18 Oct 2010

Bitter Orange Marmalade

For 8 jam jars x 500ml each
Preparation: Approx. 40 mins + 2 x 24 hour soaking
Cooking: Bring to the boil + 45 mins

Just like a roaring fire in a fireplace, jam making defines homeliness and cosiness. And like the process of carefully selecting and gathering the wood leading to lighting a fire, jam making should be considered one of those little pleasures one needs to experience in life. Like I did at first, you may feel daunted by the task but will soon realise that as long as you break it down into easy simple steps and enjoy taking time without the guilt, the experience will probably end up being a very relaxing moment indeed!

The bitter oranges I used for the recipe had a great pedigree from the get go: Corsican, from an old tree and heritage, and supplied expertly by Philippe, our family friend, although late in season (early March) when I processed them into jam but still at their peak. Although the best ingredients bring a distinct advantage in jam making, I admit that the produce is not always readily available, especially if you do not live in a citrus-producing country, so please do not let this put you off from the experience!
  • 3 kilos bitter oranges (approx.)
  • 3 kilos preserving sugar (refined or unrefined, or - like I did - a mix of both)
  • 8 glass jars approx. (500 ml each)
  • Cellophane sheets and elastic bands
Rinse the oranges. With a fork, prick each one all over, making sure the skin gets perforated. Then put the fruit in a big bowl and cover in fresh water (I used filtered water, as a personal preference over straight tap water). Leave to soak 24 hours. The following day, replace the water in the bowl with a fresh supply of water, and again leave the oranges to soak, for a further 24 hours. This important process will allow the oranges to soften and rid of some of their natural bitterness.

On the third day, making sure you keep hold of the water the oranges have sat in, slice each orange very thinly, keeping the skin on but removing the pips. My bitter oranges being from an old traditional crop meant that they were saturated in pips. Put all the shreds of orange in a bowl, arranging with a fork so they are evenly spread out. Cover in the water the oranges sat in until the water line is visible but not covering completely the shredded fruit.

Then weigh the bowl with all its contents on kitchen scales to re-gauge the quantity of sugar you will require, bearing in mind that the fruit/ sugar ratio should be 50/50. If you feel thrift with the sugar, do remember though that sugar holds an important purpose: it helps preserve the marmalade for longer... Empty the contents of the bowl into a tall heavy-based pan or, better still, use the pan from a traditional pressure cooker (minus the lid!).

In order to calculate accurately the sugar quantity required, you will now need to weigh the empty bowl to get the tare and substract its weight from the full bowl weight. This will give you the quantity of sugar required. Add the sugar to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until dissolution. Bring to the boil. As soon as the marmalade starts boiling, put the timer on 45 minutes. Make sure the pan is never covered with a lid whatsoever throughout.

For the next 45 minutes do keep an eye on the boiling marmalade, making sure it keeps boiling and doesn't stick. With a skimmer, skim along the surface of the marmalade, removing any foam (that you can eat later at your leisure!). The foam is a crystallised cloudy solution which - according to my mum - contains all the impurities. Some people leave it in but it will cloud the jam, affecting its appearance.

When the 45 minutes are up, carefully pour the very hot marmalade with a laddle into individual glass jam jars that are perfectly clean. I managed to fill up 8 jam jars (of 500ml each). If you wish to keep your jam for longer than a few weeks, you might want to consider sterilising the jars in boiling water first. Once the jars are filled up to the top with marmalade, leave to cool overnight. For an added precaution, once they have cooled down completely and started to set a few hours after pouring, put a sheet of foil across to protect the exposed jams from dust.

The next day, carefully clean the rim of each of the jars to remove stickiness, before covering with a purpose-made cellophane sheet, and secure with the elastic bands provided. You are now all set to enjoy the richness of orange marmalade with an undertone kick of bitterness that will delight your breakfast, elevenses, tea times and tastebuds! Shop-bought, high sugar content, low fruit content marmalade will quickly pale into insignificance and the jam-making bug that took you by surprise will soon encourage you to go back to the stove for another session!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, if only I could figure out where to get some bitter oranges. I would love to make this. I have always wanted to visit Corsica too.