Friday 20 January 2012

Seville Orange season

Real English marmalade requires just three ingredients - bigarade oranges, sugar and water. That's correct, no vanilla pod! Bigarade oranges are usually called Seville oranges in the UK and oranges amères or bigarades in France, and they are available right now if you know where to look. The season is less than a month long but apparently they freeze well (I like seasonal stuff, in season!). They are normally untreated, never wax-coated and often come with leaves, bird droppings and so on. I'm told that supermarkets in both countries have them, but I've never found them in France and only at Morrisons in the St John Centre, Leeds (not the Kirkstall branch). My usual source, the organic greengrocers in Otley, closed not long before we left the UK. Fortunately our friend Susan told us that the fruit stall in Preuilly sur Claise market "opposite the fish stall" had them, but only in mid January. And indeed they did.

Tim likes coarse cut dark Oxford marmalade and I like fine cut Golden Shred, so I bought enough to make both.

Originally, marmalade was not made with oranges at all, but with quinces (marmelo in portuguese). The name has the same origin as the spanish membrillo, which means "quince". Dulce de membrillo is a thick delicious quince jam called marmelada in portuguese.  Seville oranges (citrus aurantium) are not the same species as sweet oranges (citrus sinensis). They are rather bulgy and ugly, with somewhat longer stalks than sweet oranges, and a texture to the skin of the sort you wouldn't like to see on your thighs. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in a Guardian article of 29 January 2011 relates the story of how marmalade came to be.

Bigarade - full of Spanish sunshine

My recipe for Oxford Marmalade came from Hilaire Walden's Sensational Preserves, as you can see a well-used volume. One really nice thing about Sensational Preserves is, it has a number of recipes for yummy things to make with your preserves, such as Marmalade Gingerbread.

Ready to go!

Oxford Marmalade - for about 5 1-lb jars
Imperial measure:
1.5 pounds of Seville oranges
3 pints boiling water
3 pounds of sugar
Metric recipe (don't mix them!):
1 kilo of Seville oranges
2.5 litres of boiling water
2 kilos of sugar
Scrub the oranges and remove the stalks. Peel the oranges and cut them into chunky strips, pith and all (don't use a food processor). Put the peel into a large heatproof bowl. Chop up the flesh, extract the pips and put them into a small bowl. The flesh and juice goes in the big bowl. Pour half a pint of the boiling water onto the pips and the rest onto the peel and flesh. Cover both bowls and leave overnight.

In the morning you will find the pips coated in a transparent jelly. This is mainly pectin which is the agent that makes your marmalade set. You need this! So get as much of it off the pips as you can and into the bowl with the peel and flesh. Wash it through a non-metallic sieve, placed over the large bowl, dunking it up and down in the liquid as much as you can without spilling the pips. The best way to do this is with your fingers. Discard the pips.

Transfer the contents of the large bowl to a big saucepan with a lid, bring it to a boil then simmer it partially covered for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally until the peel is really soft. The longer you cook it, the darker it will be after the sugar is added. You don't want the liquid to reduce by more than about half - top up if necessary.

Warm the sugar using the keep-warm setting of your oven if you have one (80 C). Add the sugar to the cooked fruit a bit at a time, stirring until it dissolves. Meanwhile, put the jamjars in the oven to sterilise and warm to jam temperature. Bring the jam to a rolling boil and cook for 10-15 minutes or until setting point is reached. I used a jam thermometer, but the quantity is rather small for one of these to be accurate, so I backed up by plopping a blob of liquid on a chilled plate. The blob wrinkled nicely when poked with a fingertip, so the marmalade was ready. If you pot it straight away all the peel floats to the top, so the trick is to let it stand for a quarter of an hour or so, then stir it gently. This will also disperse any froth that appears on the surface of the marmalade. Fill pots and cover. Leave overnight to set.

The finished article ready for labelling


GaynorB said...

It looks good Pauline!
Tim is not a fan of marmalade so I rarely buy it. I might try to make some. Have you tried one with lime and grapefruit?

Jean said...

Your jars of marmalade look lovely. We don't eat enough between us to warrant making it, but I have always fancied trying.

I also fancy the marmalade gingerbread, which sounds right up my street.

Diane said...

My father-in-law would live on Marmalade. I will try this recipe out and send the result it over to him Thanks. Diane

Tim said...

Pauline says she's going to do the marmelade gingerbread tomorrow... there won't be any left by the time you get back over, Jean.
Have you ever tried some marmalade with pork sausages... it is lovely!
The two things come together perfectly... I wonder who tried it first! And why?

Jean said...

Marmalade with pork sausages? That sounds amazing, I will try it this weekend.

Pollygarter said...

A very similar recipe in French can be found here:
The autor's grandfather was British and this is the real deal