This is a very long post, but I hope you find it worth it - I wanted to give all the details of the method as I know some people find it quite daunting. If you make it, please let me know how it goes.
My Mum was a veteran marmalade maker and used the jars of glowing goodness nearly as currency within the family. She’d take a jar or two along to every family occasion as gifts, and you knew how high in her favour you were if you got more than one. She strongly believed in the health properties of marmalade - the bitterness stimulates your guts when eaten first thing in the morning and keeps you regular (is the theory). Of course, marmalade appeals to the thrifty Scot also, being made of the whole fruit, nothing wasted, even the pips. When travelling, she usually took a pot with her, not trusting the little plastic packs you get in hotels, and even when she and my Dad got older and spent more time in hospitals than hotels, they packed the marmalade with them. So for me, this is a real taste of home. She usually made at least two huge batches per year, and January in our house was scented with the bitter tang of boiling Seville oranges. It is more complicated than jam to make, but it is so very worth it.
Instead of a recipe with actual weights, I’m giving proportions here – you might be a marmalade fiend and wish to make a whole year’s supply or you might be a marmalade take-it-or-leave-it person but wish to make a few gifts for family and friends. Either way, put a weekend aside in January when the Seville oranges come into the shops and dedicate it, you won’t have much energy for a lot of socialising. And it’s a two day job – about half a day’s work on each day. Your actual production quantity is probably limited by the size of your largest pan – if you don’t have a huge pan, ask around your friends, someone might have a preserves pan – you do need a lot of space for the mixture to boil up.
I’m using both metric and imperial measures here, as that’s the way my recipe is written. I don’t think it matters which you use but thinking about pounds and pints brings back my childhood for me.
Using the following proportions: 450g (1 lb in my Mum’s recipe) of Seville oranges with 1 sweet orange and 1 lemon. That's picture 1 above.
I used about 2.5kg of Seville oranges (11 fruit) with 5 large sweet oranges and 5 lemons and ended up with 4kg fruit. Unwaxed fruit if you can get it, but you can’t always. Weigh the fruit you have and record it. You will later need 1 litre of water per 450g of fruit. This made 6 big coffee jars and 11 smaller jam jars full – and this lasts me at least 2 years with a lot given away as presents.
Wash the fruit well, scrubbing with detergent – bio is best! The reason for this is that citrus fruits, along with grapes, are the most sprayed fruits you can buy, so they need to be very well washed, and sometimes there is wax on the skin. Halve the fruits and squeeze out the juice and pips. Keep the pips separate in a bowl along with any pulp that comes out with them.
Clean up the fruit halves, scraping out the stringy bits and some of the white pith – you can use a spoon to dig into the skin and tear out the pith. Chop up the fruit skins into whatever size strips of peel you like in your marmalade, I like it quite thin. Takes quite some time but really is best done by hand not in a machine. I tried a food processor one year and got tiny bits of peel that weren’t quite right and a lot of mush. Don’t worry too much about taking away all the white pith, it will turn clear and candied by the final stages.
Put some water in the bowl with the pips – it will gel quite quickly due to the pectin in the pips, which is what you want. Add enough water to allow the pips to soak. Add the rest of the water (calculated above as 2 pints per lb of fruit) to the peel and the juice in your largest bowl.
Let both bowls soak overnight. Picture 2 above.
Next day, boil the stones for an hour – watch that the liquid is not too thick and catches on the pan and starts to burn – add enough water now and then to stop this happening. When boiled, strain the mixture and scrape it through the sieve to get out all the gelling pectin, it will be quite thick and need pressing through the sieve.
Boil the peel/juice/water mixture until the peel is soft, about ½ - ¾ hour. You can do this at the same time as boiling the stones.
While these are boiling, you can sterilise your jars – I fill them all with boiling water, let it cool a bit, empty out and then keep the jars upside down in a warm oven – this allows them to dry out and keeps them warm so they don’t crack when you fill them with hot marmalade later on.
Measure how much liquid you now have. Add the pectin gel from the stone to the rest, and now add 1kg of sugar per litre of liquid (1 lb per pint, for Mum). Bring to a rolling boil and up to setting point. This can take over an hour. You need to keep an eye on it and keep stirring if you don’t have quite a big enough pan to let the sugary mixture rise up with its boil, to stop it boiling over. Picture 3 above.
Setting point is best measured with a jam thermometer and when it hits 104.5°C but you can use any other method you find OK. I have found that the cool saucer/wrinkly jam method is not very reliable for a low pectin jam like marmalade and on at least one occasion I have had to de-jar all my marmalade and boil it all again another day after the mixture did not set even when it cooled.
Once setting point is reached, let the pan of marmalade cool for at least 15 minutes before jarring – this helps to keep the peel distributed through the jar and stop it all rising to the top. Note, it might take longer to cool to this point if you are making industrial quantities – just keep looking as it cools and when the peel is starting to sink down, then you can start to jar it. That's picture 4 above, my whole production.
Put into sterilised jars and use greaseproof paper tops and jam tops under the jar lids to help keep the marmalade from drying out over time. This can keep up to 5 years (from personal experience!) and does get better over the year.
Some Changes - April 2022
Thanks to my friends and followers for your patience, and for your encouragement to start blogging again.