I’m fully aware that this is not the place to share this culinary journey. I know this is really a place for woolly adventures. But then we know each other fairly well now – and any joyful making experience is worth sharing, isn’t it?
In a Jam
Back in January, well if I am honest over the Christmas period I determined that this year, yes this year I would make my own marmalade. There are few things that I enjoy more than homemade marmalade. Let’s be specific; excellent toasted bread, white or brown (more likely white) with salted butter (very cold) and then on top a slightly tart marmalade. Once you have you have taken your first bite, you should really be able to see the tail-tale teeth marks.
So whilst my affection is easily bought – through the medium of flowers and/or marmalade, the homemade variety is hard to come by.
My good friend Mrs J, makes an excellent version and I greedily enjoy huge spoonfuls at her breakfast table. In the Autumn of last year I resolved that instead of looking winsome at the homemade stash of others, I should have a go myself.
Seville Marmalade is the King or orangery preserves and if you are going to get into this game you need to get involved in January – when the fruit is in season. I waited until the Seville Oranges were in the shops and then I pounced. Luckily the month of January is very quiet and when I began this little escapade I had no idea that marmalade making is very much a two day affair.
I assembled my recyled jars. Got hold of my pan and followed the recipe I had been given. Uneducated and foolhardy I let my sticky concoction bubble for far too long. The result was a very dark, very solid, thick cut marmalade. It resembles in some lights…..tar. Now I like a dark marmalade but risking breaking a teaspoon when you try to extract it from the jar seems a bit excessive. Together we all laughed at the result and both my husband and my son thought that was the end of the matter….They should know me better.
The gloriously helpful people of Instagram came to my rescue. ‘If you want to make marmalade you need to learn at the virtual kitchen table of Vivian LLoyd‘ they advised. So by weekend two I was much better informed. I had learnt about cutting techniques, soaking the pith and pips, boiling points and impurity removal. I was genned up and ready.
Batch two was better – but still dark. The use of golden caster sugar certainly added to the toffee texture. By weekend 3, I was in the zone and my family thought I had gone a little crazy. But at Batch 3, I knew I had a passable texture, colour and consistency. Actually due to a huge amassed collection of oranges, batch 4 and 5 followed. But it is batch 3 that really was the best.
Whilst creating something ‘homemade’ has in itself a deep sense of satisfaction, I was not really ready for how the process – the slow and deliberate stages could be so peaceful and bring such joy. In the dark and cold wintery afternoons of January, the smell and colour in the kitchen lifted my soul. The hot bubbling liquid, the sticky golden gloop and then the joyful lines of glorious orange treasure. Stored away. Awaiting weekend breakfasts.
In a very mad moment I decided that I would take my chances and enter Batch 3 into the World Marmalade awards – in the first timers category (obviously). I forgot about it and then just like the very best surprises a quite lovely envelope came in the post – my cheeky efforts had won a ‘Silver’ Award. I won’t deny it – I did a giddy jig in our kitchen to celebrate.
And what has happened to my sticky haul? Well I now I fully understand why homemade marmalade is hard to come by. Much like a knitted hat or crocheted blanket – this is a labour of love. Jars must only be shared with those who understand the treasure they receive. My husband and my Dad are big fans of dark marmalade and so they get the exclusive access to Batch 1 and 2. But Little B can’t abide marmalade at any cost…..so I have another sticky plan (obsession) and it might involve the odd raspberry – or two. All your tips and tricks are gratefully welcomed.