Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Making Marmalade: Batch One


Making Marmalade: Batch One

First batch of marmalade on the stove. Rather late in the year, but just catching the tail end of the Sevilles. Lovely smell of boiling oranges first thing this morning, then the sharper, more syrupy smell of the marmalade itself around teatime.

This is my mother’s recipe, the classic combination of Seville oranges, the juice of a lemon, mostly white sugar with a bit of soft dark brown, and she puts all the mush and pips in a muslin bag. I think this is referred to as the jelly method. (My finished marmalade last year was more syrupy than jellied, but I quite like it that way.)

Last year my marmalade wouldn’t set; but I think I wasn’t boiling it hard enough, so this year for Batch One I cranked up the heat (I use the wok ring) and it was at setting point in 25 minutes. I nearly ruined it by nipping upstairs to check if anyone had tracked down some Sicilian Orange & Coffee Marmalade for me (see earlier post, still no luck), and came back down to find the pot had turned into a bubbling volcano of orange froth and was almost over the rim. Which would explain why, in my mother’s handwritten recipe, it says ‘WATCH IT!’ in large capital letters just after the ‘bring to a fast boil’ bit.

The result is a darkish, bitter, syrupy marmalade, which would probably horrify the WI, but is just what I’m used to – a very nostalgic taste. G, my other half, says that it’s ‘interesting’. Total yield: 10 jars (of varying sizes).

Homemade or MaMade?
Ordering Seville oranges on Ocado’s site and notice with amusement that Seville oranges are abundant and plentiful but MaMade is sold out. Clearly London’s cooks are short of time this year.

I haven’t used MaMade – a large can of prepared Seville oranges to which you just add sugar and water - but have been told by a couple of small, artisan marmalade-makers that it is very good and that they use it with impunity when their fresh Sevilles run out. I would use it if I could be assured that you still get the nice smell of boiling oranges. Perhaps an experiment is in order.

Man-made Marmalade
It is a truth not often acknowledged that an awful lot of men make marmalade. The World Marmalade Awards includes an entire category for Man-made Marmalade, and last year’s overall winner was a man, Lord Henley. Several of my male friends of a certain age make it, and take it very seriously. (My theory is that men enjoy any kind of cooking that involves large equipment, and marmalade does indeed need a pretty big pot.)

For example, here is AA Gill on the subject of marmalade, in a review of the Savoy Grill for The Times in May 2011:
‘You grow to love food writers in a way you don’t with novelists, because you share so much with them. They become real with the eating. Every January I make Elizabeth David’s marmalade, and there she is each morning for breakfast.’

More evidence of male marmaladers to follow shortly.

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