The winter is often at its worst at the end of January, which is just the time the Seville Oranges become available in Britain. This is a breath of summer at a time when it is most needed, and the citrus scent and vibrant colour are a blessing for the winter days. Seville Oranges are not for eating – their taste is extremely bitter and they’re not especially juicy – but they make the best marmalade.
While I’ve looked forward to eating the marmalade, the making of it can be fussy and messy, with the results sometimes less than ideal. Getting it to set properly can be a real challenge, but I now have a recipe that works well – and the best thing is that it’s easy.
Seville Orange Marmalade (Makes about 8 medium jars)
- 1Kg Seville Oranges
- 2Kg of Jam Sugar (includes pectin)
- Juice of two Lemons
- 4 litres of Water.
- 8 – 10 medium Jars
- Cellophane Circles
You will need:
- large pan (preferably a preserving pan)
- sharp knife
- lemon squeezer
- jam thermometer (recommended)
Wash the oranges in plenty of warm water, just in case they’ve been sprayed with preservatives or insecticide. It’s the skins of the oranges that are important, so make sure they’re clean and relatively unblemished.
Put 4 litres of water in the preserving pan and set it to heat on the stove. Prick the oranges once with a sharp fork or skewer (to stop them bursting when they’re heated) and put them into the water while it’s heating. We’re going to cook the oranges before we cut them up, which is the secret of this recipe. Bring the water to the boil and reduce to a simmer, then carefully place a heavy plate on top of the oranges to keep them immersed in the water. Leave them to simmer whole for about an hour and a half.
While the oranges are cooking, take ten or twelve clean jars and sterilize them, either by placing them in the oven at 100C or by putting them through the dishwasher on a 70 degree wash cycle. The dishwasher method works well, and after you can transfer them to the oven to pre-heat the jars to receive the hot marmalade.
When the oranges have boiled for an hour and a half, test that they are cooked by piercing the skin with the tip of a sharp knife – it should pierce easily. Turn off the heat and lift the oranges out with a slotted spoon and place them somewhere to cool.
When the oranges are cool enough to handle, take each one and slice in half vertically. Take a dessert spoon and scoop out the flesh, scraping the cooked contents of the orange out into a bowl. The inside of the skin should be slightly translucent. If the skin has any white patches, do not use these as they will be bitter. Cut off the parts where the stem connects as these may be tough. You should be left with sections of cleaned cooked orange peel which you then slice into sections according to taste, depending how thickly but you like your marmalade. As the skin is well-cooked, it slices easily and cleanly.
The flesh of the oranges, pith and pips, and any offcuts of peel can be boiled up with the juice and water in a muslin bag if you cannot find jam sugar with pectin added – in which case you should squeeze the muslin to extract the maximum amount of pectin from the flesh, pith and pips, and add this to the pan, but I find it’s just easier to use jam sugar with the pectin already added, and it gives more reliable results.
Add the jam sugar and the lemon juice to the remaining water in the pan, which should have about two thirds left. Stir until the sugar dissolves and then add the cooked sliced peel to the pan. Stir and bring to the boil so that the mixture develops a seething foam. If you’re using a jam thermometer, set it so it’s halfway down the edge of the pan. If you ‘re managing without a jam thermometer, keep it foaming without letting it boil over for about 20 – 30 minutes.
With a jam thermometer, wait until it’s slightly over the jam point and then turn off the heat. Without a jam thermometer, it’s difficult to judge when it reaches setting point (which is why I recommend one), but the best alternative is to have a small plate in the fridge to get cold – spoon a little of the mix onto the plate and put it back in the fridge for five minutes. If when you take it out, you can draw your finger through it and it acts like jelly and not syrup, then it’s setting.
Once the marmalade is setting, leave it to stand for about ten minutes in the pan. This will allow the peel to equalise with the marmalade and it should prevent the peel floating to the top in the jars. This sometimes works better than at other times. Once it is ready to jar, take the jars out of the over and place them ready by the pan. Then ladle the marmalade into jars using a jam funnel, filling each jar in sequence – I normally start with the smallest jars and move up to the bigger ones.
Once the jars are full, place a cellophane circle on the top for a seal and screw down the lid. The cellophane will prevent the acid in the fruit from corroding the inside of the lids. Label and store – with the acid and sugar it should keep for up to a year.
Serve on fresh buttered toast, or in any other way you like.