Tired and a little depleted after a heavy night; snow going, back to cold, grey days, grim, grim, grim, need to keep the blues at bay….
Yesterday I popped out to Waitrose and found some ‘blush’ oranges (presumably ‘posh’ blood oranges) which I love, so I pounced on them and dragged them back to my lair, the plan being to eat half of them and make marmalade with the other half.
As Marmalade was one of the few preserves I hadn’t made before, I decided to have a little mooch on the internet and ended up confused and somewhat intimidated because pretty much every recipe was different with regard to technique, sugar content, to de-pith or not to de-pith, when to add what, not to mention the huge amount of kit needed depending on which one you follow (muslin, sterilising baths, thermometers etc). I was starting to go off the idea rapidly….
Look, I’m a simple soul. Surely it’s just the case of combining fruit, water and sugar and boiling the bejesus out of it until it goes all sticky? So I decided to take inspiration from all of these seasoned preservers and make up my own as ‘simple as possible’ version as I go along.
And it worked! Luckily.
1kg Blush or Blood Oranges
1kg Jam sugar
1 Lemon juiced
2 tablespoons of Amaretto (or Cointreau if preferred)
1. Trim of the top and bottom of the oranges then slice them as thinly as possible or according to preference.
Note – Many recipes advise that the pith needs to be scraped away from the peel, but honestly? There is hardly any on these oranges and to be quite frank, I couldn’t be arsed. Do however cut out any prominent strands of white pith in the centre of the orange halves.
2. Remove pips and put in a separate bowl along with all the trimmings.
3. Place orange slices in a glass or ceramic bowl, just about cover with cold water. Pour half a cup of boiling water over the pips and pith, cool then leave both overnight. This apparently allows the pectin (setting agent) to develop.
4. Make yourself a nice nightcap (a glass of wine or a Baileys and hot milk works for me) and go to bed. Do NOT watch ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ or ‘Cheaters’ under any circumstances.
5. The following day, put a small plate in the freezer, then put the oranges and water in a big stainless steel pan, bring it to the boil for 40 minutes or until temperature has reached 32 degrees C on your candy thermometer. Note – I don’t have a stainless steel pan so i used a none stick one. As for a candy thermometer….
6. OK, ignore No. 5. Put oranges and water into a pan and after 10 minutes add the jam sugar, otherwise how’s it supposed to reach setting point without it?
7. Realise you don’t have enough jam sugar. Swear under your breath and make up the difference with granulated and golden caster sugar.
8. After 15 minutes add the lemon juice and all the pectin liquid from the bowl of pips and pith, squeezing every last drop into the pan. Also add your chosen poison.
9. Put your freshly washed jars in a warm oven to sterilise, Gas Mark 3 works fine.
10. Bring to a vigorous boil and go and watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills for 40-60 minutes as it simmers.
11. Struggle to decide who you hate more, simpering Camille Grammer Wotsit or witchy Alison Dubois.
12. Fret a little because you think you should have added sugar, lemon juice and booze right at the end, but it’s too late now.
13. After 40 minutes, turn the TV off before you put your boot through the screen and do the wrinkle test. On the marmalade, not on yourself. Take your plate out of the freezer, and blob a teaspoonful of marmalade onto it. After it cools, push your finger along the plate into it. If it creases, it’s ready. If not stick it back on the stove, put the plate back in the freezer and try again in 10 minutes.
14. Whilst it’s finishing off, cut yourself some greaseproof paper/baking parchment rounds for your jars using a saucer as a template, or, if you’re me, a (clean) cats water bowl will do.
15. When it’s ready, take your jars out of the oven, put on a cutting board, then use a ladle to fill them. The jars should sizzle as you do this. If they don’t, I wouldn’t worry if I were you. Top with your paper rounds then seal and leave to cool.
This recipe makes enough for 2 large kilner jars, one old peanut butter jar and an olive jar.
Keep the kilner jars for yourself and give the others away, but only to people you love.
Serve with home make, granary bread toast the next morning for breakfast. Yum.