After last year's Marmalade mayhem and a catalogue of other runny disasters (including yogurt and fudge) well documented on this blog, I wasn't sure whether I would bother with marmalade-making this year.
But after using up some of said runny marmalade in a Marmalade Cake recently, three weeks ago I decided I would enter once more into the fray.
And bingo, the marmalade set perfectly! I abandoned Nigel Slater's recipe which I used last time (although he writes so beautifully about making marmalade) and took up with Dan Lepard from the Guardian and his recipe. It soon became apparent that he was looking for a marmalade maker with a maths degree, so I'm afraid I dumped him too. All that talk of ratios and straining and measuring the cooked juice was too complex for me. I'm a simple soul. Or maybe I'm just a lazy cook who is not very good at following recipes.
So, mostly for my own future reference, here is how I did it, taking Dan's advice into consideration (but simplifying the maths):
1. Weigh the oranges. I used traditional Seville oranges, but now I think I've cracked marmalade making I intend to use the same principles to make some more with other citrus fruits.
2. Squeeze them and put the pips and any stray bits of pith in a small bowl. Pour water into the bowl to just cover the pips and then cover the bowl.
3. Chop the oranges into shreds as thick or thin as you like. Put the shreds and orange juice in a pan and again, pour enough water into the pan to just cover the whole lot. At no point did I measure any liquid; I made sure that the shreds were just about covered and no more. (Last year I think I ended up with too much liquid which is why it didn't set).
4. Leave the shreds and the bowl of pips overnight. Also put some saucers in the freezer ready for testing whether the marmalade has set.
5. Next day, take the pips and tie them into a jam muslin. This is then dunked into the pan of shreds.
6. Simmer the whole lot for a couple of hours or more until the shreds are soft.
7. Now add at least the same amount of sugar as the weight of the uncooked oranges. For me this was three pounds which worked out as a bag and a half of sugar so I chucked in the other half of the bag (another pound) for good measure (for the mathematically minded I think that makes the ratio of oranges to sugar, 1:1.25). (At this point I deviate from Dan's recipe in that he says preserving sugar isn't necessary. I wasn't leaving anything to chance and definitely did use preserving sugar).
9. Stir the sugar in with the oranges and simmer until the sugar is dissolved and then boil really vigorously for ten minutes or so.
10. See if the marmalade has reached setting point by spooning some onto the previously frozen saucers.
11. If it hasn't set, don't be afraid to keep boiling it to hell, until it does.
12. While all this was going on, the clean jars were sterilising in the oven on a low heat (gas mark 1) for twenty minutes.
13. When the marmalade is finally setting, pour into the sterilised jars and put the lids on. Leave to cool. My three pounds of Seville oranges made 10 small to medium sized jars of marmalade.
The whole exercise could be seen as a time-consuming and sticky, messy palaver (I always end up dripping marmalade all over the place). And I noticed this week that Aldi are selling marmalade for 23p a jar (I'm sure my marmalade can't match that price). But making your own marmalade is life enriching! If you slow down and enjoy it, it's well worth the time and effort and when it comes to needing a small gift, you can never go wrong with a jar of home-made preserve (whereas a jar of Aldi's best might not be so well appreciated) - four of my jars have already gone down this route. Time to make some more!