I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy Sunday than in the making of marmalade. Just as you can turn a bowl of shining bitter thick-skinned oranges into jars of delight, so you can take a dreary day and make of it a pleasantly industrious one. I am sure there are faster and easier ways to make marmalade than the way I do it, and if I was looking for a method I would likely start either with the reliable Felicity Cloake or my forever favourite Nigel Slater. But I am not looking for a way to make marmalade, because I do it the way my grandma does it.
My grandma is a creature of habit. For breakfast every morning, she has coffee and two slices of toast: one with marmite, and one with her homemade marmalade. And every year, around this time, my grandma takes down a massive, heavy book from the highest shelf. Its translucent-thin pages are falling out, and its spine is broken open. It’s never hard to find the right recipe, as the book falls open automatically to the one with the marmalade recipe. My grandma must have memorised it by now, more or less, but she refers to the book every year.
I go by memory, so my marmalade isn’t as good as hers. Maybe one day it will be. It’s still pretty good though. It’s very adaptable- I add cinnamon which subtly enhances the flavours; sometimes my grandma adds finely chopped crystallised ginger or swaps one of the oranges for a bergamot.
I treat marmalade-making as an event to look forward to, a day to relish. I take my time and at the end of a sticky afternoon my reward is a pile of mismatched jars on my kitchen table, filled with dark, warm deliciousness, waiting for breakfast.
This marmalade is not a mild marmalade; it’s bitter and dark and sets quite runny. It’s delicious but then so are mild marmalades. It’s enriched with a few generous spoonfuls of black treacle and cooked for a little longer than most marmalades, all of which makes its flavour deep and complex.
You can get your bitter Seville oranges from our shop, or with your veg box next week if you email us by Monday morning. We hope you have a wonderful marmalade season.
Bitter Orange Marmalade with Black Treacle
Makes approx. 6-8 jars of marmalade (depending on the jar). You will also need a very large stockpot and a square of muslin or cheesecloth.
1kg bitter Seville oranges
2.5 kg sugar (granulated or caster; brown sugar also works just fine so follow your heart)
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
2-3 generous tablespoons black treacle
Scrub the oranges using a veg brush and plenty of clean water.
Cover the oranges with cold water in the stock pot and boil for two hours. The oranges may try to float to the top of the pan; if so, put a heatproof plate on them to hold them under the water.
Meanwhile, wash all your jars with soap and hot water.
When the oranges have boiled, drain and leave to cool until you can handle them comfortably.
When cool, sit down with the bowl of boiled oranges, a sharp knife, a chopping board, a small bowl with the muslin laid over it, and the empty stockpot. Put on a good podcast.
One by one, cut the oranges into quarters. Remove all the seeds and place them in the muslin in the small bowl. Then chop up the orange flesh, and slice the peel to your desired thickness. A good rule of thumb is to aim for peel slightly less thick than you like it, as it will absorb liquid later and get larger. Put the peel and flesh and any juice into the stockpot.
Tie the muslin up with the seeds inside, and find a way to have it hang down into the mixture. You can hold it down with the pot lid, or tie to the pot handle. It isn’t the end of the world if it falls in fully- just remember to fish it out before you put the marmalade in jars.
When all the oranges are done, add the juice of the lemon, all the sugar, and 1 1/2 litres of water to the stockpot. Put on a medium heat until boiling.
Meanwhile, heat the jars and lids in a low oven.
Leave to boil for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly.
Take out a saucer. From about the half hour mark, start testing your marmalade every five minutes or so. To do this, spoon a little dollop of marmalade onto the saucer, then leave until cool (or pop in the fridge). Push the marmalade with your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s ready. This recipe doesn’t tend to wrinkle very dramatically, so don’t panic if you can only get a slight wrinkle. The wrinklier it gets, the more set the final marmalade will be. If you want a very well set marmalade, you might need to add pectin.
Pull out the muslin with the seeds and put aside. You can reuse the cloth after a good wash.
Stir through the cinnamon and black treacle.
One by one, fill the jars. Remove them from the oven with a tea towel, then carefully ladle in the marmalade. A funnel may help avoid spills. Put the lid on the jar while the mixture’s still hot for a good seal.
Congratulations, you’ve made marmalade! Enjoy on hot buttered toast, in bread and butter pudding, or give to loved ones.