Seville orange marmalade, but Maltese style. I finally got around to a batch.
I made eight jars from 2 kilos with a nice over-spill saucer’s worth to taste straight away, fresh from the pot at midnight. Naughty but nice. Breakfast next day, saw the first full jar cracked opened. We get through a jar a week in our family thanks to J dolloping it out liberally. Only another 44 jars to make then before the end of the bitter orange season!
I don’t mind the hot stove and the effort for a few more weekends though. The scent of oranges simmering away pervades the house, giving it the ultimate, homely air. The kind of atmos you’re supposed to create when your house is on the market and you want to entice buyers. At least, if you’ve a village house like ours. I am not sure that ploy works in spanking new penthouses on the seafront. But, we’re staying firmly put, so this is the real McCoy marmalade just for our pleasure.
January is my regular season for citrus preserves. With the lemon zest batches I made over Christmas and into New Year taking up most of my jars and time, it’s now the first days of February with its amazing blue skies, warmth and promise of spring before it’s the turn of the Sevilles. You can’t go wrong with unadulterated simple thick-cut Seville. I added a little grated ginger but nothing more. It’s turned out a perfect set.
Malta is the place for Anglophile marmalade aficionados; Sevilles were the Maltese Islands’ first orange crops, arriving with the Arabs. Now, I find them for free, often unwanted on neighbours’ trees. They pass them my way and I give them a jar in return. I’ll get on with washing out the Maslin pan now to prep the next of this weekend’s batches…and more…before winter’s out. I made marmalade in early June one year. I couldn’t turn down a kilo that came my way from a last late crop still hanging on the tree as fruit formed for the next. Never again though. Marmalade and steamy humid heatwaves don’t go well together!
Maltese Bitter Orange marmalade
This recipe is more or less the same as for the Lemon Zest marmalade except you cook the oranges whole to begin with and add lemon juice to help the set along.
You will need: a preserving (Maslin) pan or heavy-based deep-sided casserole, ideally wider at the top than the base; a long-handled spoon or spatula (wooden or silicon that can take very high temperature); 4 x 400g jam jars or preserving jars – these need sterilising by washing in hot soapy water, drying and then popping in the oven to 150°C for 20 minutes. Leave in the oven til ready to pot up the jam. Ensure jars’ lids are not rusty and that any seals are firm and not perished. Also, to pour hot jam into the jars you’ll need a heat-resistant, non-corrosive funnel, and perhaps a jar grip to remove and handle hot jars from the oven. Make some labels that include the month and year of the batch.
- 1.5 kilo bitter oranges (Sevilles)
- 1.5 kilo granulated sugar (no need to use preserving sugar)
- 5cm chunk of root ginger
- 2 lemons, juiced, and 1 lemon to cook whole
- Place three or four saucers in the freezer; these are to use to test a set later on.
- Take 1.5 kilo of Sevilles, the sliced root ginger and one lemon, cover with water (around 4 pints) in preserving pan (see above) and simmer them whole for 1.5 hrs, or until peel is tender. Allow them to cool, then halve, scoop out the pith and pips (retaining all) and finely slice the peel. Put the pith and pips, including the sliced up boiled lemon and the ginger, in a muslin bag or square, tied up.
- Measure the cooking water and top up to 3 pints, and return to the pan along with the sliced orange peel and the muslin bag of pith. Add the juice of 2 lemons and the sugar. Over a gentle heat, warm the liquid until the sugar has dissolved completely.
- Then, turn up the heat to high and bring the marmalade to a rapid, bubbling boil and cook for around 10 minutes. At this point, take a chilled saucer and drip a little jam from your spoon on the saucer; rub your finger gently over the jam’s surface. If it puckers up, the jam is ready. If not, and is too runny still, keep on boiling and test again in 5 minutes. I find setting point comes when the cooking jam forms a froth. This disperses if you stir, but I find it’s about this point the jam, even if looking runny in the pan, will form a set. If you like, to disperse any surface foam by adding a very small sliver of unsalted butter and stir it in before leaving to settle.
- When you’ve reached a set, turn off the heat and leave the jam to stand for 5-10 minutes. This ensures the peel sheds stay suspended evenly throughout the jam otherwise it they will rise to the top.
- Bottle up using a heat-resistant, non-corrosive funnel to avoid spillages and burning your fingers! Put on lids asap on filling each jar. As the jam cools, the lids will loosen so tighten up more when the jars are easier to handle and less hot. Leave the bottled jam to cool overnight on a rack before labeling. When cooled, the lids should dimple inwards to show the jam is sealed. If it hasn’t, simply reheat and re-bottle. This can be done by loosening the lids, placing the jars in a pan of water (jars balanced on a trivet in the pan) and filling the pan with water to around half way up the jars. Then simmer for 10 mins. Remove jars, replace lids tightly.
All images © Liz Ayling 2012