As I type this post, there is speculative talk about the UK entering a cold snap. Only the other day my daughter bought a letter home from school outlining the schools policy on opening (or not) should snow fall. Tomorrow, I will go out and buy my son some new wellington boots (his existing ones are way to small) as he really doesn't have any suitable footwear for adverse weather. I will also check out my local greengrocers selection of oranges. This is because, should our lives become 'on-hold' over a few inches of snow, I want to use my housebound time with the (off school) kids wisely. I will use it to make marmalade.
I love marmalade. For me, marmalade on toast is the ultimate comfort food. I can clearly remember a phase I had as a child where I took marmalade sandwiches to school for my packed lunch.
The Seville orange is only in season for a short time: late Jan to early Feb. It really is a very rewarding, comforting, satisfying thing to do; making marmalade. It takes time and can't be rushed, but that can be a good thing, particularly if you're stuck indoors.
But whatever happens weather-wise, I think I'll make a batch of this bittersweet sunshine-in-a-jar. After looking through all my cookbooks for a trusted recipe to follow I have settled on this one by Nigel Slater. I believe he is a man who knows a good marmalade when he sees (and eats) one, though I must confess unlike Nigel, who favours a thin-cut marmalade, I'm more of a course-cut girl.
Seville Orange Marmalade
12 Seville oranges
1.25kg unrefined golden granulated sugar
This is enough to fill about 5 or 6 normal jam jars.
Using a small, particularly sharp kitchen knife, score four lines down each fruit from top to bottom, as if you were cutting the fruit into quarters. Let the knife cut through the peel but without piercing the fruit.
Cut each quarter of peel into fine shreds (or thicker slices if you like a chunkier texture). Squeeze each of the peeled oranges and lemons into a jug, removing and reserving all the pulp and pips.
Make the juice up to 4 litres with cold water, pouring it into the bowl with the shredded peel. You may need more than one bowl here. Tie the reserved pith, squeezed-out orange and lemon pulp and the pips in muslin bag and push into the peel and juice. Set aside in a cold place and leave overnight.
The next day, tip the juice and shredded peel into a large stainless steel or enamelled pan (or a preserving pan for those lucky enough to have one) and push the muslin bag down under the juice. Bring to the boil then lower the heat so that the liquid continues to simmer merrily. It is ready when the peel is totally soft and translucent. This can take anything from 40 minutes to a good hour-and-a-half, depending purely on how thick you have cut your peel.
Once the fruit is ready, lift out the muslin bag and leave it in a bowl until it is cool enough to handle. Add the sugar to the peel and juice and turn up the heat, bringing the marmalade to a rolling boil. Squeeze every last bit of juice from the reserved muslin bag into the pan. Skim off any froth that rises to the surface. (If you don't your preserve will be cloudy.) Leave at a fast boil for 15 minutes. Remove a tablespoon of the preserve, put it on a plate, and pop it into the fridge for a few minutes. If a thick skin forms on the surface of the refrigerated marmalade, then it is ready and you can switch the pan off. If the tester is still liquid, then let the marmalade boil for longer. Test every 10 to 15 minutes. Some mixtures can take up to 50 minutes to reach setting consistency.
Ladle into the sterilised pots and seal immediately.