My Mum’s a great cook. If I ever want to try something, nine times out of ten she’ll know: cakes, casseroles, weird Australian fruit cakes, Scotch eggs… you name it, she’ll have a recipe.
I’ve been wanting to make marmalade for ages, so when Hubby appeared back from the farm shop with a big bag of Seville oranges (in season now, folks!), it seemed a good time to kidnap her and force her to show me how to make it (not really, she was quite willing, honest).
I was really rather taken with the recipe for ‘Windfall Marmalade’ from the Hairy Bikers’ Mum Knows Best series, so this was the starting point for our marmalade, although we tinkered with it quite a lot.
First things first, then, you’ll need a few bits and bobs that you might not normally have, namely:
1. A mahoosive saucepan or preserving pan
2. A large piece of muslin
3. Lots of clean jam jars with well-fitting lids
4. A jam thermometer (although you can do it the old fashioned way too)
5. A set of wax discs, cellophane covers and rubber bands
6. A clean pair of rubber gloves, or skin like teflon
7. Time. Set aside a good few hours.
So, to make our rather unusual combo, you’ll need:
6 Seville oranges
About 900g Bramley apples
3 litres water
2kg granulated sugar
Sterilising the jars:
Wash your jars in hot, soapy water. Rinse well, then without touching the insides, stand them on a board and put them in a very low oven to dry thoroughly.
Preparing the fruit:
For the oranges and grapefruits:
Wash and rinse the fruit well. Peel off all the rind – just press gently , don’t take the pith (haha), then cut it into fine shreds.
We found that the oranges were firm enough to grate, which was much easier:
Now, with a sharp knife, cut away all the pith and remaining outer skins of the citrus fruits (keep these separate in a bowl as you’ll need them). In the recipe it says chop the flesh roughly, but we found there was too much tough stuff left, especially with the oranges, and it was easier to run the knife down the edge of each individual segment and just pop it out, leaving the central ‘core’ surrounded by a fan of segmenty skin (not sure what the technical term is for that bit, probably ‘segmenting’ which is boring, if accurate). If there are any large segments, chop them into two or three pieces:
For the apples:
Wash and rinse the fruit well. Peel, core and chop, chucking all the cores, pips and skin etc in with the citrus pith and stuff.
Off to the hob:
Put the chopped/grated citrus rind into your huge pan with the flesh and chopped apples, and pour in the water:
Now, take all the yucky bits: the apple and citrus peel, the pith, the cores etc, and tie them all up tightly in the square of muslin:
Add this gently in to the top of the pan. DON’T ADD THE SUGAR YET! (as you can see, even my mahoosive pan was not really big enough and had to be carefully watched initially so that it didn’t boil over):
So just simmer gently until the peel is tender (make sure you test it – if you add the sugar too early the peel will remain hard) and the liquid has reduced by about half. Don’t be too impatient with this bit. It took a good two hours:
Now, lift out the muslin bag and, wearing a pair of clean rubber gloves (or not if you have asbestos fingers), squeeze it to ensure you get all the liquid out. Discard.
Now, having tested the peel, you can add the sugar and stir well until it’s dissolved. Then it’s just a case of leaving the marmalade to boil away (don’t let it boil over – you want a rolling boil) until it reaches setting point.
You can test this in a number of different ways, the easiest of which are:
1. Do it my Mum’s way, which is to put a saucer in the fridge until cold, then put a teaspoon of marmalade on the saucer – it should wrinkle when pushed with your finger.
2. Use a jam thermometer - the mixture should reach about 104.5 degrees C
Bottling and sealing:
Once the marmalade has set, leave it to cool for about 15 minutes, then pour into the warm jars. Add a wax disc (wax side down), then lightly moisten a cellophane circle and stretch it over the rim of the jar (moistened side up). Add a rubber band and a funky label.
And that’s it. Easy. Should you, however, still feel that you need the help of English Grandma in order to perfect your marmalade, I’m happy to announce that I rent her out at reasonable rates.