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If you ignore the peeling paint in the back of the room (our house is still very much a work in progress) our house is looking quite Christmassy.
I have hung ivy and holly from most of the pictures, the staircase is wrapped in yet more ivy, the tree is decorated and sparkling, and the mantlepiece is twinkling with jam jars of tealights amongst fir branches.
Today I did the first part of my Christmas food shop – my bags were full of goodies…Morecambe Bay potted shrimp…herb encrusted salami…Wensleydale cheese studded with cranberries…and a few things I can’t mention as they’re for Mr Rigg’s stocking..ssh!
I love Christmas.
Last week we made our first attempt at homemade marmalade. I must admit that I am an avid reader of Country Living magazine, and February’s issue had a selection of marmalade recipes. I personally don’t eat marmalade – probably haven’t even tried it, but like with many things I want to make them even if I don’t take pleasure from eating them. Perhaps this is my moment to try marmalade!
We did it over a period of an afternoon and two nights as we didn’t have enough time to do it all at once after getting home from work. I bought a kilo of luscious smelling Seville oranges from an Asian grocers in Chorlton. After a good hour of careful slicing of the peel – N doesn’t like it too thick – it went into a large pan with water, and a bundle of the pith and pips tied up in muslin (the full recipe is below). This was then soaked overnight, before being simmered for about two hours until the peel is soft and tender. Then the muslin bundle is removed and discarded.
The sugar – kilos of it – is added to the pan, along with the reserved juice from the oranges. This is the boiled gently to dissolve the sugar, and then on a hard boil until it thickens and sets when smeared on a cold plate. It is allowed to cool before making its way into jam jars.
This marmalade has quite a deep burnt orange colour from the addition of dark muscovado sugar. One of my best friends has a fantastic recipe for a ginger cake with marmalade in it – she made it last weekend and its delicious – hopefully I can get the recipe from her and post it on here for everyone to try.
The recipe: Firstly, I would recommend getting some of the equipment out that you will need before you start. A large metal pan – I don’t have a preserving pan, so just used my largest saucepan. A citrus reamer – mine is a great wooden one which gets out as much juice and pith as possible. A square of muslin and a sieve. Some string. A jam funnel – I don’t own one of these, but I wish I did – it’s quite possible to manage without, just expect lots of sticky drips! A ladle and jam jars that have been washed carefully.
Seville orange marmalade
Makes about 2kg – we filled about 10 jars of different sizes
1kg Seville oranges (go for those that are hard and fragrant)
2 litres of water
2kg preserving sugar
200g dark muscovado sugar
Wash and dry the fruit. Cut it into halves or quarters.
Line the sieve with the square of muslin and start to juice all the segments over the sieve. Make sure you scrape the shells out well, dropping into the sieve the pips, the flesh, and the pithy membranes. Country Living’s tip for getting these out is to use a teaspoon to grab a piece of membrance, the rip it out.
Once you have finished juicing, put the peel to one side and tie the muslin up into a bundle. Place the bundle into your large metal pan. Reserve the juice for later.
Using a very sharp knife, slice the peel into thin pieces – or thicker if you prefer. Add all these to pan. Pour in the 2 litres of water and leave to soak overnight.
The next day, bring the pan with the peel, water, and bundle of muslin to the boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 2 hours – the liquid should have reduced by half and the peel should be ‘meltingly tender’.
Making sure you let the mixture cool first, remove the bundle of muslin and squeeze out as much liquid as you can – then discard.
Add the sugar and reserved juice. Slowly bring the mixture to the boil and stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, raise the heat and boil hard until you reach setting point – I personally didn’t know what this meant, but a friend had mentioned she tested hers by smearing a bit of it on a cold plate and left it for a few minutes to see if it was starting to set. I used this idea, and it seems to have worked.
Allow the marmalade to cool before stirring, and then pouring into jars – either with a jam funnel for the neat and tidy option, or for sticky fun just use the ladle to scoop it in!
This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from the February 2009 edition of Country Living magazine.