cheaply than it will cost you to make it. But it won’t taste anything like as good.

* Assuming you don’t have a preserving pan you need a large saucepan. A large stainless steel pasta pan is perfect. The bottom of a pressure cooker will do.

* You need jars. You can buy them from sites like Jam Jar Shop but that does add to the cost so beg or borrow some from neighbours. Not pickle or chutney jars in which the smell of the previous contents tends to linger. The jars need to be as clean as possible. Old recipes suggest sterilising them by putting them in a hot oven but I find a recent run through the dishwasher will do the trick.

* You need a muslin square or something to act as a muslin bag (I used a J Cloth). See why below. Oh, and some fine string

* You need waxed paper discs if you’re to keep the marmalade any length of time. And labels. Again from a specialist like Lakeland or the Jam Jar Shop.

* You need a couple of saucers in the fridge to test the set

* and finally, and most importantly, you need seville oranges, unwaxed lemons and sugar in the following quantities. The original recipe states preserving sugar but this is now so hard to get and twice as expensive as granulated so I would (and did) use that. No problem.

1.35 kg (3lb) Seville oranges, preferably organic
1 large or 2 small lemons, preferably unwaxed
1.7-1.8kg (3 3/4-4lb) granulated sugar

This makes about 7-8 400g jars but your jars will probably be all shapes and sizes and the quantity always turns out different depending how long you boil the marmalade so make sure you have slightly more than you need.

Wash and scrub the oranges and lemons with a vegetable brush and put them whole into a large pan with 1.3 litres (2 1/4 pints) of cold water.

Cover the pan with a lid or a large sheet of foil and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, turning them occasionally until they are soft enough for you to pierce the skins with the end of a teaspoon. (You can probably remove the lemons after an hour and the oranges progressively after that). The kitchen will smell heavenly.

Remove the fruit and measure the remaining liquid. If there is less than 1.1 litres (just under 2 pints) add enough fresh water to bring it up to that level and return to the pan.

Cut the fruit into quarters, scoop out the pulp and separate out the pips. Cut the skins into small thick slices and add along with the pulp to the pan of water. (I've since discovered that leaving the fruit to soak in the water for an hour improves the set.)

Tie up the pips in a piece of muslin (there’s a useful video here) and hang it over the handle of the pan and into the cut up fruit. This might seem a bit of a faff but the extra pulp and pectin helps the marmalade to set.

Put the sugar in a warming drawer or very low oven to warm up. Bring the fruit up to boiling point then remove the bag of pips and squeeze and scrape the outside of the bag to release any remaining pulp. Add the warm sugar to the fruit and leave over a low heat, stirring occasionally until dissolved.

Bring back to the boil and boil the marmalade for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it sticking. Skim off the thick yellowish foam that forms round the edges from time to time.

Test a little on a chilled saucer after 25 minutes to see if it’s set. It should crinkle when you push it with your finger. If it doesn’t continue boiling it until it does. As the marmalade reaches setting point it will darken and grow thicker.

Once the marmalade has reached setting point, remove from the heat, skim off any remaining scum and allow to cool for about half an hour.

Warm your jars if they’re not already sitting in the dishwasher and ladle or pour the marmalade into them (I find a small jug is easiest for this). Cover with a disc of waxed paper, if using, and seal with screw top lids or clear covers. Wipe any splashes off the side of the jars while they’re still warm.

Leave until cold before labelling otherwise the labels won’t stick.

Feel smug and happy.

You can of course cut the amount of work involved by mincing the peel but I like proper looking chunks in my marmalade. Just get someone to sit alongside you as you do it. It’s a nice thing to do with your kids, a mum, gran or sister or a friend. Actually my husband helped me with this batch while we listened to Bob Marley. Good marmalade music.

Oh, and a final tip. You can freeze seville oranges successfully if you haven’t time to make all your marmalade in one go or run out of jars. Just wash and dry them before you freeze them, use them from frozen and increase the boiling time until they’re cooked through.

Is this how you make your marmalade or do you reckon you have a better version?


Nige Bamford said...

There's nothing like home-made marmalade.
Now, I just happen to have a couple of bags of preserving sugar in a cupboard. Does the recipe need to be adjusted at all or is it a like-for-like replacement with the granulated?

Kavey said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Fiona.

Food is definitely one of the best ways of connecting with our memories of people, especially when they taught us the recipes in question.

I don't make marmalade as it's not my favourite jam, though I did make a lemon and whisky one once, which was nice, or did I go for lemon and ginger in the end? I forget, but I remember liking it, as did recipients!


Fiona Beckett said...

Yes, obviously fine to use preserving sugar, Nige - it would be the same amount.

And thanks, Kavey. Lemon marmalade is good too but different. Planning a batch of that once I've run out of sevilles.

Andrea said...

That sounds lovely and I may have to give it a go although I must confess that up to now I've cheated with my marmalade and used the 'MaMade' tins of pre-prepared fruit. I was distraught when the discontinued the lemons!

One tip I got from my late Grandmother and do all the time when making jams and the aforementioned cheat's marmalade is to not skim the pan but to stir in a knob of butter after removing it from the heat. This disperses the foam as if by magic.

The Beach Hut Cook said...

I'm going to make this, defo. Especially as it's one of my teenager's favourite snacks - toast and marmalade. What a lovely way to remember your Mum, with a kitchen filled with lovely smells.

Laura@howtocookgoodfood said...

Hi Fiona,
I am now in a quandary. Having just read Thane Prince's grapefruit marmalade post and now your Seville orange one, I want to make both and love the idea of both.
I guess I should make both and then I have done my preserving for the year!
Sorry to hear about your mother x

Fiona Beckett said...

Thanks, Laura. The thing about other citrus is that you can make it at any time of year. Now is the moment for sevilles!

And good tip about the butter, Andrea. I've heard about that but never tried it. Does it not take a little of the sharpness off the marmalade though?

Andrea said...

It's not very much butter and has never made enough of a difference to be evident to me but someone with a better palate may notice it.

The other thing I do with my preserves is something I once saw Pam Corbin do on a River Cottage programme:

Put the lids on the jars as soon as you've filled them, tighten them up and then tip them upside down for a couple of seconds so that the boiling hot contents sterilise the inside of the lid. Needless to day, don't pick the jars up with your bare hands to do this!

If you're using jars with the pop-up safety buttons on them, the lids will expand alarmingly but as the contents of the jar cool you'll hear the reassuring sound of the buttons clicking down meaning that they are properly sealed and you get that satisfying 'pop' of a new jar when you come to open them.

Fiona Beckett said...

That's a VERY good tip. I tend not to fill my jars when the jam is absolutely scalding to minimise the risk of the the peel sinking to the bottom (it shouldn't anyway if the jam is properly set) but maybe I should for longevity. Not that it ever lasts that long . . .

Crumbs said...

I'm so impressed with all those marmalade makers out there! I have a neighbour who makes it and then gives us a few jars which doesn't allow me to feel smug and happy, but I do get the homemade version of marmalade, so much nicer than shop bought!

hausfrau said...

Lovely to remember your Mum with a recipe: she will always help you make marmalade!
Her recipe is very like a Delia one I use having failed to make my Granny's recipe set.
I've found that it's not that labels won't stick when the jars are hot, but that you'll never get the labels off again so you can re-use the jar.

Fiona Beckett said...

Crumbs: It's really not difficult - and sooo pleasurable. Maybe wait till your kids are big enough to help you slice up the peel though!

And hadn't thought about the labels being difficult to get off, hausfrau. I find most will come off with a good soak in hot water and a bit of a scrub with a scourer


looking forward to trying this recipe out Fiona! For the last two years I have turned seville oranges into Marmasoup and was feeling disheartened at the prospect of trying again... but this recipe looks promising so will give it a whirl :)

Fiona Beckett said...

The amount of liquid is quite important. If you follow that you should be OK!

Josordoni said...

Hi Fiona, my mum also used to boil the oranges whole. I must get to try it for myself.

I make grapefruit marmalade all the time with the skins from my breakfast marmalade, which is always delicious, ( the blog post is here: Eco Marmalade ) but you are right, the tang of proper seville marmalade is the Real Thing.

My usual seville orange recipe is the 3 day one from Jane Grigson's Fruit Book, that I blogged here. Seville Orange marmalade. I like this a lot because you aren't attempting a full day of marmalading. If you are busy working, a hour or so can still be fitted in handily after the washing up of an evening.

Nige Bamford said...

I made this recipe yesterday and so many things felt wrong - the amount of liquid; boiling the whole fruit first; not putting the flesh in the muslin with the pips; and putting the lemon peel and flesh in.
But the tasting at this morning's breakfast dispelled any worries - it's absolutely gorgeous. Tangy, not too sweet and great texture. Thanks Fiona (and your Mum) - I'm going to keep this. In fact I'm going out Monday morning to get some more Sevilles and make another batch because this first lot won't last long - I've got a marmalade cake lined up........

Fiona Beckett said...

It is miraculous isn't it? Such a great flavour - makes you feel you haven't tasted marmalade properly for years! So glad it worked for you!

Alison Dillon said...

Hurrah it worked ! The curse of marmasoup has lifted thanks to your mum's great recipe! Bring on the toast!

Susan's blog said...

Have just made a batch of this thanks so much for the recipe. x

Kevin said...

Just making some now. Kitchen starting to smell good. I'll make 2 batches - one with major chunks of peel & one with small for my dad who only likes it in tiny bits!

The muslin tying video is useful - you would've laughed at my attempts last year!

Anonymous said...

Hi Fiona - well here I am 4th September and have just taken the frozen oranges out of the freezer. . . just wanted to say thanks for the clear recipe and good step by step photos. I have made marmalade in the past but wanted to refresh my memory. Glad you have such lovely memories of your mum. Mine are from my gran. Picked some elderberries earlier so while the marmalade is cooking I will look for a recipe for them. Ive also made oak leaf wine for the first time this year and cant wait to try it. I had some from a friend whose father makes it and its like a sauternes. Thanks again for the recipe :-)

LindyLou said...

Is there a special way to freeze the oranges. I usually slice them in the magimix would this work with frozen oranges. I like to make enough to last me a year so would make 12 lbs or oranges. How do I go about this please. Lynda

Fiona Beckett said...

@LindyLou I scrub them first, dry them then freeze them whole and then boil them from frozen which takes a little longer but that's no problem.