Every year incredible vast sculptures are created from lemons and oranges for the famous Menton Lemon Festival. This year’s theme was Broadway shows. Coincidentally, it’s generally around this time of year that I make my beloved a batch of marmalade from in-season bitter oranges. He claims that no one makes marmalade quite like me. I generally don’t like marmalade but I do quite like mine so maybe there’s a grain of truth in his claims.
What follows is more of a method than a recipe.
1. Juice 1kg of bitter oranges and three lemons. Remove the innards, leaving pith and peel intact, and put in a bowl with all the pips from the juicer so that you’re left with three bowls. One contains the juice, another the peel and a third has the pips and innards.
2. Reduce the peel to jewelled rubble in a food processor (so much easier) or patiently chop into shreds by hand!
3. Add the juice to the pips and innards and gently heat for around 40 minutes to extract as much pectin as possible.
4. Sieve the mix to exclude the pips and innards and make up to 750ml with alcohol of choice ( I generally use vodka, white rum or cointreau) or water.
5. Weigh the rubble and add exactly the same weight in sugar.
6. Add the liquid to the rubble and sugar, stir to help dissolve the sugar, cover and leave overnight.
7. The following day, stir vigorously and then heat in the microwave in 2 x 10 minute bursts on 600.
8. Test for set by putting a small amount of the marmalade on a plate which has been in the freezer. Leave for a few minutes then run your finger through it. If the marmalade parts cleanly, it’s ready to set. If not, give it more 2 minute bursts in the microwave, and test again until the setting point is reached.
9. Pour into sterile bottles, leave to cool, close and store in a cool, dry cupboard.
Sterilising might sound like a tricky task, but it simply requires heating something to a point where no bacteria can survive. Sterilising jars when making jams, chutneys and preserves is an important step to prevent all of your hard work spoiling due to a buildup of harmful bacteria.
If you are using jars with rubber seals, be sure to remove these before placing in the oven. When adding food to the jars after sterilising, it is necessary that both the food and jars are at the same temperature so that the jars don’t crack.