Monday, 14 January 2013

Snowy Day Marmalade

File:Orange Marmalade.JPG

Source for this image here.

We have got our snow.

It's very cold!  And the snow is very heavy - everywhere looks so pretty.  It's set to snow for most of today and overnight, so by tomorrow we shall be waking to a winter wonderland!  
One of the best things about snowy days is that Papa Bear gets to stay at home with us.  This isn't just because he doesn't want to work in the cold weather - it's actually not safe, to do his job in the wet or ice.  So whenever it snows and it's too dangerous for Papa Bear and his workmates to work, they get to stay home!  And that's lovely for us ...

This morning Little Bear and I made marmalade!  It's just been put into the jars now and is cooling in the kitchen before we put it away.  We managed to get 10 jars out of 8 oranges!

If you've never made marmalade (or any kind of preserves, for that matter), it can seem a bit daunting - all that chopping, measuring, boiling and testing.  But really and truly, it's not at all difficult - and if you have a candy thermometer, success is guaranteed!

The marmalade we made today is from a little book published in 1942 by "Mrs Atkins Webb" which I got in a thrift store a long time ago.  It's full of thrifty ideas for preserving fruit, vegetables and even things like eggs and sloes!  There are several different marmalade recipes, and the one we used is called "Midland Marmalade".  I'm not really sure why, but it certainly made great marmalade!  Here is the recipe (as the book is so old, and out of print, I don't think there are any copyright issues).

Before you start, make sure you have a pan large enough for preserving - a really huge saucepan will do, but it needs a good, heavy base - it's going to be heated for several hours to make marmalade (jam doesn't take as long, as it doesn't need to be softened like orange rind does).  You also need a muslin square at least 30 x 30 cm large (or similar), jars and lids, something to sterilise them with (I use baby bottle steriliser in our washing up bowl).  And of course, although it's not necessary, a candy thermometer is also really useful.

You will need:-

3 lbs (approximately 8 fruits) of sharp Seville oranges (note - ordinary oranges can be used to make marmalade but they won't taste as good as Seville oranges)
1 lemon
6 lbs granulated sugar
5 pints of cold water

1.  Start by cutting the oranges in half.  Squeeze the juice from each half and place in your preserving pan, then scrape the insides of the oranges out into a bowl.  Then cut each remaining half of orange rind into strands - the thickness is up to you!  We prefer ours quite finely chopped.  You may find that this stage is easier to do with 2 people - one to do the juicing and scraping, and the other to cut the orange rinds into strands.  Try to get as much of the insides of the oranges scraped into the bowl as you can.  If you leave pith on the rinds, this will make the marmalade cloudy.  Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the pan with the oranges, but discard the two halves after you have done this.

2.  When all the oranges have been prepared, take the muslin cloth and put all the pith and pips that you have scraped from the oranges into the cloth, and tie it up into a little bag.  I usually tie the bag over a wooden spoon.  You're going to put the bag into the pan with the rinds and water so make sure it's tied firmly.  

3.  Add the 5 pints of water to the rind in the pan, then place the bag with the pith and pips in as well - if you tie it to a wooden spoon like I do, you can then suspend it in the pan without it coming loose.

4.  Bring the mixture to the boil, then keep it at a rolling boil and cook for about 2 hours.  Yes, it really does take that long - if you undercook the rind, it will be too hard.  Test after about 1 1/2 hours and see if it is soft enough.  Remember there is really no alchemy to this stage.  All you are doing is softening the rinds (and introducing some extra pectin from the pith and pips) and it isn't strictly necessary to do all the boiling in one 2 hour session.  If it's easier to do it in 2 stages - or slow cook it overnight - you can easily do so.  It's very flexible, so if you start your marmalade and then find that you need to go out, or get caught up with something else and can't watch it, you can just turn off the heat and leave it standing until you're able to resume the process.  It's entirely up to you - just do it in the way that suits you best.   Note - while it is boiling, you may get some froth rising to the surface of the pan.  Don't remove this - you'll be removing your marmalade! You can do this later, when the marmalade is cooling.

5.  When the rind is nice and soft you are ready to add the sugar.  Some people like to warm it first to help it dissolve, but I don't normally bother to do this.  Before you start, you can also make sure your jars are sterilised - either by soaking in sterilising fluid as I do, for about 15 minutes, or by warming in the oven for 10 (not on a high heat, or they will crack).  Put the jars aside on a large tray or baking sheet once they are done. Take out the cloth with the pith and pips in it.  You can give it a squeeze over the pan to get the last drops of pectin out, then discard this.  The cloth can be washed and reused.  Now turn down the heat under your preserving pan to about mark 2.  Add the sugar to the pan of oranges (which should have reduced down quite considerably by now) and stir well.  Now turn up the heat a little - but not too much.  If you start boiling before the sugar has dissolved properly, you will fetch up with gritty marmalade.  Keep checking to see if the sugar has dissolved (if you put a wooden spoon into the mixture, it should come out with no sugar granules on it).  Don't turn up the heat until the spoon comes out clean.

6.  When the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat again, and boil the marmalade rapidly until it reaches setting point (220 F, 105 C).  If you don't have a candy thermometer, I suggest testing for setting after about 10 minutes.  You can check for setting by putting a little marmalade on a very cold saucer, and pushing it with your finger.  If it's ready to set it will wrinkle a little when you push it.  If it's not ready, keep boiling again for another 5 minutes and recheck.  It usually takes between 10 and 15 minutes to set this amount of marmalade.

7.  When it's ready to set, take the pan off the heat and leave the marmalade to settle for about 15 minutes.  This will help to stop the fruit rising to the tops of the jars when you bottle it up.  If this doesn't work, you can always turn them upside down while the marmalade is setting inside them - I've done this and it works fine!  Today we haven't needed to do this - the fruit has behaved beautifully. Now is the time also to remove any remaining froth that has risen to the surface while the marmalade was cooking - just scrape it off gently with a slotted spoon and discard.

8.  A wide necked funnel and a ladle are useful for decanting the hot marmalade into the jars, but we managed today without.  Again, it's an easier job with 2 - one person to hold the jars (wearing rubber gloves to protect their hands) and the other to spoon the marmalade carefully into them.

9.  When the jars are full, you can cover them and put the lids on immediately.  Allow to cool completely, then store in a cool dry place (opened jars should go in the fridge).

Yay!  We really enjoyed making our marmalade this morning, in the warm, citrus-scented kitchen, whilse outside the snow fell thickly all around us.  It really felt deliciously cosy!  

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