Seville orange marmalade

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I didn’t really think it through. I entered the shop and ordered two kilos of Seville oranges. An impulse buy, as one might pick up a pair of gloves while waiting in the checkout line — though one with momentous consequences.

Is it the Paddington effect? Was I surreptitiously inspired by photos of glowing jars posted online by a friend? Did I unwittingly yearn for a stockpile to appease the marmalade-devouring members of the family? Am I becoming British?

Whichever the cause, the effect was me trudging home with a big bag of bitter oranges. So I went in search of a recipe.

I first turned to the usual suspect: the jam fairy Christine Ferber. But Ferber uses a significant amount of granny smith apples in her bitter orange marmalade. Her recipes often call for apples, used to extract a pectin rich jelly that later helps to shorten the cooking time thus allowing for a more vibrant fruit taste. Apples in marmalade? Tut tut, my budding speckles of Britishness balked at the idea. I had to look elsewhere.

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So on to Nigel Slater, whose piece in The Guardian a few years ago could be considered essential reading for anyone about to embark on a marmalade adventure. Slater beautifully captures the fastidious joy of making marmalade, all the while slyly cautioning those who might derive anything less than pure pleasure from the unwieldy process to stay away. Marmalade making must be relished, or not at all.

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It became quickly clear that there are as many marmalade recipes as there are makers of marmalade. I read a number of methods, chose one which seemed to suit me best, as much in the actual process as the expected outcome, and adapted it slightly.

The recipe is an adaptation from one in the River Café Cookbook Green, with a couple of tweaks and updates in January 2021.

There are no quantities because the amount of sugar is calculated in proportion to the weight of cooked fruit.

Seville oranges

Caster sugar

1 small untreated lemon per kg of oranges

Scrub the oranges and let them soak for 12 to 48 hours in cold water. Drain and rinse. [This step helps temper the bitterness. It can be skipped, the oranges may then take a little longer to soften while simmering.]

Place the oranges in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, cover with cold water, and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the saucepan with a lid slightly askew and simmer the oranges for 3 to 4 hours until they are completely soft. Turn the oranges occasionally (they float and only part of each orange remains submerged at any one time). Be careful that the liquid doesn’t evaporate completely. Add water if necessary. There should remain 2 to 3cm of liquid at the end.

Let the softened oranges cool enough to handle and set the saucepan with the cooking liquid aside.

Cut each orange in half, take out all the seeds and any rough fibers, then very thinly slice the rind together with the pulp.

Return the seeds and discarded bits to the liquid, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve, squeezing out every last bit, and return to the pot.

Weigh the skin and pulp and measure an equal part of sugar. Return everything to the saucepan with the liquid. Wash the lemon(s), cut it in half, then slice as thinly as possible into half moons. Add those to the saucepan too.

Turn the heat back on and bring the fruit, liquid, and sugar mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally to mix well and prevent from sticking. Boil for about 30 minutes, until the jam is set (to test, spoon a small amount of jam liquid into a small bowl and place in the refrigerator: if a skin forms, the jam is setting.)

Let the jam cool slightly before spooning into sterilized jars.

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8 Responses to “Seville orange marmalade”

  1. Sophie James Says:

    Lovely pictures. And ‘fastidious joy’ indeed. Thank you for this post. And what a lovely blog.

  2. Daryaarya Says:

    I just ordered a box of 26 lbs of organic Seville oranges from Sicily at an unbeatable price… a weekend of marmalade making is DEFINITELY on the menu. Love these oranges!

  3. Michelle Says:

    Oh, I’ve tried and tried, and never has my marmalade turned out quite right. But, I’m sure if I come across a bunch of Sevilles again this year, I’ll buy them all up and try again! (Yours looks perfect.)

    • valerie Says:

      Michelle, if I may, this recipe is incredible. I chose it because it uses the pulp rather than only rind and juice. I think it’s perfect.

  4. preservingfun Says:

    I am forever making impulse buys out of fruit and vegetables and then wondering what combination I can do with them..just cannot walk pass a bargain. :)

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