It’s that time of year when Seville oranges are in season again, and, as the season is so short, this is largely equivalent to saying ‘it’s time to make marmalade’. It was never something I had growing up, but my taste for it has peaked in recent years. Several of my friends’ parents make their own, and around the time we first went to the Dalemain Marmalade Festival, Mum started doing so too. I tried my hand for the first time last year with mediocre results, but this year I turned the dial to try-hard and created this, of which I am very proud. Mum’s partner even said he prefers it to hers – a source of annoyance for her but great pride for me!
Making marmalade is a long, slow process. Carefully slicing the orange peel takes time, and the juicing will enable you to find every cut on your hands you didn’t know you had. Because of this there’s something bizarrely intimate about the whole process: when cooking mine I watched the thermometer like a hawk, terrified of ruining everything. I am now fiercely rationing the six jars I have!
Ingredients (makes 6 jars):
– 4 Seville oranges (about 650g)
– 1 lemon
– 10 Earl Grey teabags
– 1.4kg granulated sugar
You will also need a muslin cloth or tea towel, and a sugar thermometer
1. Before you start, write down the weight of the oranges: this will tell you the exact quantities you’ll need of the other ingredients later. Using a sharp knife, carefully score four lines down each orange and the lemon as if quartering – though don’t cut the fruit itself.
2. Peel away the rind and cut each quarter into thin strips (or thicker ones, if you prefer), then pop them into the largest pan you have. Squeeze the juice from all the fruit into a measuring jug, reserving all the pulp and pips. Make the juice up to 3L with water, then pour into the pan with the rind. Tie the remaining pith etc inside your muslin or tea towel, then push down into the juice mixture, along with six of the Earl Grey teabags. Cover, set aside and leave overnight.
3. The next day, remove the teabags (squeezing out any liquid) and replace with two fresh ones. Put the pan onto the hob and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook for about an hour, until the peel is translucent and feels soft when pinched between your finger and thumb. This can take between 45-90 minutes, so keep checking up on it.
4. Turn off the heat, then remove the muslin bag and leave until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, use a sieve to separate the rind and teabags from the liquid – the liquid needs to be measured, and should come to about double the weight that your oranges were at the start (so for 650g oranges, you want 1.3L liquid). If you have more than this take some out; if less then top up with water.
5. Transfer the liquid back to the pan, along with the rind, the two remaining teabags and the sugar (which should be about double the starting weight of the oranges – I prefer using slightly more). Squeeze out the muslin bag into the pan – you want every last drop, so be thorough!
6. Put a saucer or small plate in the fridge. Bring the marmalade to a fast boil – as high a heat as you can get it without it boiling over – and put in your sugar thermometer. Boil until it reaches 105°C, skimming any froth off the top as you go, then turn off the heat. Spoon a little of the marmalade onto the cold plate and return to the fridge for 2 minutes. Use your finger to push the marmalade: it should wrinkle slightly and not run back. If it doesn’t, continue to boil for 5 minutes before testing again. If it’s ready, remove the teabags and leave for 10-15 minutes. It will still look very liquid, but don’t worry. Ladle the marmalade into sterilised jars; if the peel rises to the top then give it a brisk stir before screwing on the lids as tightly as you can.
Marmalade fan? Why not try out my marmalade flapjack, too.