The Spaniards prefer jam or honey for breakfast

T
This is the season for marmalade oranges, they’ll be in the shops for just a few short weeks and then they’ll disappear until next year, so if you want to make some ‘real’ marmalade now is your chance. The bitter oranges grow in abundance in Southern Spain, hence the name Seville or Malaga oranges. The streets of every village and town are lined with glossy leaved orange trees, in Spring the heady scent of orange blossom perfumes the air and at this time of the year the trees are laden with bitter oranges.

The Spaniards use the bitter orange to add a citrus note to some of their dishes as we might use lemon. Marmalade is a peculiarly British and Irish addiction – the Spaniards prefer jam or honey for breakfast. There are various theories about marmalade, originally marmalades were made with quinces: the word is derived from the Portuguese marmelada, quinces cooked with sugar or honey to make a quince paste. This luxury good was imported into Britain by the late 15th Century to be used as a medicine or sweetmeat. Recipes were developed from this and the orange jam we know today is attributed to a manufacturer from Dundee in Scotland about 1790. 

Making good marmalade is a labour of love. One could just bung the peel into a food processor or liquidizer, but for real marmalade aficionados the haphazard shape of the roughly chopped peel is ‘not the thing at all’. If you want a pot of perfect marmalade there is no substitute for cutting the peel yourself. Relax, enjoy it, grab a chair or a high stool, put on some soothing music, arm yourself with a good sharp knife and juice the fruit (a little mechanical juicer is a real boon here). Cut the peels in quarters and then cut it rhythmically into slivers with a good sharp chopping knife.

Even if you need to make a huge quantity of marmalade, decide to do just one batch a day so its never too much of a chore. The oranges will keep in a cool place for several weeks. Alternatively, put some into good strong plastic bags and freeze. This works brilliantly – use the whole orange marmalade recipe. The resulting marmalade is dark and slightly bitter, a favourite in Ballymaloe. If you prefer a more fruity marmalade make the Seville orange marmalade or you could try this brilliant recipe for no-cook marmalade given to me by a student a few years ago. It’s a brilliant ‘cheat’ recipe for instant marmalade and has a wonderful fresh citrus flavour. Store in the fridge.

If you miss the boat with the marmalade oranges you can still make marmalade throughout the year using the Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit marmalade recipe – also delicious.

Finally, seek out organic marmalade oranges, they cook quite differently and the peel softens faster. However, as they don’t have preservative on they won’t keep as long as the other oranges. Use them within a week or else freeze them. If you cannot find organic fruit, scrub the other oranges and lemons well in warm water before using to remove the pesticides and waxes from the peel. 

Old Fashioned Seville Orange Marmalade

Seville and Malaga oranges come into the shops after Christmas and are around for 4-5 weeks.
Makes approx. 7 lbs (3.2kg)

2 lbs (900g) Seville Oranges (preferably organic)
4 pints (2.3L) water
1 lemon
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 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.

Allow marmalade to sit in the saucepan for 15 minutes before bottling to prevent the peel from floating. Pot 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 soften it.

Whiskey Marmalade

Add 6 tablesp of whiskey to the cooked marmalade just before potting.
Seville Orange Marmalade 
(made with whole oranges)
Makes 13-15lbs approx.

You'll find Seville and Malaga oranges in the shops for just a few short weeks after Christmas. Buy what you need and make the marmalade while the oranges are fresh if possible. If not just pop them into the freezer, this recipe works brilliantly for frozen oranges, its not even necessary to defrost them.

Some recipes sliced the peel first but the majority boil the whole oranges first and then slice the peel.

2.2kg (4½ lb) Seville or Malaga oranges (organic if possible)
5.1L (9pint) water
4kg (9 lb) 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. Cover with the lid of the saucepan, simmer gently until soft, 2 hours approx. cool and drain, reserving the water. (If more convenient, leave overnight and continue next day.) Put your chopping board onto a large baking tray with sides so you won't lose any juice. Cut the oranges in half and scoop out the soft centre. Slice the peel finely. Put the pips into a muslin bag. 

Put the escaped juice, sliced oranges and the muslin bag of pips in a large wide stainless steel saucepan with the reserved marmalade liquid. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar, stir over a brisk heat 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.

With any marmalade its vital that the original liquid has reduced by half or better still two-thirds before the sugar is added otherwise it takes ages to reach a set and both the flavour and colour will be spoiled. A wide low-sided stainless steel saucepan is best for this recipe, say, 35.5 - 40.5cm (14-16inch) wide. If you don't have one around that size, cook the marmalade in two batches.

No Cook Marmalade

5 Oranges
1 Lemon
1 Grapefruit
Same weight of sugar, minus 110g (4oz)

Put all the ingredients together into a liquidizer and whizz. 

Will keep in the fridge for 3 weeks approx.

Orange, Lemon and Grapefruit Marmalade

Home-made marmalade is always a welcome present. Seville oranges don’t arrive into the shops until the end of January, so make this tangy 3-fruit marmalade at any time of the year - it is made from orange, lemon and grapefruit.
Yield 10-10½ lbs (4.5 kg)

2 sweet oranges and 2 grapefruit, weighing 3 lbs (1.35 kg) altogether
4 lemons
6 pints (3.4 L) water
5 lbs (2.2 kg) sugar

Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a sharp spoon, keep aside. Cut the peel in quarters and slice the rind across rather than lengthways. Put the juice, sliced rind and water in a bowl.

Put the pips and membrane in a muslin bag and add to the bowl. Leave overnight. The following day, simmer in a stainless steel saucepan with the bag of pips for 1½-2 hours until the peel is really soft. (Cover for the first hour). The liquid should be reduced to about ⅓ of the original volume. 

Then remove the muslin bag and discard. Add the warmed sugar to the soft peel, stir until the sugar has dissolved: boil until it reaches setting point, about 8-10 minutes. Pour into sterilised jars and cover while hot. 

Note: If the sugar is added before the rind is really soft, the rind will harden and no amount of boiling will soften it. 

Ginger Marmalade

Add 6-8 ozs (170-225 g) peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger to once the recipe.
You may like to substitute Demerara sugar for a fuller flavour and darker colour.

Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding

This is a variation on basic bread and butter pudding. If you like, leave out the marmalade and serve plain, or add chopped rhubarb, chopped chocolate, grated lemon or orange zest, raisins, sultanas, cinnamon, nutmeg etc. This is a great way to use up stale bread, and in fact is better if the bread is stale.
Serves 6-8

12 slices of good –quality white bread, crusts removed
50g (1¾ oz) soft butter
3 tbsp marmalade
450ml (16fl.oz) cream
225ml (8fl.oz) milk
4 eggs
150g (5½ oz) caster sugar
2 tbsp. granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Butter the bread and spread marmalade on each slice. Arrange the bread in the gratin dish or in individual cups or bowls (cut the slices if you need to). I like to have overlapping triangles of bread on the top layer.

Place the cream and milk in a saucepan and bring to just under the boil. While its heating up, in a separate bowl whisk the eggs and the sugars, then pour the hot milk and cream in with the eggs and whisk to combine. Pour this custard over the bread and leave it to soak for 10 minutes. Place in a bain marie (water bath) and cook in the preheated oven for 1 hour. The top should be golden and the centre should be just set. Serve with softly whipped cream.

Note: If you want to make this a day ahead of time, don’t heat up the milk and cream, just pour it cold over the bread. 

Rory O’Connell’s Marmalade Tart

Serves 8
Pastry ;
8ozs (225g) plain flour
pinch salt
5ozs (140g) butter
2 teasps. castor sugar
1 egg yolk

Filling;
4ozs (110g) butter
4ozs (110g) castor sugar
2ozs (55g) ground almonds
1 large egg, beaten
4 tablesp. marmalade

Set the oven to 200C (400F/regulo 6) 

Sieve the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and rub in butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar, beat the egg yolk with 2 teaspoons of cold water. Use to bind the pastry, adding a little more water if necessary to form a soft but not sticky dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth, wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and use to line an 8 inch (20.5cm) loose bottomed, fluted flan ring. Prick the base lightly with a fork, cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Fill with baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and discard the paper and beans.

Meanwhile prepare the filling. Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy, then beat in the ground almonds and egg. Warm and then sieve the marmalade. Reserve the liquid, stir rind into mixture and beat well until thoroughly mixed. 

Turn the prepared filling into the pastry case. Smooth over the top. Reduce the oven temperature to 180C (350F/regulo 4) and bake the flan for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Glaze with reserved marmalade. This tart is delicious hot or cold. 

Serve with softly whipped cream.

Foolproof Food

Marmalade Popovers

Makes 14 approx.
225g (4 oz) plain flour
213ml (7½ fl oz) milk
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
oil or lard for baking tins
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon melted butter or oil
8 teaspoons home made Orange marmalade
Icing sugar

Sieve the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk and the lightly beaten eggs. Mix to a smooth batter. Stir in grated orange rind and whisk really hard with an egg whisk until the surface is covered with air bubbles. If possible leave to stand in a cold place for about an hour, then stir in the melted butter and beat again. Grease deep patty tins really well. Put them in the oven until they are hot. Pour in the batter, filling each tins half to two thirds full, put straight into a hot oven, 220C/425F/gas mark 7, for about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, and bake for about 25 minutes longer, until the popovers are well risen, crisp and golden brown. Put a small spoon of marmalade into each one. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve immediately.

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Darina Allen
By Darina Allen

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