Marmalade Month

paper bag of seville oranges

Seville Oranges from Riverford Organics

January in Britain. Grey skies. Freezing temperatures. No money post Christmas spending. 5 weeks til payday. So far, so grim. But wait, there’s an orange glow on the horizon, bringing colour and scent to our kitchens. Yes, January is also the time of the glorious but short Seville orange season. Now is the time to get out your biggest pan and indulge in a spot of marmalade making.

Beloved by Paddington Bear, dreamt about by British expats and eaten from John O Groat’s to Land’s End, marmalade is a wonderful addition to your morning toast. Of course, it’s as British as curry, which is to say, we nicked it from somewhere else and made it ours. In this case, the Portuguese  delicacy “marmelada” travelled to England via France in the 16th century,  referring to a fruit paste made with  quinces, sugar and boiled until thickened. No-one is quite sure when ‘marmalade’ began to refer to a citrus fruit based confection but a recipe for a “Marmelet of Oranges” is found in the household book of Madam Eliza Cholmondeley circa 1677.  (Source: A Comprehensive History of Marmalade from the World Marmalade Awards)

For me, the joy of marmalade making is the endless permutations on a theme. Each year I make a “standard” batch and then make a further two batches, experimenting with other flavours, different sugars and thickness of peel. Marmalade happily sits with ginger, whisky, Grand Marnier, rum, treacle, and even chilli. This year I am playing with ginger, using ginger wine and chunks of stem ginger to add a little warmth to my basic marmalade recipe.

Marmalade is not just for toast, use it to glaze a ham, add to a bread and butter pudding for an extra citrus kick, bake a marmalade cake or, a particular favourite, make a marmalade martini….

I got my Sevilles from Ave Maria Farm via Riverford Organics but I’ve also now seen them in some of the bigger supermarkets.

Simple Seville Orange Marmalade:

1.5 kilos Seville oranges, washed.

2.2 litres (4 pints) water

2.5 kilos sugar

Whole Sevilles in the pan

Whole Sevilles in the pan

Put the oranges in a large saucepan and add the water. Simmer gently for 2 – 3 hours until the peel is very soft.

Remove the fruit, but DON’T throw the water away.

Let fruit cool til you can handle comfortably.

Cut the fruit in half and scoop the pips into a small saucepan, add 300ml of water and bring this to a simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to cool and then strain through a sieve into the reserved water from earlier. Squeeze as much liquid from the sieve as you can.

Chopped peel

Chopped peel

Meantime chop the peel to suit – thick or thin!

Put this fruit back into the large pan with the water and sugar. Stir well over a low heat until the sugar has all dissolved.

Turn the heat up and bring to a fast boil for 10 minutes, then pull off the heat and test for a set – either: dip a clean wooden spoon into the pan, remove it and holding above the pan, twirl the spoon to cool it then let the marmalade ‘fall’ off the spoon. If the drops run together and form flakes that hang onto the edge of the spoon, a set has been reached; or:

The "wrinkle"

The “wrinkle”

chill a saucer in the fridge, put a teaspoon of marmalade on the cold saucer and let it cool for 1 minute. Push the surface and if it ‘wrinkle’, it has reached setting point.

If the marmalade hasn’t yet set, put back on the heat and cook for another 5 minutes and try the set again. Repeat as necessary but do make sure you take the pan off the heat each time you test the set or you’ll end up with toffee!

Let it sit a little, remove any “scum” (or froth really), by adding a small pat of butter and stirring to disperse the air bubbles. Letting it sit for 5 minutes or so before potting it also helps the peel to suspend in the jelly rather than sinking to the bottom.

Ladle into sterilized jars (fill jars with just boiled water, rinse out and leave upside to dry in a warm oven), and seal. Leave to cool before labeling.

This recipes makes about 9  x 340g jars or 18 190g jars.

Jars of marmalade cooling

               Jars of marmalade cooling


Grab Your Spoon’s Marmalade Martini

Well, and why not?!

2 shots marmalade vodka (Chase Vodka make one, but you can use plain vodka or gin if that’s what you have!)

1 shot Cointreau or Triple sec

juice from 1 tangerine or half an orange

1 dessertspoon of Seville marmalade

2 tablespoons of double cream

Mix or shake in a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Strain into a glass and grate orange zest over the top.