Sunday, 23 January 2011

Putting Up Preserves

I have been making marmalade. The last time I made marmalade, my mother rang me half way through and expressed a degree of doubt that I would ever get my marmalade to reach setting point, so I boiled it right into submission and the resulting marmalade would have grouted tiles or performed a useful duty as bath sealant. This time I didn’t boil it for as long, and I have ended up with vats of it (6 jars and 2 ramekins). I’m not sure whether I should have boiled it for longer. I’ve not tried it yet, so when I have, I will let you know if it tastes of anything or is weak and watery: whether it is the Ed Balls or the Nick Clegg of orangey preserves.
Ugly but useful. Seville oranges
You make marmalade with Seville oranges, which are in season at the moment. I think whoever discovered you could make marmalade with them was very clever and must have been very pleased, because they are a bit rubbish as citrus fruits. They are all pith and pip. If you opened one thinking it would be a delicious snack you would be very cross. I bought mine from the veg box and they cost £2 for 1kg (6 big fruits), but you can probably get them cheaper at your local greengrocer or market (here we have them at both our local greengrocer AND market, so, essentially you can buy them anywhere that isn’t Tesco, although they do sometimes have things like this at Waitrose).
Catch all those pips in a sieve!
This is the recipe I used. I have a couple of tips for you. Firstly, this recipe doesn’t tell you that when you are simmering for 2 hours you have to do it without a lid and reduce the liquid by about half. But you do! Also, when you are making a little bag with all the pith and pips, don’t buy muslin squares from Lakeland Plastics (much though I love Lakeland Plastics), because they are really expensive. Buy half a yard of muslin from your local friendly fabric supplier instead. Buy white muslin otherwise your marmalade may go a funny colour and you may find yourself unwillingly and unwittingly enacting a scene from Bridget Jones. I tie my muslin bag to the handle of my pan with just normal cotton that I use in the sewing machine. You see, you get to a point where all your hobbies start to interlink, it is very satisfying.
It is a bit Blue Peter, although no sticky-backed plastic is required (although, don't let me stop you)
When you have simmered your peel, juice and water for hours and steamed all your house up, and carefully dissolved all your sugar, then you have to squeeze the pectin out of your muslin bag. I wear my rubber gloves for this, as the bag is hot. Now, there is no nice way to say this, but... it feels pervy. It actually feels like I should be starring in some kind of muslin squeezing fetish video. There actually probably are women squeezing muslin bags on youtube somewhere and gurning at the camera. It is one of the strangest sensations I have ever had while cooking anything, you have to kind of manipulate the bag and milk the pectin (you see? You see?!), and get as much of the resulting cloudy liquid out as you can into the pan.
Marmalade at a good rolling boil!
Then you boil hard for about half an hour. I know the recipe only says 10 minutes, but, half an hour, although, see comments in first paragraph about grouting. I do not know how to tell when you have reached the right stage, I have never got my marmalade to form a skin on a cold saucer, but it normally turns out all right. I think at times like this you have to think to yourself, what is the worst that can happen. Well, the worst is probably slightly runny marmalade. Runny marmalade! That is all. So don’t be a princess, just stick it in the jars when it looks done. Sterilise them in the oven first: remember Mr Bacteria!
Cut your shreds smaller. Don't be lazy like me. This marmalade redefines chunky
Marmalade, done. That will last us a good long time. Cost per jar:
Oranges, £2. Sugar, £1.68 (some I had in stock already). Lemon, 38p. Everything else I had lying about. - 68p per jar, + I was able to get in touch with my inner sensuality through the use of muslin. I call that a bargain all round. Toast for breakfast tomorrow!


Denise said...

We love marmalade here. I'm sitting here trying to figure why I haven't thought to make some before right now.

Just so happens I have a whole bolt of white muslin. Wonder if I could get those oranges here. Though I'm tempting to go around the neighborhood and pilch some. LOL (just joking)

I wonder if a sugar thermometer would help with knowing how long to boil. You're melting sugar just like with candy. Boil way too long and you will have marmalade lollipops. There's an idea for you.

Susie said...

Oo, Denise, make some, you would be good at it. And you are absolutely right about the sugar thermometer *slaps forehead in self-disgust*, why didn't I think of that. Much better than messing about putting saucers in the freezer!

Do oranges grow where you are? Marvellous, yes, do go and pilch some from the neighbourhood, we won't tell anyone and it would make you a Hedgerow Forager and Freegan. Although if they're actually in someone's front garden perhaps wear a balaclava.

J.G. said...

At the risk of additional hobby overlap, "pectin" would make a good safe word. (Sorry, that's just the way my mind works.)

The jars look so pretty! Enjoy your toast tomorrow!

Marushka C. said...

A funny, sexy blog post about ... Marmalade. Susie, you are a shining star in the blogiverse.

Denise said...

Yes, oranges, lemons and limes are in many a yard. Just sitting there. Home Depot has about 30 small trees out front for sale.

I really want my own house and yard. One house has an olive tree.

There a few public places with orange trees growing. I always wonder why the homeless population doesn't just come and pick them.

Susie said...

J.G., I actually am lolling, oh yes it would ;-). Marushka, so kind, thank you. Denise, just sitting there! Honestly, I can't get my head round different climates, I am very parochial. I bet if you asked people for their oranges they'd be glad to have them put to good use.

(I say this, obviously I myself would be shy to knock on people's doors because I am a wussy. But I still think they'd be ok with it. The ones who weren't axe murderers).