What do you do when you have an abundance of oranges in the house and a Saturday morning to kill?
Christened ‘Love Marmalade’ – it certainly was a labour, but of the sticky, delicious, giggly variety. Here’s the recipe we loosely worked from, loosely meaning we talked about it for a week, then eventually halved and gutted and sliced the oranges, left them on the doorstep all day, took them to work to a busy restaurant in the evening and I boiled it off in a brief service hiatus on a Saturday night – complete with a set of whites, a butchers stripe apron, and three different spoons dropped into the pan. I recommend you make it all in one hit, without trying to squeeze in a 70th birthday party in the country and a busy restaurant shift in between. Eventually bottled at half past two in the morning – but oh, so worth it.
Granny Annie’s Dark Chunky Marmalade, from “Big Table, Busy Kitchen” by Allegra McEvedy.
Makes about 7-9 jars, apparently.
1.5kg Seville oranges
2.7kg sugar (ALL the sugar in the house – we rooted around and made it up from granulated, caster, golden and soft brown….)
1 tbsp black treacle
You will also need:
1 piece of muslin, about 50cm square (doubled over if it’s the very flimsy kind)
Waxed paper or grease proof paper, cut into circles to fit inside the jars.
Scrub the oranges and lemons under warm water and pick off the green stalk at the top.
Choose your marmalade-making saucepan. It needs to be pretty big, about a 7-8 litre capacity to allow for bubbling up, then drape the piece of muslin over the top of it.
Cut the oranges and lemons in half around the equator, as you would for juicing, and squeeze them into the pan through the muslin.
Now find yourself a shallow-bowled dessert spoon – you’re going to use it for digging, so preferably one with a slightly pointy end. Holding a half orange in one hand and the spoon in the other, dig out all the pith, pulp and membrane until the inside of the fruit is smooth and white, and let this fall into the muslin. Do the same with the other oranges and lemons.
Twist up the muslin so all the gubbins is inside it and tie to the pan handle – loosely enough that it sits on the bottom of the pan but tightly enough that it won’t unravel.
Then use a really sharp knife to slice the rind of the oranges and lemons into thin-ish matchsticks and tip them into the pan.
Pour in 3.4 litres of cold water, then Annie always leaves it for an overnight soak and soften at this stage (though when prodded she admitted that this wasn’t obligatory, it was just to spread the work over two days).
Whenever you’re ready, pop a couple of saucers in the fridge for testing later, and bring the contents of the saucepan to the boil, then turn down to a busy simmer. You need it to reduce by a third over about two hours, so if it’s happening too fast or too slowly, just adjust the heat. Don’t rush this step as once you add sugar the skins will toughen, so it’s crucial that they are tender enough before moving on.
Still working on the heat, lift the muslin bag out of the liquid, then use a slotted spoon to squeeze the life out of it against the side of the pan, scraping the jelly-like goo off the muslin with a spoon and dropping it back into the pan. This step is vital as it’s where most of the pectin comes from that will set your marmalade, so don’t skimp on the muscle – it may take a good five minutes (it’s surprisingly satisfying, not to mention beautiful, watching it ooze through the pores of the fabric). Once you’ve ditched the contents you can give the muslin a good rinse, wash it and use again next year.
Pour the sugar and treacle into the pan and stir until it’s all dissolved – feel the bottom of the pan for any granular bits and don’t go on to the next step until you are sure that ALL of the sugar has melted. Now turn the heat up to an impressive rolling boil – be careful as it will rise up the pan in a Vesuvian way, and the contents will be about as hot, too! From when it’s at the ferociously bubbling molten lava stage give it 20 minutes with no skimming, but stir occasionally so the pieces of orange don’t catch on the bottom. During this time it will rise right up the pan, doubling in size, and if you’ve got a sugar thermometer you want it to hit the ‘jam’ mark, which is 105C.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 140C. Put your jam jars and lids in the oven for 15 minutes or so – you need them to be a bit too hot to handle when the marmalade goes in.
Get a saucer out of the fridge and drop half a teaspoon of marmalade on to it. Let it cool for less than a minute then push your finger into the little pool and lift it up a centimetre: this is all about checking that it’s at the right viscosity for setting. What you’re looking for is a wrinkling on the surface as you push your finger into it and lift your finger up a centimetre – the marmalade should stay in contact with your finger.
From the point when it’s had the 20 minutes of hard boiling, check it for these signs every couple of minutes on a new bit of cold saucer – it will happen pretty quickly, but can take up to half an hour of boiling.
Once you’re happy, take it off the heat, and leave to cool for about 20 minutes, using this time to give it a good careful skim. The marmalade needs to firm up a bit before you put it in the jars so that the pieces of orange will be suspended, as opposed to sinking to the bottom.
Give it a quick stir and then ladle the marmalade into a jug – much easier for tidy pouring. I suggest doing one jar first and leaving for a minute to see how she settles. When you’re happy with your orange dispersion, fill the jars right up so there’s minimal space for air in there. Immediately pop the wax paper circles right on to the surface of the marmalade to prevent contact with the outside world (air = bugs = mouldy marmalade). Leave to cool completely with the lids off, preferably overnight, and then screw the lids on tight. The marmalade’s good to go straight away, but hide those for later in a cool, dark place.