Seville oranges are gnarly, ugly and virtually inedible but I still get excited when I see them in the shops. This only happens in January in the UK and it marks the prelude to a great flurry of marmalade making across the country. I think that one of the reasons I love them so much is that they look like a much needed blast of sunshine when it’s cold and grey outside.
This year I had to smile as the ancient art of preserving met modern social media; the call went out on Facebook that our local veg shop had supplies of the bitter, sharp oranges and favourite recipes were tweeted and exchanged in food forums across the web.
I guess this is my addition to that exchange.
As always I got a bit carried away and bought far too many oranges so I made more marmalade than I had jars for and still had enough fruit left to make an Orange Meringue Pie (Recipe here).
I like my marmalade dark and bitter so I use dark muscovado sugar and a little bit of treacle in the mix. I also (whisper it quietly) prefer mine without whisky. If you like a little kick of spirits on your toast in the morning then just stir in 150ml of your favourite tipple once the mix has reached setting point but before you cool it for bottling. I recommend Jameson as it is smooth with a sweet base note which works well with the sharpness of the orange. Alternatively you could try an orange liqueur such as Cointreau.
Making marmalade takes time and shouldn’t be rushed but it is a really pleasurable activity – put the radio on or plug in your iPod, ensconce yourself in the kitchen and enjoy. Just don’t rush.
You will need a large preserving pan and enough jars for 8-10 pounds of marmalade. If you don’t have a preserving pan you can use a heavy based saucepan but may need to make this marmalade in batches.
1.3kg / 3lb Seville Oranges
The Juice of 2 Lemons
2.25 kg / 5lb Granulated Sugar (or preserving sugar)
450g / 1lb Dark Muscovado Sugar
2 tbsp Treacle
150 ml / 5 fl oz Whisky (optional)
Put 2 litres / 4 pints of water in the preserving pan and add the lemon juice and all the whole oranges. Use a heat proof plate or a pan lid to weigh down the oranges and keep them submerged in the water. Bring to the boil and then cover the pan tightly with tin foil or a close fitting lid and simmer for 2 hours. By this time the peel should be soft and easy to pierce with a blunt knife.
Remove the pan from the heat and lift out the oranges using a slotted spoon. Place the oranges on a deep plate to cool. Don’t cut corners here the oranges are much, much easier to handle when they are cool.
Once cool cut the oranges in half, scoop out all the flesh, seeds and pith and add it to the liquid in the pan. Flatten out the peel and the flat of a knife to remove as much pith as possible leaving just peel. Reserve the peel and add all the pith to the pan.
Return the pan to the heat, bring to the boil and boil rapidly for around 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a sieve into a large jug. Push down on the fruit with the back of a ladel or large spoon to make sure all the juice is extracted – this helps to maximise the pectin in the marmalade which improves the set.
Weigh the sugars into a large, heat proof container and put into the oven on a very low setting – I use the warming oven on the Rayburn. Warming the sugar first helps it to dissolve more quickly and reduces the risk of it crystallising.
Cut the reserved orange peel into shreds – make these as fine or chunky as you like. Put the orange cooking water, the warmed sugar, the treacle and the shredded peel back into the pan and stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until the setting point is reached. Remove from the heat. If you are using the whisky stir it in now.
Skim any scum off the surface of the marmalade with a large metal spoon. Once the spoon is sticky the scum will stick to the back of it quite easily. Leave the marmalade to cool and begin to thicken slightly (for around 20 minutes) before pouring into sterilised jars and sealing.
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