First up, what are the key ingredients?
One of marmalade’s best qualities is the fact it doesn’t require many ingredients. “All you need is Seville oranges, water, golden granulated sugar and fresh lemon juice,” says Elspeth Biltoft, founder of Rosebud Preserves. Chris Braitch of preserve pros The Cherry Tree suggests including a mixture of white and brown sugars to taste and making sure to include the peel of Seville oranges.
Can you make any substitutions?
Absolutely, says Elspeth: “The most common is a mixture of Seville orange, grapefruit and lemon, or lemon and lime.” She also explains it’s possible to make marmalade from sweet orange, clementine, tangerine, mandarin or blood orange; however be warned that it can be a little trickier to ensure a consistent set, without practice, as these are not as acidic as Seville oranges and contain less naturally occurring pectin. “You can make substitutions,” says Jane Hasell-McCosh, founder of The World’s Original Marmalade Awards. “However, to be classed as a marmalade it must be predominantly citrus,” she explains.
Can you use frozen fruit?
Yes, says Elspeth. “Seville oranges freeze very well and can therefore extend the period for making this wonderful marmalade. Simply wash the fruit, air dry, bag up in prescribed amounts and freeze,” she says. In fact, Jane says it can sometimes be easier to use frozen fruit, as it softens the skin and makes the fruit easier to handle. Chris agrees, but adds: “For optimal colour, flavour and texture, I always go fresh.”
What kitchen equipment do you need?
Here’s Elspeth’s definitive list:
Heavy based preserving or standard pan with a large surface area
Large sharp knife
Jars (warmed in a low oven)
Are there any pitfalls to avoid?
“Dissolve your sugar over a very low heat to avoid crystals forming once the marmalade is set and cold, says Elspeth. “And always jar preserves when they’re hot and use metal lids, rather than cellophane, to ensure a vacuum and help preservation.”
It is important to remember that marmalade making is not a quick process and should not be rushed, says Jane. “Another pitfall to avoid is adding the sugar before the shred has been cooked properly, as the shred should be soft and tender,” she adds. Chris has one final word of caution: “Don’t overboil, or else the marmalade will be very dry.”
What are your favourite flavour combinations?
“Marmalades from Japan have excellent flavour combinations and often includes different fruits such as yuzu,” says Jane. For Elspeth, it’s an easy choice – lemon with stem ginger.
Any final tips?
“I like to use unrefined cane sugar,” says Elspeth. “It gives a lovely and slightly molassed flavour to the finished marmalade. I also like to add 60ml of quality whisky when the setting point is reached to create a special seasonal preserve for Christmas. Remember to test if it’s set again once the whisky is added – and cook on for a moment or two if necessary.” Finally, she has one further piece of advice: make note of the time it takes to cook the fruit, and the total time to reach setting point, to ensure a better marmalade next time.
Meanwhile, Jane says that as long as the tops are screwed tight on the jars, marmalade has a very long shelf life and can keep for many years if stored in a dry, cool place. Chris suggests making sure you cook the peel separately for 1½ hours. “It appears and feels cooked quicker than this, but it’s just trying to trick you – it firms back up once you add the sugar and will be chewy if you fail to adhere to that timing.” He also says sterilising the jars is unnecessary and is “a waste of time, energy and effort”. Instead, he suggests filling the jars with water above 85ºC before using them.
Inspired? Here are a couple of marmalade recipes to try…
Seville Orange Marmalade: Rosebud Preserves
Seville Orange Marmalade: Melrose & Morgan
Scones With Marmalade: Tatha Bar & Kitchen at V&A Dundee
Marmalade Roast Vegetables: Bonne Maman
Breakfast Martini: Brown’s Hotel
Spiced Clementine Breakfast Buns: Waitrose
Marmalade Loaf: Paulene Enigboken, Dualit
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