Marmalade 2011

I made the marmalade early-Feb. Blimey, this blog is well-overdue.

So although not exactly hot-off-the-press, I want to record it because my last year’s marmalade-making post was useful when making this year’s. Like notes in a cookery book. See actual recipe, below.

Last year, as I made marmalade, Haiti’s earthquake was on my mind. This year, my mind was on Bradley Manning. The young soldier alleged to have leaked US documents to Wikileaks is being held in severe isolation in a US military prison. Bradley’s mother is Welsh so Amnesty is taking up his case as a British citizen.

Here’s how to donate to Bradley Manning’s public defense.

Back in early-Feb, I was also thinking about the trees. Privatising the nation’s woodlands? Wrong. Since then, there’s been a temporary reprieve in the face of public opposition. But don’t get complacent.

I was not the only one cooking and thinking about trees. Fairycakemother and Save Our Woods presented cakes on the day of the Opposition Day Debate to try to persuade MPs to go with their conscience, not their party whips.

Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP, voted against his party and for the trees. Hooray. While making marmalade, I had a vision of the former-editor of the Ecologist leaving the Conservatives and joining the Green party. Glad to hear Zac Goldsmith is now working on green farming in all-party group including UK’s first Green MP, Caroline Lucas . I have met them both and feel in ma bones they are spiritually alligned.

The marmalade cast assembled on February 4 2011.

This year I reduced the sugar even further  to 1 lb of sugar to 1 lb of Seville oranges. It worked brilliantly. Chunky, tangy.

(Eeek I promised a US reader on Facebook to also use metrics. Gad, I wish I had a PA to do things like that, like converting measurements and stuff. My dream…. In the meantime, here is a converter.)

The recipe

5 lbs organic Seville oranges
5 lbs organic cane sugar
4 pints of water + 1 extra pint to extract the pectin

Marmalade-making has four stages.

1. Cooking oranges to soften

Scrub non-organic oranges (I used organic ones for health and the extra taste due to the fact organic produce has less water as nature intended) and remove the stalks. Cook in a large pan or two smaller ones – with lids – in 4 pints of water and simmer heartily for about an hour until peel is soft. Smells heavenly…

Drain oranges and cool, keeping the water for the sugar-boiling stage.

Put weighed sugar in a preserving pan (or two of your widest pans) in a low oven to warm. Clean jars thoroughly with hot water and dry them in the  oven.

Place a few saucers in the freezer so you can quickly cool a teaspoon of hot jam in Stage 3, the setting stage.

2. Extracting pectin and slicing peel

Cut cooked-cooled oranges in half. Scoop out pith and pips and add them to a pan with 1 extra pint of water and two cut-up lemons. Simmer merrily for ten minutes then drain: this pectin-rich liquid is used to help jam set in Stage 3.

Now cut up orange (and lemon) peel, thinly or thickly, as you like it.

3. Boil and set
Add the following to preserving pan: the drained pectin-juice, the water you used to boil the oranges, the cut-up peel and the  warmed sugar. It takes 15-20 minutes for the marmalade to set and you must not overboil or you can lose that magic-setting moment.

So says my trusted-over-twenty years (presciently-seasonal) Katie Stewart’s Times Calendar Cookbook.

But do not start timing until the jam is actually boiling like mad i.e. not just ordinary bubbles but when the liquid goes into a furious fast-boiling whirl – then start timing those 15-20 minutes.

It’s a bit like timing the start of labour – not from the first contraction – but from dilation. I think this gives a better reading on how long labour is and can prevent unnecessary inductions. But I digress.

So, after 15 minutes, take the pan off the heat and drop some hot jam on one of those icy-cold plates. Let jam-droplet cool, tilting plate to encourage cooling, then push droplet gently with your finger. You are looking for tell-tale wrinkles and jelly-like character. (The opposite of an ideal lover?).

If droplet is still runny, carry on boiling the big pan for a few minutes then test again. And so on.

Stage 4 – Marmalade in jars

The marmalade drops are now unequivocally set. So, let the jam cool in the pan until it is not-too-hot nor too-set for pouring . This is the sticky bit. Use newspaper to cover the kitchen surface, use a ladle or a small cup. And good luck!

Recipes say use waxed discs to keep out condensation and mould but, cutting-corners-cook that I am, I have not not done so for the last two years, with no adverse reactions. Wipe the jars from stickiness and proudly label.

I was a day too-late to send a jar off for the Marmalade awards.

Just as well because I did not want to part with any.

Real Food Lover postscript

By chance I was invited by GM Freeze to the second meeting of the green farming all party parliamentary group (mentioned above) on 15 March .

Security was tight at the Houses of Parliament and my marmalade, a gift for my mother, was held in temporary custody.

Dr Hans Herren spoke to a packed committee room.  He co-chaired the 2008 IAASTD report, the first-ever scientific assessment of global agriculture. Co-sponsored by the United Nations, the World Health Organisation and the World Bank, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development report concluded that small-scale ecological farming was the answer to food prices, hunger and environmental disasters.

Dr Hans Herren’s message was one of passion and urgency – farming must become ecological as soon as possible.

Well, I was just sorry Cameron, Spelman and co were not there to hear his sound science-sense and Cassandra plea.

I collected my jar of marmalade from parliamentary custody and photographed it on the ramparts.

My mother was also pleased the organic marmalade made it to freedom as her note below attests.

8 responses to “Marmalade 2011

  1. Hi Elisabeth – a good read and funny to boot! I’ve been making marmalade Katie Stewart’s way for some time and also cut the sugar down to 1:1.
    I’ve recently started a blog and here’s my latest post, An inspiring talk by Joy Larkcom at West Dean Gardens, which mentions Katie Stewart in passing:
    Regards, Diana


  2. It was really good fun going down to the Houses of Parliament and – hurray – the trees are now much safer.

    For Elisabeth’s American, if she’d like to drop me a line with the details she wants, I’ll write a blog post about UK/US conversions. I used to live there and found a lot of the conversion tables didn’t work.

    I have a marmalade exchange going with a friend of mine. I get marmalade and she gets chocolate cake/brownies. We’re all most happy with this arrangement as her, her husband and 3 children all adore chocolate and I adore marmalade and don’t have the space to make it.


    • I am very proud of you for taking Direct Cake Action on behalf of the trees, Fairycakemother.

      I too have a ready supply of homemade marmalade – from Better Food organic supermarket – which nearly weakened my resolve to make my own. A barter sounds even better!

      Fairycakemother, you have made me an offer I can’t refuse. A post on converting weighing measurements from one who has lived in the US sounds Very Useful indeed.


  3. I’m afraid you’ve enticed me into a marmalade mood and now I must try out this fabulous recipe! Well done and I love the aside about what not to look for in a lover! 🙂


  4. Jody, I am so glad I enticed you to try out this recipe. I just feel a bit guilty because I posted the blog so late…are the Seville oranges still in season?

    Apparently (I just did a quick search), Florida’s season for Seville oranges is February. But Seville oranges are also grown in California and more locally, Arizona.

    The UK season for Seville oranges imports is January-February.

    And I guess you can use other kinds of citrus, too.

    O, do let us know how you get on and what fruit you use…


  5. On recent discovery that Ma Winkler herself had paid a visit to our house and delivered a precious jar of homespun marmalade -I was excited. I hotfooted it to the Better Food Organic Supermarket, frantically bought a Hobbs House Sourdough Rye and dashed home.

    Minutes later I was tucking in to hot toast with plenty of butter and the ‘magical bright orange bitter sweetness’ that was this vintage marmalade. Needless to say, it is no more.

    Inspiration led me to a charming Nigel Slater article

    “I like my Marmalade to shine in the morning sun” he says.

    Followed by “There is something heartwarmingly generous about marmalade makers…”

    I have to agree.

    Rumour has it that Paddington Bear was recently seen on TV eating a marmite sandwich. ‘What, no marmalade?’! Paddington’s creator, Michael Bond, was quick to confirm that Paddington’s loyalty to marmalade sandwiches was unshaken!

    Ma Winkler I hope to see you on Friday at the Soil Association Conference


    • Ma Winkler will be there – at the Soil Association conference 2012!

      Thank you, Elizabeth!

      I love the Nigel Slater quotes. As for generosity, I must admit to mixed feelings: one bit of me wants to keep every pot to my Paddington-self…

      I am dying to write-up Marmalade 2012 – I have worked out I can use even less sugar: 3lbs sugar to 4 lbs Sevilles.

      Less sugar makes less marmalade – but it sure increases the intensity of the flavour.


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