Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The busy woman's guide to marmalade making

I have been marmalading again. What?! you say. But it's April! And isn't marmalade such a pain. You have to buy special Seville oranges and they are in season for two seconds in January when you are still sleeping off your New Year hangover... and then there's all the squeezing and the fiddly slicing and the stirring and isn't it just easier to buy a jar from Tesco?

Well yes and, er, no. There is another way.You see I don't like Seville orange marmalade but there are so many other lovely citrus fruits to make marmalade from. Sweet oranges for a start, clementines, satsumas too, grapefruits and lemons. All of the above tend to lurk in the fruit bowl and at certain times of the year - Christmas, during the cold season for hot toddies - they end up looking a bit dried up, old and sad. Marmalade is the saving grace of the elderly citrus forgotten and dessicated in the back of the fridge (which is why my marmalade always contains lots of lemons - there are usually a few hiding somewhere.)

I follow Pam the Jam's recipe from the River Cottage Preserving book which is a kilo of citrus fruit with two kilos of granulated sugar and 2.5litres of water. I use what is is known as the whole fruit method because you just put the whole fruit and the water into a pan and simmer until the fruit is soft. That's the first cheat.

When it's cool, cut in half, flick out any seeds and drop the fruit into your food processor. That's the main cheat. I used to chop it finely with a knife but then I heard a lovely posh chap from Fortnum and Mason talking about award-winning marmalades on Simon Mayo's Radio Two show. One of the winning marmalades had been food processed and I decided that if it's good enough for posh marmalade experts from Fortnums, then it's good enough for me.

Process the peel until it's about as fine as you want (I like it really fine) then make sure you've got about 1.7l of water (reduce or top up as necessary) and add the peel back to it. (If you're me you then look fruitlessly in the cupboard for the sugar and the mixture sits on the stove for two days until you can get to the shops).

Mix in the sugar (eventually!) and 75ml of lemon juice if you haven't used lemons. Then bring it to a rolling boil until it reaches setting point (which is about 102 degrees C on my thermometer), leave it to cool for 10 to 12 minutes (Pam says - I usually leave it longer - this is so the peel doesn't sink), add 50ml of whisky (optional) and pop it into sterilised jars.

This batch was made with three forgotten lemons, two limes, a satsuma and some freshly bought sweet oranges to make up the weight. You don't get crystal clear marmalade with elegantly floating slivers of peel with this method but you do get the full citrussy hit in a very delicious jammy base and it's a very undemanding thing to make.


  1. Good news. Sounds so tasty!

  2. I do the labour intensive, time consuming never- again stuff. Tastes fantastic but what a chore. Will try your method when stocks get low.

  3. Like the idea of your method and will have a go when I have summoned up the energy to have a go at making yet more chutney with the yet more apples still remaining from last year! Why don't they just go off so I can put them on the compost heap without guilt?


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