We hear a lot about seasonal eating but globalisation and supermarket shopping means you can get most fruit and veg year round – even if by the time they hit your plate they don’t taste of much.
One thing that is still truly seasonal is the Seville orange. Blink and you’ve missed it, along with your chances of making enough marmalade to get you through the next 12 months.
Him Outdoors eats more marmalade than Paddington Bear so this is a real concern. I know you can make Three Fruits Marmalade (sweet orange, lemon and grapefruit) all the year round and it’s excellent, but the Seville wears the crown in our house.
These are our two favourite recipes.
The first is for a robust and sparky breakfast marmalade and is the most fuss-free way I know of making it. Quick and easy, unlike some methods it doesn’t take two days.
The second is a more delicate jelly which comes from 19th century cook Eliza Acton, the woman Mrs Beeton nicked a lot of her recipes from. You don’t get as much marmalade from this but it makes a lovely golden preserve.
Seville Orange Marmalade
7 Seville oranges
2 sweet oranges
4 pints/2.3 litres of water
3lb/1.3 kg granulated sugar
Wash the fruit and place into a big stainless steel pan. Add the water and bring to the boil.
Cover and simmer for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours until the fruit is tender. Allow it to get cool enough to handle.
Put a large square of muslin in a sieve over a large bowl. Cut the fruit in half and scoop the insides, flesh and pips, into the muslin, leaving a clean pith-free shell (try saying that after a couple of gins).
Tie up the muslin, squishing out as much of the juice as possible and add the collected juice to the orangey cooking water.
Measure and add enough water if necessary to make it all up to 1.75 litres. Put it in the preserving pan with the muslin bag and contents and leave to one side.
Take the rinds (you probably won’t need all of them) and shred them as finely as you can. I’ve tried food processors (too shreddy), an ancient clamp-to-the-worktop peel cutter (not much different) and Him Outdoors with a big cleaver (that sentence could have gone two ways.)
Him Outdoors wins hands down. Sorry, no, I don’t rent him out, find your own.
Put the shredded peel in your preserving pan with the liquid and muslin bag, add the sugar and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Gently bring the mixture to the boil, stirring frequently. It could reach setting point within 30-40 minutes, it could take longer. Quite a lot longer if you have an Aga, she said wearily.
Put a saucer in the freezer and when you think the marmalade has reached setting point, put a teaspoonful on the saucer. If after a minute or two it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s ready. If you have a jam thermometer you are looking for a temperature of 104C/220F. Always remove the pan from the heat while testing.
When you’ve reached the required consistency, pour into warm sterilised jars and seal. You can eat it as soon as it’s cold and set but it will keep for a year or more.
Seville and Mandarin Jelly
Miss Acton’s original recipe calls for 18 Seville oranges. I only had 13 left so added mandarins left over from Christmas, working on the basis that two mandarins equal one Seville. In the past I’ve made up the difference with sweet oranges and a couple of lemons on a one-to-one basis. They all work fine.
Infuriatingly, mine developed a skin between setting tests and I didn’t notice, so stirred it in and ended up with flecked jelly instead of pure gold. Oh well, it tastes the same and I wasn’t planning on entering the village show.
13 Seville oranges
10 mandarin oranges or clementines
1 1/2 pints (850 ml) of water
14 oz (400g) sugar to each 1lb (450g) of juice
Take 10 of the Sevilles, quarter them and remove the rind and pith. Cut the flesh into big chunks and throw it, with any pips and juice, into your preserving pan.
Halve the remaining fruit, squeeze the juice and put it with any pips, but not the pulp or skins, to the pan.
Add the water and boil gently for 20-30 minutes, then strain the juice through muslin without pressing the fruit.
Weigh the resulting juice then boil it quickly for five minutes.
Gradually add 14 oz of sugar for every pound of juice and stir until it has dissolved.
Boil fast for a few minutes. Be warned, this can reach setting point in the time it takes to put the kettle on for a cuppa.
Check for a set as in the previous recipe, pour into warm sterilised jars and seal.