Marmalade season is upon us! Yes it is the time of year when all good grocers stock that sour fruit the Spanish Seville orange and us keen cooks and preservers go mad (well I do at any rate) making huge batches of delicious marmalade. The season is short and runs only from December to February. I have just scraped clean the last jar of 2012 marmalade for this morning's buttery toast and tea so it's time to make a fresh batch. I'm a bit of a purist where marmalade is concerned; no ginger (too spicy for breakfast) or whiskey (why you would you water down this lovely jam with some strong malty booze when it is already perfect is beyond me!) and my father has the best recipe passed down through the generations.
It's all very simple really:
1kg Seville oranges
1 lemon, juice only
2 lt water
2 kg granulated or preserving sugar (not jam sugar; this has added pectin and is not necessary with marmalade as all the pectin (setting agent) comes from the pith and seeds..)
First, halve the oranges and squeeze out all the juice into a large pan or jam pan, reserving the seeds in a separate container. Add the lemon juice to the pan along with the water. Quarter the orange skins and scrape out the insides leaving a clean peel with a little of the white pith. Add the scrapings to your container with the reserved seeds. Slice each of the quarters into shreds as thick or thin as you like (this will depend on how thick cut the final jam will be; I like a very shredded marm...mmm). Add the shredded peel to the juice pan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 2 hours. With the reserved pith and seeds you can either tie them up in a muslin bag with a bit of string and hang over the side of the pan into the simmering liquid or alternatively (as I tried this morning) place in a smaller pan, cover with water and simmer for 1 hour before straining through a sieve into the peel and juice, discarding any of the solids. Whatever way you choose to do it this part is important in making sure the marmalade sets to the right jelly consistency.
Time to prepare your jars while the jam bubbles away. Remove any labels if you are recycling old jars; a thoroughly bothersome job and one the producers neglect to consider when selecting their particularly sticky and stubborn glue for their own labels; Helman's I'm looking at you. humpf! Line the jars up on a baking sheet and place in the oven at 100 degrees Celsius. This works to dry, sterilise and hopefully stop the jars from cracking when you pour in the hot jam.
After the jam has simmered for 2 hours remove from the heat and add the sugar. Stir the sugar into the liquid, allowing it to dissolve slowly. Once the sugar has dissolved return the pan to the heat and bring up to a rapid boil. Using a jam thermometer heat the marmalade until it reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit or 104 degrees Celsius. If you are working without a thermometer you can try the skin test; place a saucer in the freezer, after the jam has boiled for 10 minutes place a spoonful of marmalade onto the saucer, allow to cool for 10 seconds or so before pushing your finger through it; if a skin has formed on the top of the jam and wrinkles up as you push through it the jam is done, if not repeat every 3-5 minutes until it does. Allow the jam to settle for a couple of minutes before transferring to a jug and pouring into your jars. Immediately place the little disk of greaseproof paper you get in the jam lid kit (or make your own) on top of the jam. Allow the marmalade to cool before lidding, labelling and storing.
With 2kg of oranges i managed to make 19 small jars and a litre tub for cooking with; great in a Victoria sponge recipe to make delicious orange cake, or secret ingredient: one spoonful into a lamb tagine.