Seville orange season is coming to an end. And so when – with great alacrity – I recently managed to locate a generous quantity of these bitter Spanish oranges from a fruit market, I simply couldn’t let the opportunity to make marmalade pass me by. To miss out on this wonderful preserve would, indeed, be nothing less than a true tragedy. Seville oranges, you see – those wonderfully tart yet vibrantly flavourful oranges shipped over from the depths of Spain – have a very short season, roughly from late December until mid February. Which of course just makes them all the more delectable. In a wonderful twist of fate, they preserve exquisitely. Nothing makes perfect, Paddington Bear worthy marmalade like a Seville orange: just bitter enough so as not to be too sweet – very important – and with a glossy, clear texture, where sweeter oranges would be too cloudy.
I had never attempted to make marmalade before – although I have made a number of other jams and preserves in the past – and I was pleasantly surprised, by how simple the process is. Granted there is a small amount of organisation involved: the oranges need to sliced and soaked overnight, and the pips need to be separated from the fruit and wrapped in a muslin bag. Fiddly, but not difficult. And then there’s the boiling of the fruit for a couple of hours. But beyond this, making marmalade seems to involve little more than chopping up fruit and mixing it in a pot with large quantities of sugar. Yet the rewards are so ample: there is no true pleasure quite like dousing your morning toast with lashings of butter and homemade marmalade. Not only does it taste truly, truly divine . So divine, in fact, that you will inevitably find yourself increasing your morning intake of toast just to satisfy cravings for this homemade delicacy. Be warned. But people will hail you far and wide as a domestic divinity. How could they not?
The recipe which I used for my marmalade is adapted from The National Trust’s book of ‘Jams, Preserves and Edible Gifts’. I adopted their recipe for basic Seville marmalade, lessening the sugar content quite substantially – although, as you can see, it is still ample – so as to produce a more bitter jam, and adding a touch of heat with some crystallised ginger. Ginger and Seville oranges are two flavours which work notoriously well together: the bitterness of the one serves to compliment the punchy warmth of the other. Sublime. So, as you spread lashings of this delightful marmalade on your toast in the mornings – and eventually give in to the urge to just eat it by the spoonful – you will find yourself nicely surprised by little pockets of spice which just brighten up the day. The finer your chop the ginger, the less powerful and the more evenly distributed its flavour will be. But I like it chunky. Kind of like the Russian Roulette of the breakfast spread world.
To make Seville orange marmalade with a hint of ginger…
Makes enough for 4 medium to large jam jars. Keep it all for the ultimate indulgence. Or give some away to friends who will then love you forever. Your choice.
- 900g Seville oranges
- 1 sweet orange
- 1 lemon
- 2.4l water
- 1.4kg caster sugar
- 300g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
Cut all the fruits in half, remove the pips and then place them to one side. Slice the fruit finely so that you’re left with thin half moon shaped slices; place in a large bowl and cover with 1.8l of the water. Then place the pips in a separate bowl and cover with the remaining water. Cover both bowls with clean cloths and leave to stand over night. When you’re ready to make your marmalade, first sterilise your jars by putting them through a hot cycle in the dishwasher. Place the fruit slices and their water in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Leave to simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours or until the peel is tender and the water is greatly reduced. Next strain the pips – adding their water to the saucepan of simmering fruit – and tie them in a piece of muslin cloth; add the parcel of pips, chopped ginger and the sugar to the saucepan. Keep on a simmer and wait until the sugar has warmed (and dissolved) before bringing to the boil. This is important, as otherwise – if you boil the sugar before it has dissolved – it will crytallise later in the preserve and leave you with lumpy marmalade. Now, bring the mixture to the boil and boil rapidly for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring frequently to stop it sticking to the bottom. After it has boiled for 10 minutes or so, check periodically to see if it has set. I do this by placing a scarce teaspoon of marmalade on a chilled plate (I put a plate in the freezer 10-15 minutes before this point): drizzle the liquid on to the plate, leave for a minute or so and then poke at it with your finger; if the jam wrinkles then it has set. When ready, turn off the heat, scrape any scum off the top and allow the marmalade to sit for ten minutes or so. Finally, spoon the marmalade into your sterilised jars, being careful not to touch the inside of the jars or their lids.