I made some marmalade the other day.
One of my resolutions for 2010 is to get round to all the things I've been saying I'd like to do, and last year I even went as far as buying the oranges before I got distracted by something else.
This year though, I set aside a whole morning. It was one of the best things I've done for a long time. Not least because I couldn't take short cuts. I couldn't hurry the process along, or do three hundred other things at the same time, or take short cuts. I had to concentrate on what was in front of me, and of course, as I did, new ideas came. I kept pushing them to one side though, and just keep enjoying the senses - the smells, the textures, the alchemy of the process.
And now, as an added benefit, every time I look in my cupboard, I get a thrill of providing for other people (and me!). It's something basic, and a little bit beautiful.
I hope Gillian Allnutt won't mind me borrowing her wonderful poem to accompany some of my pictures.
The Makings of Marmalade
unripe oranges in silk-lined sacks
china jugs of orange-washing water
one big bowl
pith-paring knives, one for each woman
a mountain of sugar, poured slowly
a small Sevillian well
songsheets against the tedium, in parts
pine cones for burning
silver spoons for licking up the lost bits
a seven-gallon pot
a waxed circle, a sellophane circle, elastic
small pieces of toast
And here's the recipe I used from the Abel and Cole website, trusty provider of most things that taste good in the Salway household!
Seville Orange Marmalade
The simplest and best-flavoured marmalade!
1 kg oranges
a lemon or two if you have them
2 kg granulated sugar (don't worry, you won't be eating it all at once!)
2 ½ litres water
muslin square and some string
Cut the oranges and lemon in half, then squeeze out all the juice into a jug and set it aside. Next you need to get what's left of the oranges and scrape out all the pips and the pith (the white stuff on the inside of the skin) and put it onto the square of muslin cloth. This may sound like a fiddly job, but the pith and pips contain a lot of pectin, and pectin is what allows the marmalade to set, so the more of the orange you can use the better; you don't have to get every last shred of the pith though! Using a long piece of string, tie up the cloth to make a bag containing the pips and pith. You should just be left with the skin, which needs chopping finely.
How to cook it:
Put the water in a big pan, and add the juice from the oranges and lemons. Tie the muslin bag to the handle of the pan and allow it to bob in the water. Add the orange peel to the water and simmer for two hours until the peel is totally soft. Remove the little muslin bag and pour the sugar into the pan. Allow the sugar to dissolve completely (it needs to dissolve properly over a low heat so it doesn’t burn later).
Turn up the hob temperature to a high heat, then squeeze the muslin bag out into the pan and stir in the liquid (ie the pectin) that comes out. Cook the marmalade at this temperature for 10-15 minutes, then check whether it sets by putting a small blob on a cold surface like a chilled plate or even an ice cube! You'll know it's set if it goes wrinkly when you push it with your finger. If it doesn’t then keep cooking it for a few more minutes, checking it again every so often.
Once it's done, leave the marmalade to settle for quarter of an hour. While you're waiting you can sterilise some jars by putting them in a big pan of boiling water for a few minutes. Dry the jars, but before they cool, spoon in the marmalade and seal them straight away! Keep the marmalade in a cool dark place once you’ve finished, then invite some people over for brunch to show it off!