Sunday, 3 April 2011

Lady Marmalade

OK, I know that Moulin Rouge isn't a stage musical, but this is my blog and I'm allowed to bend the rules should I wish (or need to).

This regular blogging lark is beginning to get easier, although I should announce a likely hiatus after this weekend as I'm moving house. Yes dear reader(s) I have finally managed to sort myself out and find a flat of my own to live in. Hurrah. Boxes are being packed in Hertfordshire and Essex, and all my beloved cookery gubbins will be being returned from storage on Monday. I may weep I'm so happy. Small matters such as not actually having a bed as yet, and being terrified of how I actually work out what wardrobes I need so the boyfriend (patient beyond the call of duty) can build them and of course Ikea reducing me to a gibbering wreck are being ignored as we push on, hopeful of cupcakes, salads, Mabel bread, and Ingredient challenges. I reckon with a little bit of luck I'll be settled properly by Easter and should I manage to purloin the Hamyln cookery book of my Mother's will bake a Simnel cake in honour of the occaision.

So, marmalade. Indeed. Not something I've attempted before. Although I have done chutney, and a kind of redcurrant liqueur. Did I ever blog that? I must check. No preserves have been attempted until this weekend, owing to a great deal of fear. Fear of burning myself on the sugar, of getting it wrong and wasting all those ingredients, and of not knowing when it's done. Having had a go, I can safely say there were no burns (although I suspect the preserving pan and jam spoons - thank you Lakeland - helped), it didn't go wrong, and it was really easy to see when it was done. So, in my usual style I'm going to try and do this as an idiots guide to making marmalade, because that's what I needed and what Mark's mum was brilliant at. I always talk at work about making learning accessible, and sometimes when you're doing something new you need that same approach.

Seville Orange and Whiskey marmalade

2lb Seville oranges
4lb sugar
Quarter of a pint of whiskey
4 pints of water
3-4 lemons, juiced

Sterilised jam jars
Either lids or waxed discs and cellophane toppers
We used a proper preserving pan, and spoon and whilst I don't think these are necessary, I would certainly want a long handled wooden spoon and a very sturdy pan.
Muslin and string.
Sharp knife (I used a paring knife which was perfect for the job)

Now you may well be aware that the season for Seville Oranges is long gone. But as I had just managed to damage myself at the end of January, Mark's mum very kindly froze the oranges (whole) so that we could do this when I was better. She took them out of the freezer to defrost on Friday, and then we began the marmalade on Saturday morning.

First off wash your oranges. Fruit is routinely waxed for transport, storage and to preserve it and no one wants Seville Orange marmalade with whiskey and wax do they?

Now we cooked the oranges (whole) in 4 pints of water for 2 hours on a low heat. This softens everything and gives you your liquid for later (you need at least 2 pints left at the end of the cooking time, so you might need to top it up) We did this in a saucepan with a lid on.

Now, take your oranges off the heat, wash hands, don pinny (absolutely necessary) and off you go.
Take the oranges out of the pan, and pop them on a chopping board or similar. Quarter them so that they cool down. They are really really hot at this point. I have asbestos fingers and I squeaked a bit.

Take out the pips and pop these in a saucer or dish - you'll need them later

Scrape out the flesh from each quarter and pop that in the pan you're going to cook the jam in
Then really really finely (unless you like chunky marmalade of course) shred the skin. Because you've cooked the oranges this is much much easier than it would be otherwise, but it's still fiddly and takes a while. My chopping got finer as I went along.

You need to do this to all the oranges. Yes, all of them. Put the radio on, or if you're me, find and sing away happily all the while annoying your boyfriend who just wants to watch the cricket.

Ok, so the oranges and the flesh is all in the preserving pan. Add 2 pints of the water from the water you used to cook the oranges in (you can top it up if you've not got enough) and bring to a boil. You do need some extra pectin and for this we added the lemon juice, and (and I promise this is the only fiddly bit) put the pips in a muslin square which we tied up with string and then dangled in the cooking marmalade much like a bouquet garni.

Now, add the sugar - we just used granulated sugar, but you can buy jam sugar that has extra pectin added. However, talking to Mark's mum we agreed on this fundamental point. If you're making something like marmalade from scratch, it's probably because you love cooking and you're not one for unecessary chemicals in your food - so why use something that has those in?
Put an old saucer or little plate in the fridge now

Right, you now, put the pan on the heat and bring to the boil whilst stirring. You want a rolling boil - biggish bubbles that pop on the surface, but it really doesn't need to go mental.

You continue to cook whilst it bubbles, stirring like a mad person (not beating) until it 'flakes' This took us about 15 minutes, but we're working with fruit here, it's going to be slightly different for everyone. Now not being experienced with preserves the best way I can describe this is - the jam has got darker, a lot darker - ours was probably closer to the colour of toffee than anything to do with oranges, and it leaves little flakes on the side of the pan and the back of the spoon. It's also like a loose cake batter in consistency when in the pan.

Once it's done this, take a teaspoonful or so and put it on your saucer that's been in the fridge. Oh yes, if you make this on the right hand burner of your hob then whenever you need to take it off just slide it over to the left. That way you don't need to lift it. You want after a minute or so, the top to wrinkle but the underneath to be jam like in consistency. Ours wasn't ready so we put it back on for another 5 minutes.

Leave your burner on, but with your pan off the heat add the whiskey, and put it straight back on the heat. I think my precise words at this point were "WOAH!" as it bubbled insanely like something out of a chemistry experiment. Give it a minute and then take it off the heat again.

You have made marmalade. Applause, tea, biscuits, all shall rain down on you. I demanded Mark come see, as did his Dad. Everyone was very impressed. It felt a bit like riding my bike without my stabilisers for the first time although that ended up with me crashed in the strawberry plants so maybe that's not the best analogy.

Jars, need to be sterilised whilst you're doing all of this. Having done this with Mark's mum, I can't imagine doing it by myself as this is one of those points where it felt like you needed an extra pair of hands. But, that's not going to stop me trying. Says she gamely. We washed them in hot soapy water, rinsed them and put them in the oven on low whilst we made the jam.

Put the now (really quite hot) jars on the side, pop a jam funnel in the top of one and fill it up. Fuller than you think. Almost to the first line of the thread for the lid. If that makes sense. Repeat until they're all done (mine made 7 jars of varying sizes)

Once this is all done you can pop your lids on. If you're using wax discs, these need to cover the top of the jam and be pressed down so they're resting completely on it. Then dampen your cellophane, turn it over and put that over the top of the jar with an elastic band to hold it - the water helps to stretch it out so as it dries it's taut.

Pretty jar toppers and labels now follow. Demand people admire and eat your marmalade. I did. Oh and before I forget, I had about a tablespoon that we couldn't fit in a jar, we just put this in a cup and used it over the next couple of days on toast. Yum.

I know this is a long method, and there's less rambling than usual. But I have to say I really enjoyed the whole process of making marmalade, and can imagine that on a cold wintery morning, it's a lovely snug way to stay toasty and be busy in the kitchen.

Huge thanks to Mark's mum for her never ending patience, apparently we're doing strawberry jam next. Watch this space (well wait for June time first as we're picking the strawberries too. Is it sad that I've never been to a PYO farm? Actually don't answer that).

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