Thursday, 27 January 2011


Not foraged, unless you live (as I once did) within reach of orange and lemon trees. [When I first arrived in Naples I was amazed by orange and lemon trees on balconies high above the narrow stony streets - they looked unreal to me, unnaturally bright like Christmas decorations, especially as they fruit in winter].

This is a slow recipe: I did it over two days.

I used less sugar than most recipes call for, partly because the Beloved is diabetic, and partly because I find a lot of marmalades just too sweet to bear. To aid setting I've replaced some of the sugar called for with apple pectin and with apple flesh.

You need:

a very large saucepan - enamelled or stainless steel
a sharp knife
a sieve (preferably metal, as it may get hot)
a juicer
a large square of muslin
a measuring jug
wooden spoons
a saucer
6 clean jars with lids
a ladle

12 seville oranges
2 lemons
1 cooking apple
350 g cane sugar
250 g dark demarara sugar
125 ml Apple Pectin (I used Certo - there are other makes)
1 campden tablet

Scrub the oranges and lemons.
Peel finely, avoiding the pith. Chop the peel - I like it fairly chunky - and put into the saucepan.
Line the sieve with the muslin and put it over the measuring jug.
Cut the oranges and lemons in half, and squeeze them into the jug. The muslin will catch any bits of pith and the pips.
Scrape the flesh out of the squeezed halves, making sure you pick out the pips, and put them into the saucepan with the peel. Put the discarded pithy halves into the muslin.
Measure the juice and make up the quantity to 4 litres. Put into the saucepan.
Tie the corners of the muslin together firmly to hold the pith and pips. Put into the saucepan.
Bring the liquid to the boil, and simmer until the liquid is reduced to about two-thirds and the peel is soft and translucent. This took me about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

I then left it over night, with the bag in it... not really planned (just it was late and I was tired), but it seems to have done it no harm.

In the meantime, clean your marmalade jars in hot water. I added a campden tablet, which is used for sterilising wine-making equipment, but hot water and washing up liquid works ok. Rinse thoroughly. Air dry rather than wiping - I put them under the unlighted grill, as it gets warm while I'm boiling the mix on top of the cooker.


Put the saucer in the fridge (or in the freezer if you're in a hurry)
Lift out the muslin bag and rest it to cool in the sieve over the saucepan.
When the bag has cooled, squeeze and press and bash as much jelly-like essence and gooey juice as you possibly can out of it into the saucepan. I used the wooden spoon for this, and also a marmalade jar (pressing the bottom of it onto the bag) and finally pressed it between two bowls, and at last in my fists.

Peel and core the apple. Chop the flesh into small pieces, removing pips and core-y bits.
Add the apple flesh to the saucepan.
Now return the saucepan to the heat and stir in the sugars and the apple pectin. Bring to a fast boil. If the surface gets frothy, scoop the froth off with a spoon.

When the marmalade begins to bubble gloopily, test it ever 5 or 10 minutes to see whether it is ready. You do this by dropping a little bit onto the cold saucer.

If the marmalade's ready, it will become firm as it cools and, when you touch it, wrinkly. If it is overdone, it will crystalise - that's a sign of far too much sugar. If it's not ready yet, it will remain runny. 

When done, ladle into the clean warm jars and leave to cool. Carefully - few things are as hot as hot marmalade. Seal and label the jars.

The demarara sugar gives this a nice, dark rich taste and you should be able to taste the orange and the lemon peel.

The whole house smells like the bells of St Clements.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Out and About

A longish walk yesterday around Oxnead to see the snowdrops, Brampton, over the water meadows by Buxton and along the railway path to Coltishall. Unusually I carried no forage bag (I should do always, if only to pick up litter) but I did as always have my eyes peeled. Too early just yet for bramble tips or new nettles, but they are on their way. (We are currently drinking 4 year old bramble wine, and very fine it is too: I plan to make lots this spring).
Plenty of birdlife about. Egyptian geese on the water meadows. Many robins calling, and along the railway path there were bluetits on every third or fourth tree. Coming along we saw a smallish brown raptor drop out of a tree on our left and disappear into the hedge on the right, after which we heard a loud cuck cuck cuck of a bird complaining and saw the raptor fly into a copse in the field, quickly followed by the sight of a lot of small birds flying out of the copse as fast as they could in all directions. Looking it up on the RSPB website it seems to be either a female sparrowhawk (they are brown, but have a barred tail which I didn't spot), maybe a merlin... I wish birds had labels, or pulled little banners behind them announcing their names. The birds think it is spring, and the snowdrops do as well.
Making marmalade.