Have you noticed how delicious the oranges are at present, so full of sweet juice – I particularly love the navels from Spain and Morocco, partly because of the little baby orange tucked inside. I also love the exquisitely sweet Spanish oranges that appear in the shops for a short time in January. What a happy arrangement of nature that the citrus family are at their very best during mid-Winter when we have the greatest need for Vitamin C and when many other fruits are out of season or sad tasteless versions of their Summer glory.
Every year the citrus fruit family seems to expand a little further as more and more hybrids come on stream. They range from the tiny kumquats which can be eaten ‘skin and all’ like the Corkman eats his spuds, to the giant pomelo with a flavour reminiscent of green grapes.
The clean fresh taste of oranges is doubly welcome after the excesses of Christmas. Watch out for the marmalade oranges from Malaga or Seville, they are just appearing in the shops now and will be around for about a month only. Choose bright unblemished fruit, if there’s even one tiny soft spot the whole orange will be tainted, so don’t imagine you are getting a bargain.
I adore making marmalade, there’s something about the smell which is so comforting, and the result is so rewarding. The jars of marmalade with chunks of bitter peel shining through the jelly make me long for toast and butter to spread it on.
Here we have four of my favourite recipes, remember it is crucial to cook the peel until really soft before adding the sugar, otherwise no amount of cooking will soften it. By the time the peel is soft the liquid should be reduced to between a third and half of its original volume, otherwise the marmalade will take ages to come to boiling point and lose its fresh taste.
Old Fashioned Seville Orange Marmalade
Seville and Malaga oranges come into the shops after Christmas and are around for just 4-5 weeks.
Makes approx. 7 lbs (3.2kg)
2 lbs (900g) Seville oranges
4 pints (2.3L) water
4 lbs (1.8kg) granulated sugar
Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a spoon, put with the pips, tie them in a piece of muslin and soak for 2 hour in cold water. Slice the peel finely or coarsely, depending on how you like your marmalade. Put the peel, orange and lemon juice, bag of pips and water into a non-reactive bowl or saucepan overnight.
Next day, bring everything to the boil and simmer gently for about 2 hours until the peel is really soft and the liquid is reduced by half. Squeeze all the liquid from the bag of pips and remove it.
Add the warmed sugar and stir until all the sugar has been dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to a full rolling boil, boil rapidly until setting point is reached 5-10 minutes approx. Test for a set, either with a sugar thermometer (it should register 220F), or with a saucer. Put a little marmalade on a cold saucer and cool for a few minutes. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s done.
Stir well and pot immediately into hot sterilized jars. Cover immediately and store in a cool dry dark place.
N.B. The peel must be absolutely soft before the sugar is added, otherwise when the sugar is added it will become very hard and no amount of boiling will sofen it.
Seville Marmalade made with Whole Oranges
Marmalade oranges may be frozen whole, so this recipe is particularly useful in that instance. It works really well for frozen fruit as well as fresh.
Makes 13-15 lbs (6-7kg) approx.
42 lbs (2.2kg) Seville or Malaga oranges
9 pints (5.1L/222 cups) water
9 lbs (4kg/18 cups) sugar
Wash the oranges. Put them in a stainless steel saucepan with the water. Put a plate on top to keep them under the surface of the water. Simmer very gently until soft (2 hours approx.). Cool and drain, reserving the water. (If more convenient, leave overnight and continue next day.)
Warm the sugar in a low oven. Put your chopping board on to a large baking tray with sides so that you won’t lose any juice.
Cut the oranges in half and scoop out the soft centre with a teaspoon. Slice the peel finely. Put the pips into a muslin bag.
Put the escaped juice, reserved liquid, sliced oranges and the muslin bags of pips into a large wide stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil and add 9 lbs of warm sugar, stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Boil fast until setting point is reached. Pot in sterilized jars and cover at once. Store in a dark airy cupboard.
Julia Wight’s Orange Marmalade
A dark marmalade for those who enjoy a more bitter tasting preserve.
Makes 10 lbs approx.
3 lbs (1.35kg) Seville oranges
juice of 2 lemons
4½ lbs (2kg) white sugar
½ lb (225g) soft brown sugar
Scrub the fruit. Place in a large pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and cook until tender, approx. 2 hours. Cut the fruit in half. Put pips and fibrous bits from the centre aside. Cut the peel into strips (Julia suggests about a ¼ inch (5mm) thick. Put the pips in a small pan with some of the water and boil for 10 minutes.
Strain the water back into the preserving pan , making up to 2¾ pints (1.6L) with the rest of the water. Add the sliced peel and freshly squeezed lemon juice, bring to boiling point. Add warmed white and brown sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring, and cook rapidly until setting point is reached, about 20 minutes. Skim and allow to stand for 20 minuts. Pot in clean sterilized jars. Cover and store in a cool dry place.