June 11, 2009
Orange Marmalade The Old Fashioned Way.
At the exact time I was ladelling my homemade marmalade into sterilized jars I heard Ready, Steady, Cook in the background. One of the guest chefs had blueberries in her mystery bag and she decided to make blueberry jam in the microwave in ten minutes. Okay then. She also made a passing comment that went something like this; "in this day and age there is no other way you would ever consider making jam other than in the microwave".
Funny how she happened to say that at the very moment I had expended a lot of time and energy into making jam (okay marmalade) the old fashioned way. Is somebody trying to tell me something? Well I'm afraid Miss Bloom, I am making jam (marmalade) and I am definitely not making it in the microwave. Incidentally, her blueberry jam resembled more of a runny blueberry sauce. If you are not interested in making marmalade from scratch, I mean it, from scratch, then it's best to save your time and look no further. And I am guessing if you are that person, then perhaps microwave jam would appeal to you.
If you are still with me, then let's soldier on. This jam and marmalade making is a real labour of love. Is it worth it? In my case I have beautiful oranges that I can pick straight from the tree, so that is a big motivation for me. Long after the last orange has fallen, or been eaten by hubby or been hacked into by cockies; I will have my homemade marmalade for months. I always keep some for Christmas, because I use it in my glaze for the baked ham. I know everyone in my family just looooooves that ham and using my homemade marmalade makes me feel that it's a touch more special.
Marmalade is a lot fussier than jam. I must separate the segments of orange flesh without the pith, then I have to remove the pith from the rind, then I have to slice the rind as finely as possible. Then it's a two day wait before I can even cook it because it must be left overnight. Make no mistake, it is fussy stuff. No bother. Just knuckle down and do it. Knowing if the jelly set is right can be a tricky business too, but you live and learn and then you know. So I conclude that it is time consuming, it does take effort and it can be tricky.
In this fast world; time, effort and risk are simply not convenient and not worth the trouble especially with lovely local or exotic imported jams in fancy jars alluring you to "pick me, pick me", on our overcrowded supermarket shelves. You may well be thinking "am I nuts". Maybe I am. For you see this nutter yearns for a simple life and an enjoyment of simple pleasures.
And yet to me homemade jam or marmalade is far from simple. It is luxurious and wonderful and when I sit down to enjoy it, I take my time and savour each and every bite. And I look at it. Intently. I admire the rind cooked to perfection. A nice "al dente" texture has been achieved. I'm thrilled. The colour is amazing. I haven't overcooked it and it is a shiny, transparent glistening orange colour. The olfactory senses kick in and the tangy, rich, deep soul of the orange whack me in the nose. No bubbles, hurray, the judges will like that. As for the setting; well that is the best part; it's perfect. And my very unshowy marmalade sits displayed in a very ordinary straight sided jar. Plain and simple. Just how I like it. All things considered I feel happy and I feel clever. Funny isn't it, how some simple homemade marmalade can make me feel this excited. Next time I push my trolley past the jam isle, I shall watch shoppers deliberating over which variety to buy. And I will overtake them with a smile on my face feeling very, very clever.
Sweet Orange Marmalade
adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly
5 large (1kg) oranges
1 1/4 litres water
1 1/4 kg sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
A couple of extra lemons
PS: This recipe in the Weekly includes 2 teaspoons citric acid but I leave it out.
Cut oranges into quarters. Using a sharp knife carefully cut the orange flesh away making sure to leave all the pith behind. Cut the orange flesh into thin slices; place into a clean bowl; reserve seeds.
Take each quarter; with your sharp knife carefully and slowly cut into the pith up against the rind as closely as possible and remove all the pith. If it doesn't all come away then attempt to remove the remaining pith. A small sharp knife may come in handy for this. Reserve half the pith; discard remaining pith.
The orange rind should look like the picture below; nice fine quarters with no white left on them.
Cut the rind into very fine strips. Take your time. For me this step is quite critical. Aesthetically, it is very unattractive to find huge chunky pieces of rind but the most important reason is if the pieces are not even then they may not be cooked all the way through ultimately affecting the keeping time of the marmalade.
Place the fine strips of rind together with the orange flesh and half the water. Cover; stand overnight.
Take out all the seeds you can get from an extra couple of lemons. Place these with any seeds you may have taken out from the oranges. Add to the reserved orange pith.
Tie seeds and pith in a piece of muslin; place muslin bag into a separate bowl and the remaining water. Cover; stand overnight. (The citric acid was added at this stage in the AWW's recipe).
Next day combine contents of both bowls in a large saucepan. Add lemon juice. Bring to boil; simmer, covered for about 40 minutes or until rind is soft. Discard muslin bag. Pour sugar carefully into the centre of the pot. Stir over heat without boiling until sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil; boil uncovered without stirring, for about 15 minutes or until marmalade jells when tested. Allow to sit in pot for about 10 minutes before placing into sterilized jars. You will get better distribution of the fruit that way.
Pour into jars carefully; seal immediately. (Unlike the recipe in the AWW, which states to seal when cold. No way. Rubbish!)
Toast and marmalade for tea. And I'm happee.
I served my tea in a lovely "April Rose" fine bone china cup and saucer made in England. It belonged to my father-in-law's mother so I couldn't tell you how old it is. Didn't I tell you I was into "old fashion"?