Marvellous marmalade

It is citrus season and you cannot flick through a cookery magazine or trawl your favorite food websites at this time of year without hitting upon a few recipes for the seasonal treat that is Seville orange marmalade.

The Seville orange is incredibly bitter and not at all something that you want to eat in its natural state. But Seville orange marmalade is one of the best things that can be spread on toast and an incredibly useful ingredient for stirring into both sweet and savoury dishes. This is the time of year for making it, as the oranges are only available for a few weeks in and around January.

If you have no time for making it now, do not panic, these oranges freeze very well. So buy them when you see them (they are available in Joyce's supermarkets and in Ernie's on Sea Road ) and pop them in the freezer for making marmalade whenever it suits you during the year. Mine is based on Mary Berry’s recipe from The Aga Book, where the marmalade is made from frozen oranges brought to the boil and then left overnight in the simmering oven*. I know, Aga, pure notions. I love this method as there is less mess and the fruit is far easier to cut up after the peel has softened.

This recipe makes 10lb/5kg, about 10 jars. They make a lovely gift to give to friends, but If you are not as marmalade mad as I am you can very easily halve the recipe. Use the largest pan you have as the hot liquid bubbles up far higher than you might think, and trust me, a hot marmalade eruption takes a lot of cleaning up.

Ingredients

1.5kg (3lb ) Seville oranges

Juice of 2 lemons

3kg (6lb ) sugar

2 litres (4 pints ) water

Method

Put the whole oranges in a large preserving pan and add the lemon juice. Cover with the water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, place the pan carefully in the simmering oven and leave to simmer until the oranges are tender (two hours or so for fresh fruit, overnight for frozen ). Remove the oranges and leave to cool. Once cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out all the pulp and pips and place these back into the water. Bring to the boil for about five to six minutes or so. Strain this liquid into a large bowl through a sieve and, using a spoon, force the pulp, which contains the pectin that will set the marmalade, through the sieve. Pour the liquid back into the preserving pan.

Cut the peel of the oranges as thinly or as thickly as you like your shreds, thin and seldom or thick and frequent. Add these to the liquid, along with the sugar. Bring the whole lot up to a rolling boil and boil until setting point is reached. You can test for this with a sugar thermometer (105°C ) or have a cold saucer from the freezer ready. Allow a little drop of the jam to cool on this saucer; the surface will wrinkle when pushed with your finger when it is ready.

To sterilise your jars, wash in warm soapy water and rinse with hot water, then place on a baking tray to dry in a low oven for 20 minutes. Alternatively run them through a cycle in the dishwasher and use directly from there. Allow the marmalade to cool a little and then pour into sterilised jars. There are loads of flavours to add to marmalade if you fancy experimenting — whiskey, ginger, cardamom, vanilla, all good. And while you are making it, it makes your house smell better than any scented candle on the market.

*In a conventional oven heat to 120°C and simmer unfrozen fruit for two hours, frozen for at least an hour longer.

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