Oranges, being expensive to import, were considered a luxury around 200years ago when the tradition of marmalade making was first recorded. Seville marmalade oranges, which are small and slightly bitter, are available for just a few short weeks in the early part of each year and are not always easy to find: I usually look for them around my birthday in mid-February. Home made marmalade cannot be beaten, despite it being rather labour intensive, but it is definitely worth the effort. Just play some favourite music or find something good on the radio to make the squeezing and chopping more enjoyable. My book contains two almost identical recipes: a light coloured one, called Seville Orange Marmalade and the second, a variation of the same recipe, called Dark Seville Marmalade. I discovered in other books that this second one, which is much darker in colour and always chunky, is often called ‘Oxford’ marmalade as it was first made and sold there, being popular with the university dons and students. Followers of the Oxford v Cambridge University boat race will be aware that the team colours are dark blue for Oxford and light blue for Cambridge. With this in mind, I have named the lighter colour ‘Cambridge’ marmalade, though I am aware that marmalade is not blue – or especially connected to Cambridge!
The recipe, which I have adapted for both types of marmalade, comes from my well used jam and pickle book: Home Preserves by Jackie Burrow. I found that 1½kg/3lb of Seville oranges yielded a too large quantity for my biggest pan, so I divided the mixture between two big pans after the initial cooking time before adding half the sugar to each pan. (This involved straining off the cooked peel as well as dividing the liquid.) The treacle needed to give a darker colour to Oxford marmalade was added to just one pan. Some Oxford marmalade recipes also add root ginger, up to 60g/2ozs (depending on personal taste) is suggested for the amount of oranges in my recipe. As with jams, marmalade cooked for too long can take on a tainted burned flavour. Dividing the mixture helped it to cook down to setting point quicker, so for this reason I may take this step again in future. Marmalade making is not a short job, so make sure you allow plenty of time. The original recipe said it would take 2 hours to cook but my total making and cooking time was nearer 5 hours, although this did include the time taken to divide the mixture into two pans, however once the marmalade is cooking it does not need constant watching. If you have freezer space, Seville oranges freeze well so they can be used at times when normally unavailable.
‘Oxford’ (& ‘Cambridge’) style Seville Marmalade
(Makes around 8 x 1lb jars)
1½kg/3lb Seville oranges
3¾kg/6lb sugar (if making just ‘Oxford’ marmalade then use brown sugar)
2 x 15ml (tablespoons) black treacle (‘Oxford’ marmalade only)
Up to 60g/2ozs root ginger, peeled & chopped/grated (personal preference) to taste – see above
1. Wash the oranges and lemons, halve and squeeze out the juice and pour into a large pan. Put the pips into a muslin bag (I use the cut off foot and lower leg from a clean pair of old tights) and tie so it dangles into the juice in the pan.
2. Slice the orange and lemon peel into shreds, thickness according to personal taste although traditional Oxford marmalade is very chunky. Add the shreds to the pan, pour in the water and bring to the boil. (If I was adding root ginger, which is not in the original recipe, I would add it at the same time as the peel.)
3. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 1½hours or until the peels are very soft. Remove the bag of pips, squeezing well so all the juice drops back into the pan. (Try using this between two spoons as the mixture will be hot.) This is to allow the pectin contained in the pips to help the marmalade to set. (It was at this point that I divided the mixture between two pans, straining the peels and liquid so they could be divided more equally.)
4. Put some saucers in the freezer to chill. These will be needed when the marmalade is checked to see if it has reached setting point.
5. Add the sugar (and treacle if you are making Oxford style marmalade) and stir well over a low heat until dissolved. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached – a teaspoon of mixture placed on a chilled saucer will wrinkle when pushed with a finger. Remove any scum that has collected – some people do this by adding a knob of butter but I have not found it to be successful.
6. Allow the mixture to cool slightly before potting. While it is cooling, wash the jars well and sterlise. I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water. I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.
7. Pour into the prepared jars, cover, wipe if needed and label.