Making Marmalade: Jane & Delia
‘I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.’
D H Lawrence
As this is National Marmalade Week, this is clearly a good time to crack the perfect marmalade recipe.
Since Batch One, I’ve had two more attempts: Jane Grigson’s recipe from English Food and a Delia Smith recipe with variations.
Jane Grigson’s recipe uses 3lbs oranges, 6lbs sugar (lord help us) and 6 pints of water, which looks rather a lot of water at first. But this batch is twice the size of my first one, so – courage. I boil the oranges for the required 1 1/2 hours then break off till the evening to finish it off. The cooked oranges sit in a bowl, quietly collapsing. Several recipes tell you to cut up the oranges first, but I can’t imagine why – the cooked oranges are as soft as butter and much easier to cut.
The finished marmalade is pretty good; lighter than Batch One and not as strong and a really beautiful, deep golden colour. But still quite intense and syrupy, so clearly I haven’t sorted the over-boiling thing.
Delia Smith’s recipe suggested cooking the mixture slowly for 2 1/2 hrs to get a dark, thick vintage-style marmalade. Which sounds tremendous, but I need a lighter style for proper comparison, so I cooked it for the usual 20 minutes, which was fine. I also took out two Sevilles and replaced them with sweet oranges, just to see what would happen.
Delia has an interesting method of removing all the pips and pith, putting them in a saucepan with some of the boiling liquid, cooking them for 10 minutes, straining it all through some muslin back into the cooking liquid, then discarding the muslin bag and letting the whole thing sit overnight.
This tasted tremendous when warm, with a distinct aftertaste of sweet oranges. That sadly faded when it cooled, but it’s still quite a good marmalade. But it’s not that different from Batches One and Two – and still syrupy (all of which, I add hastily, is clearly the fault of the cook, not the recipe).
I am aware that this is starting to sound a bit geeky, and will reassure you that my aim is to simplify the recipe, not complicate it with 79 fiddlesome technicalities and variations. I will find the perfect recipe sooner or later, so if that’s what you’re hoping for, just skip these bits and wait for a post entitled The Perfect Marmalade Recipe; it will come, I promise. Eventually.
I had to pot Delia-with-Variations in a hurry while it was still very hot, which meant that all the peel floated to the tops of the jars; so I turned them upside-down and instructed G to invert them in about half an hour, hoping it would even out. This worked, though he did admit that quite a bit of shaking was involved. But the peel was evenly distributed, just as it should be. Crisis averted.
I know that you are supposed to pot it hot, to sterilise the lids and ensure that it doesn’t go mouldy, so I was a bit puzzled; but have since read that if your marmalade is the right consistency, the peel doesn’t float. So more work needed there. And I really need to get a jam funnel. Trying to pour hot, sticky marmalade into small-necked jars in a tearing hurry while dressed in smart work clothes is not to be recommended.