Preserves / Recipes / Sweet

A Bear’s Favourite Food: First Time Adventures in Seville Orange Marmalade-Making

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While marmalade generally refers to any preserve made with citrus fruit, Seville orange marmalade is the assumed default in Britain.

Marmalade wasn’t something I especially enjoyed until quite recently–yesterday morning, in fact, when I tried a jar of the home-made stuff. I didn’t have much of an idea of what I was really aiming for, but was reassured that home-made marmalade is almost always going to be better than shop-bought. Now, I’m certainly not up to participating in the 2013 Mamalade Awards, but I was pretty pleased with this batch: highly fragrant, bittersweet, lots of ribbon-like peel held in a set jelly. It certainly stands up very well to thickly buttered toast. In fact, I think it’s at its very best with butter but that might be the marmalade novice in me, a stripling unappreciative of life’s unique bittersweet experiences. (Until recently I used to take my tea and coffee with 3 sugars, so.)

If I’m honest, the main reason for making this was because I was just curious about the whole process. Once in a while, if I’ve the time to spare, and am very sure the whole thing won’t be prohibitively expensive and certain that I’ve enough friends and family ready to eat whatever I make, I enjoy making fairly involved recipes. In this case, I decided to make a fairly small batch of marmalade, producing 1 small jar (around 200ml) and 2 medium jars (300ml – 450ml) after an afternoon of lugging home a load of oranges in the wind and rain, peeling and chopping only 4 of said oranges, a night of soaking the peel and pips, and another afternoon boiling everything.

I think I’m a fairly confident cook, but preserves are new to me so I was unsure throughout. Is the peel fine enough? Do the flesh and pips and papery skins also go in, or, erm, I thought to myself as I alternately shredded the orange and prodded my laptop keyboard with sticky fingers, hoping the internet would yield answers. I decided to just leave everything be.

The next afternoon, I was reassured that nothing had dissolved, evaporated, mutated or exploded overnight.  I thought very firmly that I was never going to do this again as I squeezed the slimy, cold pectin from the bag of pips. Nope. So very many nopes. After the first boiling to soften the peel, you then need to boil the marmalade hard and fast with a lot of sugar to get it to reduce and set. I got a little hot and stressed doing this, sweating over a pan of thin syrup which threatened to boil over if I tried to cook it at the proper heat. In the end the marmalade boiled and set nicely after I removed the wretched mixture to my 3.8 litre stock pot, the biggest one I have; I wondered what sort of gargantuan vessels people must have to boil 1kg batches of the stuff. I think I could have also let it boil slowly for longer but it was already getting on towards evening at that time.

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Now that the whole thing is several days behind me, I think I can say that it went fairly well for my very first time. Next year, I think (I hope!) will be less of a to-do. The recipe I used isn’t representative of all types of marmalade ever but it just happened to be the kind I enjoyed. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, look at Delia Smith’s recipe as she gives the saucer-testing method.

Largely via Dan Lepard, with some further instruction from Delia Smith.
Note that this is a 2 day process with many hours needed to cool the finished jars, start it well before you want to eat your marmalade!
Makes a small batch: 1 x small jar (around 200ml) and 2 x medium jars (300ml – 450ml).

500g Seville oranges (around 4 large ones)
1kg white granulated or caster sugar (ordinary kind with no added pectin)
50ml fresh lemon juice (from about 1 big lemon)

Equipment: something to juice the oranges with, a large non-reactive bowl or tub, a sharp knife, medium-large square of muslin or a cooking bag, a large pan (at least 3 litre capacity), a measuring jug, a large sieve, a cooking thermometer, more jam jars and lids than you think you need.

Prepare the oranges. Wash them well, cut each of them in half and squeeze their juice into a large bowl. Reserve the pips and any membranes, putting them in a teacup full of water. Cut the empty orange shells, skin, pith and all, into quarters. Slice them as thickly or thinly as you like, only make sure to keep the size consistent. I went for thin 2mm shreds. Put the cut peel into the bowl with the juice. When you’ve finished preparing everything, Top up the juice with cold water l to submerge the peel, then cover both the large bowl and the pip teacup and leave to soak overnight at room temperature. You can leave them for up to 24 hours.

The next day, be ready for several hours of boiling. Put the peel and its water into a very large saucepan. Add any pectin-jellied water from the pip teacup to the pan, plus any sticky pectin clinging to the pips. Place the pips themselves onto a square of muslin or into an infuser bag, tie it up and add to the pan.

Set the pan over a high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle and steady simmer. Cook for 2 – 3 hours, topping up to cover the peel as needed, until the peel is very soft and easily crushed between your fingers.

Take the bag of pips out of the pan and leave to cool slightly. Strain and set aside the boiled peel while reserving the liquid.  Measure the liquid: you should have around 1 litre, so either top up with water or boil hard to reduce it. When you’ve got the required amount, put the peel and liquid back into the pan, along with all the sugar and the lemon juice. Give the cooled bag of pips a good squeeze with your hands over the pan to extract as much pectin as possible.

* At this point, you may wish to start sterilising the jars. You can use one of these methods here, for the oven, dishwasher, or microwave.

Set everything over a low heat, stirring to warm the mixture and completely dissolve the pectin and sugar. Scrape the bottom carefully to ensure that there are no crystals of sugar clouding up mixture or the marmalade might crystallise. Once everything’s dissolved, add your cooking thermometer and bring everything to a fast boil over a high heat, skimming off any white froth that rises so you get a nice clear marmalade. Boil until the mixture reaches 105 degrees Celsius (220 degrees Fahrenheit), and everything is reduced,  thick, and not quite so foamy and bubbly. Immediately turn off the heat and leave the marmalade to settle for 15 minutes.

Pour or ladle into sterilised jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool overnight, completely undisturbed.

3 thoughts on “A Bear’s Favourite Food: First Time Adventures in Seville Orange Marmalade-Making

  1. I made 2 different recipes last year—one similar to this, and another that involved boiling the oranges whole before slicing. It was such a production, I just didn’t feel up to it this year. “Nope. So very many nopes.” But it looks like you did a wonderful job!

    • Thank you! Yes, it is such a production, isn’t it? I worried that someone would say, ‘Pah, what are you talking about? My five year-old keeps the whole household running on their effortless marmalade-making skills!’ and I’d have to be ashamed for ever.

      I’ve read on other sites that marmalade-making used to be even more troublesome as people hadn’t yet got it down to a more precise science, so you’d do all the laborious soaking, chopping, and boiling but still get a runny preserve with leathery peel. I call that unimaginably annoying!

  2. Pingback: 2013 recipe highlights | The Furious Pear Pie

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