This week I am

making marmalade. Again. The Seville oranges were picked in July, and some were stored in the cellar for a couple of months, held at about 15 C. They keep well, better than the blood oranges.

The marmalade is a standard now, made in batches every year. The tree is prolific, and I’m working on ways of using Seville oranges. Giveaways to chefs is one way. Using the juice to baste duck, chicken or lamb is another. Last year I sliced the oranges, boiled the slices in water for about 20 minutes, then cooked them in sugar syrup. They were drained, cooked again in syrup, and the process repeated until the orange slices were glossy and soft, and the syrup concentrated. I stored them in the refrigerator, and use the slices, cut finely, for a garnish on flourless orange cake, or in Dundee cake.

As for the marmalade: 1.5 kg of oranges (can be 1.6), 4.2 litres of water, 2.4 (can be 2.5) kg of sugar. That’s it for ingredients, but sometimes I exchange one of the Seville oranges for a blood orange. Sometimes I add a squeeze of lemon juice towards the end of cooking. And I always add a tiny amount of butter at the end, which helps clear up any scum on top.

I have a large preserving pan that holds this quantity. It’s of some antiquity now: it was my mother’s, and it went to one of my sisters for a few years. It bears a dent on one side, because she used to keep on on top of the cupboards. One night a possum got into the kitchen, and raced around the top of the cupboards. It knocked the preserving pan on to the floor. Use the largest widest pan available – or make in two batches.

cutting up oranges for marmalade

This is how it’s done. Wash the oranges and dry them. Cut in half, and juice them. Keep the juice to one side, and keep all the pips and whatever bits of orange are left in the juicer. Slice the orange halves finely, then across into small pieces.

Put the water into the preserving pan. Add all the cut up oranges. Add the juice. Put all the pips and bits into a small square of cloth (a bit of Chux rinsed well in boiling water is fine), and tie it up well before adding to the rest. Bring to the boil and boil for at least an hour (an hour and a half is closer to it), until the orange skin is tender and the liquid is reduced by about half. Remove the bag of pips.

Add the sugar, and stir well until dissolved. Then boil until setting point is reached. An easy guide is that the bubbles slow down and it all becomes thicker. It is important to stir occasionally, and more often as setting point approaches so that the marmalade cooks evenly. Test by putting a little on a cold saucer, put it into the freezer for a couple of minutes, and then remove the saucer. Run your finger along the marmalade. If it wrinkles, it’s right.

Add a tiny knob of butter (about 10g), and stir. That – somehow – ensures the marmalade is clear. Now ladle into a jug and then fill sterilised jars from the jug (so much easier than ladling directly into jars).


I always add two layers of melted paraffin wax when the marmalade is cold, but that is probably not essential. Note that this marmalade keeps extremely well.

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