Posts Tagged ‘british food’

London — By Andrea Kirkby on March 25, 2010 at 9:02 am
Filed under: best of week, british food, english breakfast, marmalade

Great British food: Making my own marmalade

It would never have happened if I hadn’t been passing the fruit stall and seen the Seville oranges sitting there, bright little balls of sourness and juice. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t already posted about marmalade on this blog. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t tried some of that Fortnums marmalade, and wanted more…

I wish mine looked this good...

I went mad. I bought a pile of Seville oranges. The kindly stallholders even added a couple of bags of misshapes at half price. (I’ll have to make a little jar of marmalade specially for them.)

Then came the hunt for recipes. One with coriander. One with muscovado sugar and whisky. Delia Smith’s traditional, slow-cooked recipe (if you don’t know Delia, she is a relatively unflashy English cook, rather than one of our noisy chef exports – but she’s very, very good at traditional English food). One with pink grapefruit.

I don’t like limes that much, so I disregarded the lemon and lime marmalade recipes. But a recipe for ginger marmalade I think will have to be made, giving the warmth of ginger to the bittersweet taste of the oranges and sugar.  And a friend has suggested I could use rum instead of whisky for a tropical taste. (Easy to try that,  since the alcohol is the last thing you add – after all, you don’t want all the volatile aroma and flavours to boil away.)

Now there’s one interestingk thing that came out of all this recipe searching. There are two different ways to make marmalade! The first way is to boil the oranges whole for hours and hours, then scrape out the pith and the pips and pulp, and chop the peel – really easy to chop as it’s now soft. Then put the peel and strained juice back in the pan, add the sugar, and finish the job. The other way is to chop the orange peel and eviscerate the fruit first. It sounds as if that’s easier – but it darn well isn’t; the orange peel is really hard to chop, and the pith doesn’t come away easily. Though it’s more cooking, I think I’ll stick to the first method.

The other big difference from ‘regular’ jam making is that marmalade takes a lot longer. You have to cook the peel till it’s good and ready. This can darken the sugar in the mix, too, so that even if you’re using mainly white sugar, it’s pretty caramel coloured by the time you’re finished.  Keeping the pretty orange colour of shop bought marmalade is difficult to do.

The kitchen soon became a steamy, hot jungle scented with orange, where the noise of bubbling volcanoes of pulp on the hob could have been the soundtrack for an Indiana  Jones movie. The whole house soon stank of oranges. For days, life was dominated by the lurking, seething pots in the kitchen.

But we do have a result. So far, I have three loads of marmalade – twelve big jars full. A Delia marmalade, where I added whisky to half the batch, and blackstrap molasses to the other. Six hours’ cooking! but the result is good, firm, and tasty, if I think a bit too sweet. A muscovado sugar recipe, which comes with added whisky, nicely dark. And a coriander flavoured marmalade…

A horrible mistake! I forgot the word ‘coriander’ in between reading my recipe book on the dining table and walking through to the kitchen, and put a tablespoon of cardamoms in the marmalade instead. Oh… blast… however, I have now invented a very fine orange and cardamom marmalade, which tastes exactly as if I knew what I was doing.

Things I’ve learned? Don’t put the sugar in until the peel is cooked through. Use lemon juice to improve the set – lemons have more pectin than oranges, so you don’t end up with runny marmalade. Don’t let the pith and the pulp stay in the marmalade – they turn it milky, where it should really be crystal clear (however dark it is, if you hold it up to the light, you should be able to see through it). Leave the marmalade twenty minutes after you stop boiling it, so that it’s just that bit thicker when you put it in the jar – that ensures the bits of peel stay suspended in the mixture instead of floating to the top. And make sure you have enough jars!

Home marmalade making is not for the fainthearted. Lots of super-boiling sugar mixes – risky stuff. Even riskier is the matter of adding liqueurs. Apparently back in the 19th century, Elsenham decided to put brandy in the marmalade. The workers poured it into the huge copper boilers… and waited… and tasted, once the marmalade had cooled. It tasted like ordinary marmalade. Well, that could be easily sorted out; they added more next time, again adding it to the boiling mixture. That didn’t work. By now the boss was wondering how much brandy it was going to take, and how much it was going to cost… it wasn’t till a couple of the workers keeled over that some bright spark realised the alcohol was being volatilised, and everyone was getting drunk on alcoholic air!

But it’s great fun making your own. I still have half a mountain of Seville oranges to go… and I’m looking forward to it, though I may not get much work done this week.

Remember though, you’ll get your Seville oranges in February and March – but not later.You could make marmalade with other citrus fruit – lemons, lime, or less traditionally satsumas, clementines or even yuzu – but it’s not quite the real thing, at least for the purist. So head for the greengrocers’ now, before it’s too late.

Photo from Culinary Historians of Ontario on flickr


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