Quintessentially English, Marmelada is a fundamental component of the breakfast table here and, for Geordie, one jar is not enough. There are always several half full ones: one of thick and chunky Dundee marmalade, another homemade given by a friend, a Highclere Castle marmalade, and another jar which says it is fine cut and so on… it may be slightly bitter, often bitty and sometimes sticky.
Marmalade is also absolutely essential to Paddington Bear. He likes marmalade sandwiches which he keeps in his hat and of course we discovered the late HM the Queen did too although she kept her sandwich in her handbag.
Marmalade may be a very British thing but its origins and the name is Portuguese whilst the Seville oranges from which marmalade is made are imported from (you might guess) Spain. Curiously marmalade actually means quince.
Slices of dried quince could last for some time without going off and were therefore much prized in the past. Quince was a popular “dessert” long before it became a breakfast food but, as a result, the orange version was also originally dried in a brick shape and sliced.
From a thick gooey slice, it is really the Scots who should be credited with developing marmalade as a spread with Scottish recipes from the 18th century using more water in them to produce a less solid preserve. These days of course it is always cooked to the consistency of jam.
Marmalade is not difficult to make needing only the peel and juice of Seville oranges along with sugar and water. Pectin is the glue that sets marmalades and jams and Seville oranges and their pips have a particularly high pectin content so, unlike other jams, you can add quite a lot of water and it will still set to a chunky consistency. The peel and pulp are left in and not strained out.
As far as the sugar is concerned, it is a matter of colour choice. White granulated sugar gives a paler, brighter coloured marmalade whereas golden caster sugar creates a darker preserve and adds delicious caramel tones.
1kg Seville oranges (about 5 or 6 oranges)
1kg light muscovado sugar
1kg granulated white sugar
1 piece of muslin
Put the whole oranges and lemon juice in a large pan and cover with 2 litres/4 pints water so that they are submerged. Bring the pan to the boil and simmer gently for around 2 hours.
When the oranges and lemons are cool enough to handle, remove from the liquid, cut each one in half and spoon out the pulp and seeds, Strain the pulp through a sieve, pressing it through with a wooden spoon. This thicker liquid is high in pectin and helps to give the marmalade a good set.
Put the remains of the pulp and seeds into the middle of a large square of muslin and tie it with string to make a bag.
Slice the orange skins into thin strips and add to the liquid in the pan. Next add the muslin bag and stir in all the sugar until it is dissolved.
Bring the pan to the boil and continue to boil for around 15 minutes until it reaches the setting point (105°C). If you don’t have a jam thermometer, you can test it by spooning a blob of marmalade onto an ice-cold plate. Leave it for a minute and if the surface wrinkles when you touch it, then it is set.
Sterilize some jam jars by washing them in hot soapy water and then heating them in an oven for 20 minutes on low.
Let the marmalade rest before filling the jars so that everything is spread evenly.
There will be the most heavenly smell filling your kitchen which just reminds me of the pleasure of cooking.
To Quote AA Milne:
Excuse me, Your Majesty,
For taking of The liberty,
But marmalade is tasty, if It’s very Thickly Spread.’
The Queen said ‘Oh!’ And went to His Majesty:
‘Talking of the butter for The Royal slice of bread,
Many people Think that Marmalade Is nicer.
Would you like to try a little Marmalade Instead?’