Quite a long time ago (where does the time go?) I had a plan to try a different way of making marmalade that would:
a) use up some frozen Sevilles
b) use less sugar, and
c) avoid over-boiling it into a caramel syrup.
I quite like my marmalade syrup, but it's not how it's supposed to be. So having gathered together some advice on sneaky ways to make it set more easily, I had another go.
The theory was that if I added more setting agents and took out anything that stopped it from setting, it would work beautifully. Setting agents included a grated cooking apple and an extra lemon; the anti-setters were too much water and, strangely, sugar.
I have learned from various sources that sugar, in fact, can stop your marmalade from setting; which is kind of odd, as every recipe I look at uses an alarming amount of sugar, at least twice the weight of the oranges. So it was going to take a bit of nerve to abandon the traditional proportions. Especially as I was down to my last batch of Sevilles for the year.
Still, nothing ventured, so I took my frozen Sevilles, kindly delivered by Ocado back in February, out of the freezer and left them in the pan overnight to defrost. Next day I measured out 3.5 pints of water, added two lemons and boiled it all together.
Then something strange happened. When I lifted the lid to check the softness of the oranges, the water had virtually disappeared. Weird. Was it incompetence? Sabotage? Naughty fairies? No idea. Spooky.
I had planned to take Dan Lepard's advice and measure the cooking water so that I had the same volume of water as weight of oranges. I had started with 1.045kg oranges, so I measured what was left of the cooking water and added fresh water until it came to 1.045 litres. I then cut up the oranges in the usual way (see Recipes), added the peel and pulp and set the pan over a low heat.
Normally this would require 2kg sugar, so I cut it down to 1.5kg; I added this and a grated cooking apple to the mixture and boiled it till it set. Despite the water-measuring method, I clearly had far too little mixture. And, oh boy, did it set. It was absolutely packed with peel and only made five jars of quite solid marmalade, whereas it should have made eight or 10.
So, technically speaking, a complete failure - not least because it tasted exactly the same as before, just with a lot more peel. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.