Paddington reminds us that,"A wise bear always keeps a marmalade sandwich under his hat in case of emergency". With this in mind, and the Christmas season well and truly over, late January, and with it the marmalade season is here again. Whilst Paddington loves Marmalade sandwiches, marmalade can be used to make so much more. I like to add it to cakes, ice-cream or steam puddings for a tangy treat. I also enjoy melting it over chicken pieces, gammon, or lamb joints to make a zingy, sticky glaze. Best of all though, I love it spread thickly over hot buttered toast for breakfast and washed down with a steaming hot cup of tea. What could be better on a cold wintry morning? Bliss!
For me, the marmalade season begins immediately after Christmas with me tracking down the delicious if tart Seville Oranges needed to make the tangy and slightly bitter traditional marmalade most of us love. Seville orange (also known as bitter orange, sour orange, bigarade orange, or marmalade orange) refers to a citrus tree and its fruit and is a widely known, particularly tart orange which is now grown throughout the Mediterranean region. It has a thick, dimpled skin, and is prized for its marmalade making abilities as it is higher in pectin than the sweet orange, and therefore gives a better set and a higher yield. Seville oranges, however, have a short season, but with some forward planning there are ways you can extend it. One of the most popular and tasty ways to preserve oranges is making the above mentioned orange marmalade.
Recently much has been written about the delights, or otherwise, of this golden conserve with some writers even suggesting, (Paddington cover your ears now) that the consuming of marmalade is in decline, especially amongst the younger generations. Apparently it has become a little like Marmite: you either love it or hate it, take it or leave it! I cannot for the world understand why though? I have always considered marmalade to be much more than a breakfast spread, but also to be a British classic, a great British custom that has always graced the breakfast table of British households.
I like then to think of marmalade as traditional rather than old fashioned. I also like to think that , in a small way, my marmalade making workshops can help revive the fortunes of the humble Seville oranges and subsequent jars of glistening amber marmalade made from them. For me part of the appeal of marmalade-making is its seasonality. It fits well with my philosophy of growing, buying and preserving produce that is available through the year. Growing up, the arrival of Seville oranges each January was looked forward to with as much excitement as going strawberry picking in the summer or gathering juicy hedgerow blackberries in the Autumn. Making jams and chutneys marked the passing of the months and seasons; each new jar filled evidence of the past displayed for all to see and savor.
There are as many different recipes for marmalade as there are jars to fill. This is one of the reasons I think homemade marmalade rivals commercially made marmalades any time. It really is up to you what type of marmalade you choose to make: from thin and golden to dark and treacley; sweet, chunky, spicy, tart or zingy. Oranges provide masses of pectin making the process almost fool proof. If you combine it with the correct percentage of sugar, you will get an excellent marmalade. So long as you follow the four stages of making marmalade—preparation, simmering, boiling to a set, and filling the jars you can't really go wrong. Better still, if you feel you need guidance through the process, join me on one of my marmalade making workshops. Although Seville oranges are only available fresh for a couple of months each year, they do freeze well making marmalade making a year round activity and ensuring that supplies never run out. Something both Paddington and I feel deeply reassured about.