Its that time of year again – marmalade time.
1 kg Seville oranges – guaranteed to have more pips than flesh and even when you think you’ve got all the little blighters they keep popping to the surface during the interminable boiling time.
1 lemon – this one came wrapped in tissue paper. It was the only one wrapped in the crate with its little logo covered square of protection – so obviously it was the one I needed despite the fact it was virtually at the bottom of the box.
2kg of warmed granulated sugar…you know that adage about the watched pot – what it should actually say is that the warmed sugar is either stone cold or welded to the bottom of the pan. There are no in-between stages.
A small muslin bag for all those pips. The chances of you having one of these unless you’re like me and saw them in a sale several years ago and thought they might come in useful are remote – and it turns out little muslin bags with drawer strings are very useful indeed. They will also be exceedingly useful next time you’re shopping and see something else in the kitchen paraphernalia range that your loved one feels is excess to requirements. Now you will be able to remind him or her of those handy little muslin bags whilst looking virtuous and highly organised.
I cup of cointreau or spirits of your choice – to add to the marmalade not to while away the time whilst the marmalade cooks.
8 X 375g sterilised jam jars.
First chop your oranges and deseed them. Its the pith that makes the marmalade bitter but I very swiftly discovered that my marmalade wasn’t going to be delicate and ladylike – for starters the oranges had lives of their own and for seconds it turns out that I have many cuts on my fingers. The mandolin did not work particularly well as the little device for stopping you chop your fingers off didn’t like the orange peel very much. Any way ultimately I chopped a kilo of oranges into roughly equal strips and collected most of the pips. The pips go in a muslin bag which as luck would have it I had (as I may already have mentioned). The oranges and the lemon chunks go in a very large bowl and then you add 2.25 litres of water followed by the bag of orange pips and a plate to cover it all. Go away and do something else for twenty-four hours.
Transfer the pleasantly citrus concoction to a large stainless steel pan along with the pips in their bag. If you use copper you’ll end up with very clean copper and very dirty marmalade – take it from one who knows. Gently heat. You need to halve the amount of liquid. The longer it takes the softer the peel will be. When the kitchen is steamy because you’ve forgotten to put the extractor fan on open the window so the neighbours can share your orangy sauna and turn on the extractor fan. Thank your lucky stars you don’t have wallpaper in the kitchen and if you do tell yourself that you needed to redecorate in any event.
Deposit 2kgs of sugar in a pan – heat gently watching it nervously for any signs of sticking. This means you need to stir it regularly but gently because otherwise hob cleaning is going to take on a whole new meaning.
When the sugar is warm and the liquid in the other pan has halved, add the sugar to the liquid. I took the bag of pips out before adding the sugar not he grounds that I wanted to use the bag again and knew how difficult it would be to get clean otherwise. Put your thermometer in the pan and prepare for a long couple of hours inhaling orange steam. The setting point for marmalade is 104 degrees centigrade or 219 degrees farenheit. One very helpful book informed me that if I went over the setting point that the marmalade would never set – a dispiriting thought. Remove the odd rogue pip, stir to stop sticking, admire the peel shrinkage and when the temperature is close to setting point add the cup of spirit. There will be alarming bubbling of the kind that you’d expect to see in a cauldron and the temperature will drop unexpectedly despite all the bubbles.
Don’t forget to sterilise your jam jars.
Eventually after a very long time the optimum temperature will arrive. By that time you should have planned the next month, be able to breath through your nose and gone off making marmalade until next year. Remove pips and any scum. Pot the marmalade up without pouring it over your hands. Seal and leave to cool. Apparently you can enjoy it for breakfast the following morning. Is now the time to mention that I don’t like marmalade very much? However, the Pottermeister’s jar has already got her name on it!
Now all you need to do is clean the kitchen or find a willing victim – er, sorry- helper, to do the washing up and clean the hob.