Making marmalade and jam reminds me of my maternal grandmother, Nanny. Jam seems inextricably linked to my memories of her. I remember her telling me stories of living in London during the World War II. She had been making plum jam on the day the Blitz started and she emerged from the bomb shelter with her four young children to find all the jars of jam that had been neatly lined up on the window sill smashed from the bombings. She taught me how to make jam and chutney, how to test for a set and how to sterilise the jars. I still derive a huge amount of pleasure of seeing a shelf of homemade preserves in my cellar and think of my Nanny whenever I do.
I’ve tried a variety of methods of making marmalade over the years. The one I keep coming back to is the one I found in a book by Claire MacDonald, ‘More Seasonal Cookery’, published back in 1987. Instead of slicing all the raw peels by hand, the whole citrus fruit are cooked in water, left to cool and then the innards scooped out and the soft peels sliced, which amounts to about 10 minutes of work all in. Some years I’ve even cooked the fruits one day and then sliced the peel and finished the marmalade the next day – I’m all for dividing up big tasks and spreading them out. I have made variations over the years, so don’t hesitate to add a slug of whisky (at the end of cooking, just before potting), the juice of some grated fresh ginger (add along with the peels), or whatever else appeals to you.
I personally like thinly cut peel but if you want to reduce the workload even more, then of course you can use a food processor to speed up the process. And to avoid anyone else being disappointed – sadly the amazing colour of blood oranges is not heat stable. Once the peel are cooked this way the peels and flesh are the colour of regular oranges, so keep your precious stash of blood oranges for recipes when their colour will sing – sorbets, curds and salads.
- 750g Seville oranges
- 750g other citrus fruits - I use 1 pink grapefruit, 1 lemon and 3-4 sweet oranges to make up the weight
- 2.5litres water + 250ml water
- 2.5kg granulated sugar
- knob of butter
- Wash all the citrus fruit thoroughly in hot soapy water. Rinse in fresh water and then place in a large saucepan, add 2.5l water and place a small plate on top of the fruit to hold them down slightly.
- Bring to a boil then allow to simmer, with a lid on, for about 2-3 hours, until the fruit peel is soft and easily pierced by a knife.
- Remove the fruit from the pan, set aside to cool slightly and set the pan plus the liquid aside for later.
- Wash the jam jars and lids and place in a heated oven to sterilise (see directions below).
- Place 2 small plates or saucers in the fridge or freezer to chill for testing the set later (directions below).
- Cut each of the cooled, cooked citrus fruit in half and, using a spoon, scoop out all the flesh and pips into a small saucepan. Add 250mls water to the pan and boil for 30 mins, then strain - keeping the water and discarding the flesh and pips.
- Meanwhile slice the peel as thinly or as thickly as you wish using a sharp knife, or using a food processor if you want a chunkier marmalade.
- Return all the sliced fruit peel to the large pan with the reserved fruit cooking liquid, add the water strained from the small pan with the liquid from the pips, and add the sugar. Bring to a boil.
- Boil furiously for 30 mins then pull the marmalade off the heat and test for a set. To do this, drop a teaspoonful of marmalade onto one of the chilled plates from the fridge or freezer and allow to cool for a minute. Using your finger, push the jam forward across the plate. If the surface wrinkles, then the marmalade is ready to set. If there is no wrinkling, then put the pan back on the heat, boil for another 5 mins and test again.
- Once the marmalade is at setting point, carefully remove remove the jars from the oven, add the knob of butter to the marmalade (it will help disperse any scum) and pot the marmalade using a funnel and label. Put the lids on while the jars and contents are hot.
- Allow to cool then label the jars and store in a cool, dry cupboard.
- To sterilise jars, wash them and the lids in hot soapy water.
- Heat the oven to 120C (100C Fan), and place the rinsed, wet jars on the oven shelf upside down for about 30 mins.
- Dry the lids using kitchen paper.
- Pot jam or marmalade while the jars and mixture are both hot. Screw lids on tightly, using a towel to protect your hands.