It’s January.  The Seville oranges are on the shelves, those with the hard, knobbly skins, the dusky yellow orange colour of a stormy sunrise.  Slice into them.  The skin is thick and very bitter, while the fruit is so sour it freezes your teeth.   Squeeze about eight of them (2 pounds).  Pour the juice into a deep saucepan containing 4 pints of water.  Put all the pith and pips onto a square of muslin over a shallow bowl to collect any residual juice.  Scrape out the pith from the husks of the orange halves and put that on the muslin two.  Tie the muslin containing all the pith and pips into a bag with string and suspend in the liquid.  Then, using a large sharp knife, cut the orange halves into quarters and then fixing the end of your knife on the edge of the chopping board and using a rocking motion, cut the orange into thick slices.  With practice, this can be done quite quickly, but be careful, you don’t want slices of finger in your marmalade.  Put all the slices of orange in the pan and heat to boiling.  Then simmer for two hours until the peel is completely soft.  Now remove the bag from the pan and leave to cool on a saucer.  Put 4 more saucers in the freezer.  These will be used later to test whether your marmalade has set.  The next stage is critical.  

Add 4lb of golden granulated sugar to the pan.  This seems an enormous amount as it heaps up above the liquid like a island in the sea.  Increase the heat and stir the sugar in.  When the granules have completely dissolved,  squeeze in the glutinous pectin from your muslin bag.  Careful, it is probably too hot to squeeze in your hands.  Try squeezing between two saucers.  Get as much pectin out as you can.  This is what will set the marmalade.  Continue to heat the mixture.  Soon it froths up like the head on a pint of beer.  Set your timer to 15 minutes and continue to boil.  Do not leave the pan on the stove.  The mixture can easily boil over and burn.  Stir from time to time.  After 15 minutes, turn the heat off, allow the froth to disperse and spoon out a little of the juice onto one of your cold saucers.  Put it back in the freezer for a minute. Then check whether it has set by pushing it with your finger nail and seeing if it wrinkles.  This is a good opportunity to dip your finger in and taste your marmalade.  The amber elixir, such a wonderful dark bitter flavour.  If it has not quite set, put the pan on the heat again and boil for another ten minutes.  Test again until it has reached setting point.  Cooking is pure alchemy.  Only the oranges know whether they have reached that critical point when setting occurs. 

 Turn the heat off and allow the mixture to cool for twenty minutes.  In the meantime heat your jars, which you have previously cleaned in the dishwasher, on some newspaper in an oven set to 100C.  Your mixture will make 6lb of marmalade.  Now ladle the mixture out, preferably using a ladle with a lip, and  pour into your jars, making sure you have plenty of peel in each jar.  Fill to about half an inch from the top, cover with a piece of greaseproof paper, fix a cellophane lid on the top with a rubber band and label with today’s date; Nick’s Maramalade, 21.1.08.   It will last all year and you will still have some over to give to your friends.

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