Friday, December 3, 2010

Devilishly good marmalade

It’s still really quite cold (both inside and out) and I’m being kept from the hot bath I’m longing for by the possibility of a delivery from DHL who claim they keep going until 9pm. I don’t care that the country grinds to a halt every time it snows (although it’s frustrating that my bus will turn up and get me to work pretty much on time in the morning rush hour, but will be half an hour and more late when the roads are clear at night) but courier companies really annoy me.

I don’t drive – which is just one of the reasons I sometimes shop on line. I do work, which means I’m not available during work hours in the week, please dear God someone tell me why couriers only do domestic deliveries when people are at work, and only have depot’s where non drivers cannot possibly hope to reach them? And furthermore how am I meant to get my parcel from a depot that’s not only inaccessible, but also only open when I’m at work? And another thing – even if I manage to get someone out to the back end of nowhere on my behalf (Loughborough for heaven’s sake) I first of all have to give them the delivery card and my passport, and if it’s not done in a week the package is returned to sender. And (there’s more) if the delivery driver is going to put a phone number on the card why won’t he answer?

So – back to marmalade. Marmalade is a bit of a preoccupation with me, after years of thinking I didn’t like it one day I found myself staring at jam in a supermarket wondering why there wasn’t a really good bitter orangey version. At which point the penny dropped, I tried marmalade again and found I’d grown into it. Since then I’ve been making my own which is hugely satisfactory (there’s a real witches cauldron element to stirring up the boiling mixture that I love) but so far I’ve been fairly faithful to one recipe (I experimented with Lemon and Lavender but was a bit take it or leave it over the results.) However I did recently purchase ‘Tea at Fortnum and Mason’, it was meant to be a present but frankly it’s looking unlikely that I’ll be letting go of it.

It has a recipe for Seville orange and Whisky marmalade which looked intriguing because it uses brown sugar and as I had a bag of Seville’s lurking at the back of the freezer I thought I’d give it a go. For any other keen novice marmalade makers out there this is the second time I’ve used previously frozen oranges and it seems to make life a lot easier. They defrost a little soft so don’t need to be boiled for so long, the inner orange comes out super easily and the skin is then perfect for fine slicing... At first I wasn’t sure about the flavour of the sugar I thought it might be a bit overpowering, but having had it on toast I can confirm its damn fine and I think it’s going to be excellent in the river cottage chunky fruit cake I’ve become so fond of recently.

1kg Seville Oranges
1.5kg golden granulated sugar
500g light muscovado sugar (I used dark so the marmalade looks like something Satan would have for breakfast and has a super strong muscovado taste)
75ml whisky
8 or 9 sterilised jars

Wash the oranges, then half them and squeeze out the juice, remove all the pith and pips as well. Put the pith and pips in muslin and tie into a little bag (best also tied to the side of the pan so it doesn’t get lost in a vat of boiling sugar) add the juice to the pan, and finely chop the orange rinds. Add those to the pan too (it needs to be a big pan). Finally add 2.3 litres of cold water and bring the whole lot up to simmering point. Simmer gently until the rinds are soft and the liquid has reduced by about half. This will take between one and two hours...

Finally add the sugar and heat gently till it’s all dissolved – give it a good stir to help it on its way and then boil vigorously for about 15 minutes, at which point it’s time to start testing for setting point (yes time to mess around with cold plates working out if it’s wrinkling or not). When setting point has been reached add the whisky (I suggest letting it cool just a little first because adding alcohol to boiling sugar has dramatic results – which was news to me) boil again for roughly 5 more minutes to get back to setting points. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and then pot up.


  1. Dear Hayley, I loved this post, being a fellow marmalade fanatic. Your dark marmalade looks fantastic. I have now got my own copy of The Book of Marmalade from Prospect Books, as recommended by you and am fast becoming an expert on marmalade history! The freezing of the Seville's is a brilliant idea allowing a bit of flexibility as to when it's made which is handy with Seville's having such a short season and family life sometimes overthrowing my marmalade plans.

  2. Oh, wow. That looks amazing. I'm constantly on the lookout for Seville oranges, and if I see some I just might have to make a few jars.

  3. Merenia - my stepmother told me ages ago that seville's froze well, I've used them that way twice, and both batchs have been really good - so much so that I'm thinking I will freeze them before use regardless in the future.

    Makedoandread - it's normally late jan early feb that you see them. This year I'm aiming to get lots!