Saturday, June 9, 2012

When Life Throws You Oranges...

...make an orange marmalade!

The original British orange marmalade is made from juice and peel of the Seville oranges, Citrus x aurantium, also known as bitter oranges. The peel gives the marmalade its distinctive bitter taste. 

In England word "marmalade" is used in respect to any citrus preserve. This is not necessarily the case in other European languages. In Portuguese the word applies to jam made of quinces. In Italian it includes preserves made of any fruit. In Polish the word marmolada applies to a solid, gel-like fruit preserve that, like the Portuguese marmelada, can be cut into slices and is usually made of more than one kind of fruit.

European tradition of making fruit preserves goes back to Antiquity. The ancient Greeks and Romans used to cook quinces with honey. Preserves of quince and lemon appear - along with rose, apple, plum and pear - in the 9th century "Book of ceremonies" of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos. This culinary traditions spread to France and Portugal during the Middle Ages and reached England sometime in the beginning of the 15th century.

In 1524, Henry VIII received a "box of marmalade" from Mr. Hull of Exeter. We can assume that since the marmalade was in a box, it must have been the "marmelada"- a solid quince preserve from Portugal.

The first orange marmalade is thought to have been created in 1561 by the physician to Mary, Queen of Scots, when he mixed orange and crushed sugar to keep her seasickness at bay. But it was not until the citrus fruit became widely popular in England in the 17th that the word marmalade would refer solely to a citrus preserve. 

I have never made a marmalade before because companies such as Frank Coopers and Fortnum & Mason provide me with a perfect marmalade to satisfy my cravings. But like with everything else, nothing tastes better than a homemade creation.

Here is a rather uncomplicated recipe suggested by Dan Lepard. It yields a medium cut marmalade with a tender orange peel to be enjoyed on a perfectly toasted bread.

  • 1lb 2 oz Seville oranges 
  • 2 fl oz lemon juice  
  • 2lb 4 oz granulated sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
  • Weigh the oranges and make a note of the weight, as this will tell you how much of the other ingredients you’ll need, to ensure the marmalade sets well. My basic ratio is: both the sugar and the strained liquid from the sliced and simmered oranges should roughly equal twice the weight of the uncooked whole oranges. So if you start with 1lb 2 oz whole oranges, after cooking you want to be left with a 1¾ pint of liquid once the peels have been strained out, and you need 2lb 4 oz of sugar. 
  • Cut the oranges in half and squeeze out the juice, as this makes chopping the peel less messy. Remove any pips from the juice, spoon any remaining pips out of the peel, place them in a tea cup and cover with water. Then chop the peel into shreds about ⅛ inch across and place these in a bowl with the juice and cover with water. Leave both overnight, as this will help the marmalade set well.
  • The next day, place the peel and water in a saucepan. Sieve the pips, place their soaking water (which will have jellied slightly) into the saucepan, then tie the pips in muslin and drop this into the pot. Bring to the boil then simmer for 2-3 hours, topping up with water so that the fruit stays well covered, until the peel is soft when squished between your fingers. Alternatively, cook in a pressure cooker for about 30 minutes.
  • Strain the juice from the peel and measure it. Whatever the original weight of fruit was at the beginning, you want about double that in cooking liquid. So if you started with 1lb 2 oz fruit, then try and have roughly a 1¾ pint of cooking liquid left. If you have more, boil it down in a saucepan to intensify it. If you have less, top it up with water to dilute it.
  • Then add the sugar (double the weight of the oranges), plus 1-2 tbsp brown sugar if you like to make the color darker. Add the strained peel, plus 2 fl oz of lemon juice for every 1lb 2 oz uncooked whole oranges used. Bring to the boil, skim off any white froth and pips that rise to the surface, and then boil until the temperature reaches 220F.
  • Meanwhile sterilize enough jars in the oven and have the lids washed and ready. When the marmalade reaches 220F, turn the heat off and leave for 10 minutes. Ladle the marmalade into a jug then pour this carefully into the jars, leaving just a bare ¼ inch gap at the top. Screw the lid on tightly and leave undisturbed until completely cold.  

If you are experienced enough you may want to try this recipe using other citrus fruits. Try kumquats or Bergamot oranges. You will be surprised.

By Dominique Allmon


Inspiration for this recipe here