Well, it had to come sooner or later…the making of the jam! We are a WI after all! However, this post is not written from the point of view of a seasoned ‘preserver’..yes I have tried to make jam (very very runny jam…but still tasty) and I have made the odd home brew. However Marmalade has always been on another level in my opinion. I mean, how do you get the ‘bits’ in? I had no idea you had to use special oranges and they are only in season in the UK in January. So, armed with my bag of jars I headed out for a day of marmalading….Ladybird style!
We decided on four organic recipes to make; traditional hand cut seville orange, lemon and lime, grapefruit, lemon and orange and the wild card-lemon, orange and ginger. The methods are essentially the same and we used recipes from the following
The first step was getting all the organic fruit together, and the sugar….and don’t get waxed varieties-for obvious reasons! Then all the fruit has to be juiced and the juice, pips and pith kept to one side as we used every little bit for the making process.
The pips and pith are then added to the muslin bunches as they contain the enzyme pectin-which causes the Marmalade to set later on. They are tied really securely with string and I find out why eventually.
Next comes the time consuming part of the process, the fruit peel has to be sliced up thinly with a really sharp knife into the little bits of fruit you find in the finished product. When I was a nipper, we used to call these ‘goldfish’ but that was probably just me………the slices are then added to a pan of water. We were making some rather sizeable batches for sale in the near future so we had a decent sized pan for this part. The peel is then simmered gently for two hours with the muslin bundles laid on top.
After two hours (of repeating the process with the ingredients for the other three recipes and trying not to mix them up) and having a rather tasty lunch, the orange peel goes translucent and soft and squishy. It smelt jolly nice and I made the mistake of trying a piece. Yes it was crazy hot…but Seville oranges are not sweet at all and I had forgotten this wasn’t finished Marmalade i.e no sugar added. The resulting taste explosion coiled my tongue up into the base of my skull for a few seconds! Maybe don’t try that at home!
Next came the fun part, squeezing the hot and sticky pectin out of the muslin bundles. Remember why they are tied so tightly….you have to give it some ooompf to get the stuff out and it takes a while, cut corners now and the finished Marmalade will not set. After the rather enjoyable and messy squeezing process (where you hope the phone doesnt ring or you get an itchy nose) the batch is stirred, and the pan brought up to a rolling boil so the pectin dissolves. You can then add the sugar.
Bring the whole thing back up to the boil and then watch it like a hawk, whilst testing for the set. The one part of this process I was familiar with from making runny jam is the ‘wrinkle test’ where you keep a plate in the freezer and every so often take a teaspoon of marmalade, add it to the plate and put it in the fridge. After two minutes, push the side of the marmalde with a finger and if the little puddle wrinkles, you can remove the pan from the heat and be assured it is done.
In the meantime the clean jars have to be sterilised. I am a collector of empty jam jars-and this weekend proved why….they always come in useful. I had already cleaned them out, de-labelled them and run them through a boil in the dishwasher. They were then rinsed with boiling water and put in the oven for 30mins
There is the finished product…..so tempted to try it at this point! However on has to be patient and wait for it to cool down enough to spoon into the sterilised jars.
Sue is being sensible and using a clean jam funnel for this part….not a great idea to ladle it straight in as things tend to get messy and sticky rather quickly! The kitchen was smelling incredible by this point in the afternoon.
Our finished jars awaiting labelling and a nice Ladybird fabric hat. We got 34 jars from Sundays work and there are still the remaining batches to be put into jars. All of the marmalade will be for sale at our meetings and events to raise funds for Ladybirds future speakers. I know I am biaised, but the seville orange tastes yummy….I am looking forward to trying the other varieties as well.