Paddington and Marmalade Days

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“Every home should have a marmalade day”  Paddington, the movie 2014

It’s taken me a while to fall back in love with Paddington Bear. I adored the books as a child but then, as a teenager, I was a given a toy Paddington as a present by a local farmer/admirer. He’d spotted me in the church choir (social highlight of the weekend in 1970’s rural Worcestershire) and decided to make a move. Although I was rather too old to be excited about a huge, stuffed bear with a duffle coat and red welly boots, I was also appalled to be the subject of someone who seemed twice my age’s attention. My tweeded suitor also presented me with a multiple choice questionnaire with reasons why I would, or would not, like to go out on a dinner date – I couldn’t bring myself to fill it in. The entire episode was a hideous embarrassment, the Family Service was never quite the same, and in my eyes Paddington’s reputation was sullied for decades.

A couple of weeks ago we went to see the film of Paddington – it was an absolute delight, so much so that I’ve dug out my 1960’s paperbacks and managed to put all the teenage angst behind me. I saw some Seville oranges in Reg The Veg up the road and thought that Imi, fired up with Paddington’s enthusiasm for the sticky stuff, would be up for making some marmalade.

I wrote a piece for Borough Market last year, as a “marmalade virgin”. I’d always been put off making any myself by all the mystique that seemed to surround the stuff so I decided to try out the simplest method around, which came from Fiona Beckett. I’ve tinkered with the recipe a little and, although I’m quite sure my marmalade wouldn’t sweep the board at the W.I. show, it tastes wonderful to me and is a great thing to make with kids.

Opinions are divided when it comes to marmalade methods, infact it’s almost better not to ask for advice since everyone will have the “very best” recipe. Purists seem to swear by slicing the fruit and leaving it to soak overnight which apparently gives a more delicate, crystal-clear result than the quicker, boil-the-fruit-whole approach. I went for the latter, it may not be perfect but certainly knocks the socks off anything I’ve bourght in the supermarket.

Experienced jam makers can jump the list of handy hints below, but as a novice I needed to go back to basics, and you may too.

  • Unless you already own a preserving pan, or are planning on opening a B&B I’d just stick to making the marmalade in a heavy stock pot or better still, if you happen to have one, the base of a pressure cooker.
  • You need a piece of muslin in which to tie up the pips and pulp (they are rich in pectin which sets the jam) No muslin, well (and I know that this sounds rather unappetising but it’s very convenient!) a NEW pop sock will do nicely, just give it a rinse before using.
  • A couple of plates in your freezer or fridge will help you when testing “the set” of your marmalade.
  • To sterilise jars you can place them in an oven at 130 °C for 1/2 an hour or wash with cold water and zap, whilst damp, for 40 seconds in the microwave. The jars must be hot when you pour the hot marmalade into them, otherwise they could shatter.
  • If your lids do not fit tightly then use a cellophane cover. A seal is important otherwise your precious marmalade could go mouldy. It’s advisable to cover the surface of the marmalade with a disc of waxed paper too, if you are keeping the marmalade for any length of time.
  • A jam funnel is a blessing, enabling you to ladle in the marmalade quickly and saving on time wiping sticky jars later. Otherwise just use a jug, but go carefully.

 Simple Seville Orange Marmalade

This makes about 6 average-size jars of marmalade, but it’s wise to have a couple of spares at the ready just in case you need them. Smaller, attractively shaped jars make great little gifts too.

I kg Seville oranges
1 unwaxed lemon
1.75 kg granulated sugar (no need for preserving sugar)

Wash the oranges and lemon well and then put them in your pan and cover with water. I weighed down the fruit with a casserole lid to stop it bobbing above the surface. Cover with a lid and then boil for 1-2 hours until the peel feels soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. Meanwhile enjoy the ambrosial citrus scent wafting around your kitchen.

Remove the fruit from the water and allow to cool. Measure the liquid left in your pan, you will need about 1.25 litres. If you have too much you can reduce it by boiling, too little – just add a splash of water.

Now for the fun, it’s time to prepare the fruit. This is the moment to get the kids involved, as many hands do make light work. You will probably end up with a rather coarse -cut result but hey this is the home-spun approach.

Quarter the oranges and lemon. Take a spoon and scrape the pith, flesh and seeds into a large sieve set over a bowl.

Slice the peel into coarse or fine shreds, the choice is yours (it wasn’t mine as a a couple of  impatient 8 year olds will always mean thick slices). Put the peel into the pan with the measured cooking water.

Take a rubber spatula and squash as much juice as you can from the pulp in the sieve and tip this into the marmalade pan. Put the remaining pips and pulp into a muslin square and tie up (or take the pop sock approach) and then dangle this down into your pan too. The pith and pips contain masses of pectin which will set the marmalade later.

Bring the pan up to the boil and then remove your bag, or sock, and give it a squeeze to release as much of the valuable pectin as possible.

Tip in the sugar and place the pot back on a low flame. Once the sugar has dissolved you can up the heat and bring the marmalade to a rolling boil. Watch it carefully you don’t want it bubble over. Give it a stir and skim the froth from the surface from time to time (or you will have cloudy marmalade)

Now you’re on the home straight. Your marmalade will take about 25 – 45 minutes at a fast boil to reach setting consistancy (there are so many variables- the heat, the width of your pan, the amount of pectin, so I can’t be precise). Test the setting consistancy after 25 minutes by spooning some hot marmalade straight onto one of your plates from the freezer, allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. Now push the marmalade with your fingertip, if it’s ready it will form a wrinkly skin as you do so. If not, continue to boil and check at 5 minute intervals.

Once the marmalade’s ready leave to cool for 15 minutes, skim off any last foam and ladle into the hot jars. Cover with waxed disks if using, and seal with lids or cellophane at once.

♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣

It’s win, win all the way. Imi and her friend Eleanor not only loved the marmalade making they also earned a few more points for their all-important Brownie hobby badge and we’ve got a cupboard filled with marmalade which I intend to make ice-cream with aswell as eat on toast.

It’s also always wise to buy a few extra Seville oranges as they make a pretty damn good addition to a Gin and Tonic……talking of which, it is almost 6 o’clock.

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