Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Marmalade Time

The Sunday before last, I dropped into the Belconnen Fresh Food Market, after a trip to Bunnings for more house fixity things. The Bloke has now fixed the leaky dishwasher, hurrah! On advice from Infoaddict in a comment here, I checked out Wiffen's. I'm mostly a Tom's fan, but I'm really happy that I did this. Wiffen's had some good things, including persimmons and mangosteens at $1 a piece. I grabbed a few of those, because I adore mangosteens and hardly ever have them. And I picked up some generic salad & veg stuff that I needed since I didn't make it to the EPIC growers market that Saturday. Green beans, tomatoes, pumpkin, a $2 bag of parsnips. Useful things.

The best of it was that they had Seville oranges! I am excited yet again, as I had run out of marmalade. I've been buying it, but I have yet to find one that to my taste is anywhere near as good as my own. Even the Lynwood Seville, star of the great jar opening saga, is not bitter enough for me. Crankypants' grapefruit was pretty good, and the lime was OK - nicely sharp, but not the bitter I really want. Cumquat isn't bad, either, but nothing beats Seville for me. And now I have made eleven jars! Yay!

My marmalade recipe comes from a former workmate, Airlie Moore. She was the office administrator at the company I last worked for in Sydney. Airlie was raised on a farm, and later raised her own kids in the country. She's one of those wonderfully tough, no-nonsense women without whom executives would crash and burn in chaos. I imagine if she'd been born a decade or two later she might have been PM, or a high-flying CEO or something. And she was also kind and friendly, and very easy to work with as long as you were sensible. Airlie gave me this recipe, which is the best ever. You can see it's an old country recipe from the non-metric ingredients.

Recipe: Airlie's Seville Orange Marmalade
2 lbs Seville Oranges
4 lbs sugar
4 pints water
1 large lemon

Wash the oranges first.
Put whole oranges and water in a large pan.
Cover, and simmer gently for two hours, then allow to cool.
Remove oranges from the water and slice finely, saving the seeds. (see notes)
Add seeds back to the water, and also add the juice and pips of the lemon.
(see notes)
Bring to boil and boil rapidly for 5 minutes.
Strain out pips, and return orange slices to the pan.
Boil to reduce by about half.
Add sugar and boil rapidly for 10 minutes, or until set by your preferred test.
Turn off heat and let stand for 15 minutes before jarring.

Notes: The 15 minute stand is to allow a partial set, so the peel can be evenly distributed. Use one lemon per kilo of oranges, and adjust quantities to suit your orange supply simply keeping the ratio. It works out in metric to 2.4 litres/kg. But given the boiling down to "about half", there's no need to be scrupulously exact. I had six oranges, a total of 1.7kg, and used 4L water and 3.4kg of sugar. When you add the sugar, this bulks up a lot - I needed my largest stock pot. You want at least 10cm clearance, and more is better. It froths up a lot as it boils, and can spit a bit.

When you get to the point of slicing the oranges, you can just keep the peel and discard the innards, or you can squeeze the insides through a sieve to get pulp. With the seeds, I like to wrap them in a bit of muslin for easy removal. My oranges this time had no seeds at all, but the lemons were very seedy indeed so that helped. You could use some Jamsetta for pectin, if you like, instead of fussing with seeds.

My preferred set test for jam and marmalade is to put a couple of saucers in the freezer. Drop a quarter teaspoon or so on the edge, leave for a minute, then push on it to see if it wrinkles. Or, if you have a jam thermometer, 105C is the canonical temperature measurement. I tried that and it seemed not right. The wrinkle test actually passed at 108C - which may mean that my thermometer is a little inaccurate. The moral is: don't just trust meter readings, without adding common sense and experience.

In terms of jars, I like to use old vegemite jars. They accumulate easily. I rinse them and their lids in very hot water, then dry them out in the oven. A jam funnel eases the filling procedure remarkably - that's one gadget I use over and over.

Apart from the brilliant result, I also love this recipe for the simplicity of preparation. Anyone who's made marmalade the regular way knows how much of a hassle it is juicing and/or slicing the fruit. When it's soft from the boiling, though, it is dead easy. It's also quite useful because you can do it in stages. Boil oranges one day, cool, add pectin and reduce next day - and if necessary, add sugar and do the jarring the next day after that.

Now, did you see what I did there? There were 13, not 11 jars in the top photo. Did you spot the ringers? Here are the two ringers again, with a new one for comparison. Of the two extras, the part-eaten one is the Lynwood that I decanted into a different jar. The other is from the same recipe, but it is six years old - not even from my last batch, but the one before. It was hiding in the top cupboard stash, behind a lot of jars of chutney. It is almost totally black now, but like wine, marmalade ages well. I detect notes of treacle...

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