Marmalade has quite a distinguished history, though most of it concerned quinces rather than oranges until comparatively recently. The Romans used to slow-cook quinces in honey and let it set as it cooled. Their word ‘melimelum’ is the origin, through the Portugese ‘marmelo,’ of our modern word. Portugese quince paste, as eaten by Henry VIII, is still sold today. Modern marmalade received a big boost when James Keiller began making it from 1797 in Dundee from Seville oranges.
I make it myself from Seville oranges, fresh when in season, tinned when not. I use 6 large ones chopped up with a spoon of pectin and three quarters of a pint of water added to the juice. Because I like mine quite bitter, I often add a lemon or a grapefruit as well, and I leave quite thick chunks of peel. If I can I let this soak overnight. I add 3.25 pounds of sugar, although the recipe calls for 4 pounds, and I bring it to the boil before adding a knob of butter. I let it simmer for about 20 minutes, and test it by putting a spoon of it onto a cold saucer and seeing if it leaves a ‘skin’ after a minute. I pour it into warm jars via a jug, and when it’s cooled a little I sometimes push the peel down with a fork before putting disks of plastic cut from shopping bags on top. I stick my own labels on it, and always have plenty of takers from people who like their marmalade tangy and chunky, as I do.
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