Tuesday 24 January 2012

Making Marmalade

The citrus trees in the garden are dripping with fruit - perhaps 500 lemons, in all, spread between the two or three most prolific fruiters; and the sweet orange which climbs up to the office terrace is producing almost as generously. The newly-planted mandarin is showing willing with a token offering (which bodes well for future years) ...and the bitter oranges are going great guns, with many kilos of fruit hidden away amongst the rich dense foliage. From the sweet oranges, we have freshly squeezed juice each morning; the lemons will all find a good home over the next few months (Lemon Tart; Lemon & Sage Risotto; Pasta with Hazelnut & Lemon; Guinea Fowl with Lemon & Garlic...as well as salads, and fish, and apple pies, and cake...) and, this week,  the bitter oranges are being put to excellent use for marmalade.

I've circled warily round the marmalade process for some time, as I'd always understood it was quite complicated. Which it isn't, in the least.... and so now regret all that useless circling. It requires very little watching as it cooks, and so takes only the time needed for the hands-on preparation stages. Before trying it for the first time, I researched widely, and came up with a method that is essentially 'Colonel Gore's Recipe' - which came from the family archives of Rosemary Hume - combined with Prue Leith. As follows:

For three and a half kilos of Marmalade.

Ingredients: 2 kilos of fruit (I use entirely bitter oranges - the ones we grow are very bitter indeed, so need no help from any additional lemon juice and pith; if using seville oranges, though, it might be better to substitute a couple of large lemons for the equal weight of oranges, to give you still a total of 2 kilos); 10 pints of water; 3 kilos of sugar.


1. Cut the fruit in half, and squeeze into a ceramic or glass bowl large enough eventually to hold all of the fruit and the water. (I use an electric citrus press for this stage, and to do all of the fruit takes about ten minutes). 

2. Collect all of the pips, and tie them in a piece of muslin (or, failing that, a new j-cloth). Add the bag of pips to the juice.

3. Finely slice the fruit husks - using the slicer disc in the food processor means this job takes about two minutes in total. Add the sliced fruit husks to the bowl with juice and pips, and add to it all of the water. Cover, and let stand for 24 hours.

4. After 24 hours, transfer the contents of the bowl to a preserving pan. Bring to a simmer over low heat, and allow to simmer for two hours.

5. About an hour and forty minutes into the simmering time, warm the sugar in an oven set at around 60 degrees C (I pour it into a couple of glass roasting dishes for this purpose). At the end of the simmering time, carefully add the warmed sugar to the preserving pan, and raise the temperature to a slow boil. Keep boiling , stirring from time to time, and at the end of about forty minutes - at which point the mixture visibly thickens - begin to check the temperature using a jam thermometer. When it reaches 106 degrees C, it's done. 

6. Allow to cool for ten minutes, and then transfer to sterilised jam jars. Cover each jar with a circle of greaseproof paper - and if you have tops that can be screwed in place, do so, tightly,  before the marmalade has cooled.