Today is my birthday, in a minute the writing if this post will be interrupted by (amongst other things - I can smell sausages) toast and marmalade along with a glass of champagne (or two, the interruption might be a lengthy one). After a certain age birthdays, like marmalade, are a bitter sweet event but at least one thing that getting older has bought me is an appreciation of marmalade and that's something I can wholeheartedly celebrate.
We're programmed to like sweet things so marmalade can be a challenging flavour for a child, it was sometime in my thirties before I found myself wandering around Sainsbury's thinking 'if only you could get some sort of tart orange jam...' But since then I've never looked back.
Once I'd realised it would probably be a good thing it seemed obvious to make my own (because I like doing that sort of thing) and having got into the habit of making my own nothing else will do. As a child life seemed full of ritual and tradition, not least because I grew up in a crofting community where the year was dominated by weather and sheep. As an adult living in a city and without children it turns out that ritual and tradition aren't the natural things I assumed they were. If you want them you have to put some effort into maintaining them.
Most of my rituals are food based, the appearance of Seville oranges in all there slightly mis-shapen glory towards the end of January are a promise that spring is around the corner. Whilst waiting for it there's the prospect of a day spent in a warm steamy kitchen boiling, chopping and boiling some more until a decent set is achieved and your marmalade is potted. It's a deeply satisfying process when it all turns out right.
However... I cleared out my cupboards earlier this year and found more than 30 jars of marmalade, some of an indeterminate vintage. Even having given a lot of it away I still have more than enough for the next years toast. As I like my late winter tradition the only answer is to find more things to do with it and that's what lies behind my principle interest in this book.
As well as recipes for a variety of different marmalades (blood orange and vanilla sounds intriguing though I worry it might be a bit sweeter than I care for, the lemon and gin marmalade is clearly a must make) there are plenty of recipes for things to make with marmalade; a thing I'm always on the look out for.
So far all I've actually made are some very nice chocolate apricot and marmalade muffins (the recipe is on the generous size, next time I'll need bigger muffin cases) but there are plenty of good things in here including cocktails. There are sections for breakfast and brunch, lunch and supper, puddings and tea time and it is an altogether very attractive proposition. There is also good advice on making marmalade, a collection of recipes and suggested variations on the basics including some (to me) fairly adventurous sounding combinations (orange cranberry and kumquat - which I love the sound of, and quince which I'll have a go at next year) and a bit about the history of the stuff.
The basic kit necessary for preserving is small, the only thing you might not automatically have around is a sugar thermometer and some muslin (for tying pips up in) and a small collection of jars. All of them are cheap to acquire. I finally bought myself a proper preserving pan this year (it's wonderful) but even that came in at under £30.
I'm delighted with this book, it's everything I hoped it would be when I first started eyeing it up months ago when it popped up on an amazon recommendation. It would naturally make a very good present for any cooks/marmalade lovers and is both a perfect introduction to the seductive arts of marmalade making and inspiration to the more practiced disciple. Basically it's a winner.