The last few weeks have been a frenzy of marmalade making, Julia, and her team in the Farmers Market kitchen here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, have been slicing and juicing surrounded by preserving pans of bubbling citrus peel.
The Seville and Malaga orange season is a short one â€“ running from mid-December to the end of February so thereâ€™s still time to whizz off to the shops or Farmers Market to stock up with the bitter sweet, vitamin packed citrus before they disappear off the shelves until next year.
If your budget will stretch to it, buy more than you can â€“ they will freeze perfectly. All you need to do is throw them into the freezer in a bag or box in the quantity you need for a batch of your favourite marmalade.
Seville Orange Marmalade is the real deal, bitter sweet, the â€˜classicâ€™, made famous by Paddington Bear. Itâ€™s stronger, sourer and tangier than preserves made from other citrus. Having said that, grapefruit, both ruby and tart, lemons, limes, clementines, tangerines, mandarins, bergamots, kumquats, alone or in combination make delicious marmalades.
How do you like yours? Marmalade is an intensely personal taste. Some, like me, enjoy it dark and bitter, others prefer it fresh and fruity, some love lots of peel, others prefer less chewy bits and more wobbly jelly.
Seville and Malaga oranges are so called, because they are indigenous to Southern Spain and grow in towns and villages along the roadside. On my first trip to Spain I was intrigued by how law-abiding the Spaniards appeared to be. They didnâ€™t seem to pull the ripe oranges off the treesâ€¦but I soon realised that these were bitter oranges so were less appealing to eat fresh and you may be surprised to learn that Spaniards consider our passion for marmalade a bit bizarre!
Seville oranges tend to be unwaxed, so the skin will be softer and not as smooth as other citrus. Discard any that show signs of decay and seek out organic fruit. Make your marmalade in small batches â€“ say 2- 3 kilos of fruit at a time. Make yourself a cup of coffee, find a high stool, grab a sharp knife, turn on the radio and hand slice the peel. It will be altogether better than the sludgy result one gets from the food processor or mincer, I find it therapeutic, but not everyone does. A batch a day is certainly manageable â€“ even better if you can entice someone else to get involved in the slicing â€“ Maybe for a â€˜bit of gasâ€™ organise a Marmalade Party with a few friends and give them a present of a pot for their input.
Thereâ€™s magic in Marmalade making, not sure what it is but thereâ€™s a terrific â€˜feel goodâ€™ factor when you can admire a line of glistening jars like â€˜good deedsâ€™ on your kitchen shelf. A stocked pantry to see youÂ through the yearâ€¦.
Apart from marmalade recipes thereâ€™s many good things that benefit from a few spoons of marmalade or a little bitter orange zest e.g. panna cotta, muffins or scones. Slather it over a loin of boiled bacon (remove the rind first) and pop it under the grill to make a super quick and delicious glaze.
Massage it over a chicken breast or wings with some grated ginger and a little orange juice and then thereâ€™s Marmalade steamed pudding, my father-in-law, Ivanâ€™s favourite steamed pudding.
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)
2lbs (900g) of Seville oranges, organic if possible
4 pints (2.3L/10 cups) water
1 organic lemon
3 1/4lbs (1.45kg/6 1/2 cups) granulated sugar (warmed)
(Note on warming sugar: The faster jam/marmalade is made the better. If you add cold sugar it will take longer to return to the boil and will taste less fresh. Heat your sugar in a stainless steel bowl in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes. Do not leave it in too long or it will start to melt).
Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a spoon, put with the pips and tie them in a piece of muslin. 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.Â 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.
Â Kumquat Marmalade
Kumquats are expensive and fiddly to slice, but this is so worth making. I was given this recipe by an Australian friend called Kate Engel.
Kumquats can vary in sweetness so you may want to increase the sugar slightly depending on the tartness of the fruit.
Makes 3 x 370g (13oz) pots
1kg (2 1â„4lb) kumquats
1.3kg (3lbs) sugar, warmed
Slice the kumquats thinly crossways. Put the seeds into a small bowl with 225ml (8fl oz/1 cup) of water and leave overnight. Put the kumquats in a larger bowl with 1.5 litres (2.5 pints/6 1/4 cups) of water, cover and also leave overnight. Next day, strain the seeds and reserve the liquid (this now contains the precious pectin, which contributes to the setting of the jam). Discard the seeds. Put the kumquat mixture into a large saucepan with the reserved liquid from the seeds. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until the kumquats are very tender.Â Remove the lid and reduce to between a 1/3 and 1/2 of the original volume.
Add the warmed sugar and stir until it is fully dissolved. Bring the mixture back to the boil and cook rapidly with the lid off for about 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat while testing for a set by putting a teaspoon of the mixture on a cold saucer (it should barely wrinkle when pressed with a finger).
Pour into sterilized jars. Cover, seal and store in a cool, dry place.
Ruby Grapefruit Marmalade
Yield 10-10 1/2 lbs (4.5 kg)
3 â€“ 4 ruby grapefruit, weighing 3 lbs (1.35 kg) altogether
6 pints (3.4 L) water
3 1/2lbs (1.6kg) sugar, warmed
Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice.Â Remove the membrane with a sharp spoon, keep aside. Cut the peel in quarters and slice the rind across rather than lengthways.Â Put the juice, sliced rind and water in a bowl.
Put the pips and membrane in a muslin bag and add to the bowl.Â Leave overnight.Â The following day, simmer in a stainless steel saucepan with the bag of pips for 1 1/2-2 hours until the peel is really soft.Â (Cover for the first hour).Â The liquid should be reduced to about 1/3 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.Â Pour into sterilized 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.
Rory Oâ€™Connellâ€™s Marmalade Tart
6oz (175g) flour
4oz (110g) unsalted butter
1oz (25g/) castor sugar
2 egg yolks
9oz (250g) soft butter, unsalted
8oz (225g) castor sugar
9oz (250g) whole almonds (If you are feeling lazy use ground almonds but it wonâ€™t taste so good.)
1 dessertspoon Grand Marnier
1/2 â€“ 3/4 pot (8-12fl ozs) of homemade Seville Orange Marmalade (see recipe)
Plus 3 â€“ 4 tablespoons marmalade
1 x 12 inch (30.5cm) tart tin with â€˜pop upâ€™ base.
First make the pastry.
Put the flour and butter into the food processor.Â Whizz for a few seconds then add sugar and egg yolks, turn off the machine just as the pastry starts to form a ball.Â Â Â Chill for 1/2-1 hour.Â Line the flan ring with pastry, fill with paper and baking beans, chill for 15 minutes in a refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 180Â°C/350Â°F/Gas Mark 4. Bake blind for 25-30 minutes.
Meanwhile make the almond filling.Â Â Blanch the almonds in boiling water, remove the skins and grind in a liquidiser or food processor.
Whisk the butter with the sugar until soft and fluffy, add the ground almonds, eggs and Grand Marnier if available.Â Â Spread the marmalade over the base of the tart.Â Spread the almond filling over the top.
Reduce the oven to 160Â°C/325Â°F/Gas Mark 3, and bake for approx. 40 minutes.Â Â Allow to cool on a wire rack.
Glaze the top of the tart with 3 or 4 tablespoons of Seville orange marmalade.
Serve with a blob of crÃ¨me fraiche.