Saturday, 22 January 2011

The yearly ritual

Every January since just before we were married I have made marmalade. This was inspired by three things. The first is that toast and marmalade is my husband's favourite breakfast apart from kippers. The second that we inherited a mechanical marmalade cutter from his mother which we felt obliged to use. The third, and most compulsive reason, is that my Norfolk aunt was and still is a champion marmalade maker and I had watched her go through the annual ritual many times.

I no longer use the cutter. I squeeze my Sevilles in a juicer and chop the peel in the Magimix. That part of the operation still takes about an hour and I wonder that I had the patience when I was younger to fiddle about with the old stuff!

The recipe is the one my aunt uses, very standard in the marmalade world.

3lbs Sevilles
2 lemons
6 pints water
6lbs granulated sugar

Put the water in the jam pan. Juice the fruit reserving the pips which you place in a piece of muslin (or part of an old school shirt if you are me) which you also place in the jam pan. Shred the peel. Bring fruit, water, peel and pips to the boil and simmer until the fruit is soft. This usually takes about an hour and a half.

Remove the pips, squeezing out any extra pectin before discarding. Add the sugar, dissolving it into the fruit/water mixture. Bring to the boil and cook until setting point is reached. There is received wisdom which says you should use a sugar thermometer and that you should keep testing dollops of the liquid on refrigerated cold saucers. I don't use a thermometer. I had one for years which never seemed to reach the setting point marker. In those days I seemed to get an awful lot of over-cooked marmalade. I test on saucers after 15 mins. I seldom go past 20. A badly timed phone call meant my first batch had to be reboiled. The second lot was fabulous.

There has been a lot in the press about the demise of marmalade. So I feel like a bit of a heroine!

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