Making marmalade

Roger makes the best marmalade. People buy his distinctive squat jars of marmalade with their hand-drawn labels to give as presents, but I expect not all jars make it to the intended recipient. His marmalade is legendary. His Seville range is my all-time favourite, but others swear by the whiskey marmalade, mandarin, or cumquat.

‘It is all in the way the fruit is cut,’ he says enigmatically and when I watch him make a batch, I see what he means. He takes his time, halving the orange and halving it again before he begins cutting along one side on an angle. He uses his fingertips as a guide and employs a large sharp knife to cut exceptionally fine slices.

‘That’s the trick,’ he says, ‘most people cut the oranges too thick, and you don’t get the same flavour.’

Roger is right of course. Home-made marmalade is usually chunky with pieces of hard rind which is bitter while shop bought marmalade is over processed mush and much too sweet. Spending the time to cut it finely makes a big difference to the final product.

He rapidly boils the fruit in water before reducing it to a gentle simmer. Floating in the liquid is a small muslin bag he has fashioned with the seeds and pith of the oranges. This releases pectin and helps the marmalade set.

Before adding the sugar, he tastes the rind to ensure it has softened. This is where the magic begins. The marmalade is stirred often, and a small plate awaits in the freezer for the all-important setting point test. Roger has made marmalade for so long now, he needs only to look at the simmering pot to determine whether the timing is right. A small spoonful of the sticky liquid is dropped onto the plate, and he gently pushes his finger from its edge towards the middle. If the surface crinkles, the marmalade is ready to pour into the sterilised jars he retrieves from the oven.

Roger works quickly now, pouring the marmalade into the jars and tightening the lids on with a double twist action. The jars are then taken out into the cold night air and left overnight. This works like a charm. In the morning, the marmalade has set, and the sun plays with the rich, translucent amber colouring.

After the jars are brought back in and cleaned, it is time for the labels. These are handwritten using a quill dipped in India ink. Roger draws a small tree with orange dots on the left-hand side of the label before adding a ‘date of birth’ for each batch. Dozens of exquisite jars line shelves in the kitchen, ready for the taking.

There’s always a smidge of marmalade left which is poured into a small bowl. This is the breakfast marmalade, awaiting a slice of toast or two. There is no point resisting temptation. I shun the margarine, reach for the butter and marmalade and brew myself a strong pot of tea.

5 thoughts on “Making marmalade”

    1. Roger’s marmalade sounds like it would be delicious on your sourdough bread Viki. And perhaps some ricotta cheese – yum yum! Delightful reading and tasting.

      Liked by 1 person

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