Cooking with oranges is always  good, the house is filled with the happy aroma of oranges. Seville oranges are only available for a short while so it is best to take advantage of them when you see them in the shops. People use seville oranges because they have a sharp bitter juice which marries with the sugar to make a balanced bitter sweet preserve and they are high in pectin needed to make a good set on the marmalade, whereas other types of oranges are generally sweet and have lower pectin levels. This recipe is from ‘Preserves’ by Pam Corbin and it has a soaking period, so from start to finish allow two days for the whole process.

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Saturday then began the preparation of the oranges ready for making into marmalade the following day. We made two quantities of the following recipe, one for us and one to give as gifts.

Ingredients : you will need

1 kg Seville Oranges.

75 ml freshly squeezed lemon Juice.

2 kg demerara sugar.

We added 50 ml of whisky to one of the quantities to make whisky orange marmalade for gifts, this is optional.

Method:

Scrub the oranges well, cut in half, squeeze out the juice and put the juice aside.

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Using a sharp knife slice the orange peel including the pith into thin strips, some people like to leave it at that but GD and I like to cut again several times across, making tiny chunks rather than a long slither. Be sure to cut out or pop off the green button at the top of the orange and discard along with the pips. Put the diced peel into a bowl and add the orange juice you put aside previously. Cover with 2.5 litres of water. Leave overnight or up to 24 hours.

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Transfer to a preserving pan, bring to the boil and simmer slowly for 2 hours, during this time the contents of the pan will have reduced by about one third.

Before you start the next bit put a couple of saucers in the freezer or even the fridge to get them nice and cool, you will need these to test for a set later.

Stir in the lemon juice and the sugar and bring the marmalade to the boil, keep stirring until all the sugar has dissolved.I find its best to use a nice big wooden spoon for this. Boil rapidly until setting point is reached  104.5 C /220.1 F, this will take about 20-25 minutes. When you think it is ready take the pan off of the heat and test for a set, you can test the set by using the saucer you placed in the fridge or freezer earlier, take a few drops of the marmalade and drip the droplets from the spoon onto the cold saucer, if the marmalade is runny and runs down the saucer when held vertically then it is not set enough yet, return the pan to the boil, however it is ready if when blown on it crinkles and when you hold the saucer vertically the liquid forms a nice thick droplet. The pan is taken off the heat when testing for a set as the marmalade may reduce too much while you are testing leaving your marmalade too stiff.

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Once you are happy you have reached a set remove the pan from the heat and leave it to cool for approximately ten minutes, this is so that the peel stays evenly dispersed when put in the  jars otherwise it will rise to the top, remove any scum, pour into clean sterilised jars and seal immediately.

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If you are adding the whisky, add 50 mls to the marmalade while it is cooling before putting in the jars.

Just for interest we squeezed 300 ml  of orange juice from each quantity we made.

It is a good idea to always label your jars with content and date, I find it useful to also add where the recipe was taken from.

There are a few ways to sterilize the jars, the easiest method I found is to wash the jars in hot water invert to drain, put in a cool oven, 140 C / 284 F/ gas mark 1. for 15 minutes.

One tip I have found invaluable since I began making jams, marmalades and jellies over thirty years ago, is it is better to under boil and do a reboil rather than over boil and risk burning the preserve. Reboiling takes minutes and generally gives a good set and consistency the second time around, and of course it’s always nice to get it right the first time!.

Its so nice to give preserves as gifts, dressing the jars can be lots of fun, make your own labels, cut little covers from pretty fabric, tie off with rustic string or patterned cord, add to a homemade hamper.

A thought : We preserve in the days of plenty brightening our tables in the months to come, a simple fare of home made bread and marmalade turns into a feast, just add friends or family.

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