We are having a weekend at home, patiently waiting for ‘the snow’ (for those outside the UK, we have been issued with a weather warning that much of the country will be covered in snow by Sunday morning) to arrive and pottering about doing house jobs. I have cloched as much as I can in the garden, in anticipation of the colder weather, mostly the very advanced foliage of the anenomies and ranunculus in the cutting patch and a few of the clingers on from last year such as antirrhinum. I have finally moved all the kids toys into the greenhouse and shed, I figure if we are lucky enough to get some snow (and I suspect the boys may run a mutiny on the met office if we don’t get any) I might like to look out on a pristine garden and not one strewn with plastic toys and old abandoned scooters.
Indoors the boys are still in their pj’s playing, M is tinkering with his bike and I am making marmalade.
I managed to bag some Seville oranges in last week’s Ocado shop, I am so pleased they have stocked them again as in previous years I’ve often found myself repeat calling the local supermarket to try and catch them in-stock and save a drive for no reason. With their elusive 4 week (ish) window on the shelves usually late
January to early February they are easily missed.
Following on from last year’s marmalade making session, where I stocked up on whisky marmalade and Seville jelly, I decided to opt for a dark chunky version this year (I still have a few jars of the other kind in the cupboard). Although Seville jelly is made to a different method, really the only difference from whisky marmalade is subbing some of the preserving sugar with dark muscovado sugar, cutting the peel a little chunkier and shorter and, obviously, omitting the whisky. Looking at the sugar ready in a bowl makes my teeth ache. I didn’t have enough preserving today so used some golden granulated as well.
1 kg Seville Oranges
Juice of 1 lemon
2 litres water
1.8 kg Preserving sugar
200g Dark Muscovado sugar
Place some saucers in the freezer
Ream oranges and lemon into a double layer of muslin set over a sieve, scouring shells to get as much pith as possible (I used a clean but old tea towel as I have run out of muslin cloths, I also tend to scrape the shells out after reaming using my fingers to pull every last bit of flesh from them them).
Tie contents of muslin into a loose bag and put into preserving pan with 2 litres of water and the strained juice.
Discard shell of lemon. Slice orange shells into chunky batons. Add to pan, bring to boil then reduce and simmer, uncovered, for about 2 hours, until the rind is completely soft.
Remove muslin bag and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible, back into pan.
Add sugar and stir over low heat until completely dissolved. Raise heat and rapid boil for a set (15 mins). Remove from the heat and test by putting a small amount on chilled plate (from the freezer), after cooling for a moment it should form a skin that wrinkles when pushed with finger, if this isn’t the case, boil for a further 5 mins and test again, repeat until set is achieved.
Leave marmalade for 10 mins to cool before stirring (to distribute the peel) and potting in clean warm sterilized jars (I put my jars and lids into the oven for 10 mins at a medium heat), with wax discs on top. Cover with clean tea towel and leave until completely cold before putting the lids on.
So the most important things, I find, are making sure the peel is properly soft at the first simmering stage, once you add the sugar it toughens up a bit and this can make for chewy bits of peel in your marmalade if it’s under cooked. Another thing is being absolutely certain all the sugar crystals have dissolved before rapid boiling, otherwise the marmalade can crystallize in the jar. I tend to leave mine for a very long time over a very low heat after adding the sugar.
Our house is now full of a wonderful orange smell. Lovely. Sadly there is no sign of snow and the skies have turned a beautiful winter blue colour, fingers crossed or I will have two very grumpy little boys to deal with 😉