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bitten toast with marmalade and coffeeI really wish someone would invent Smell-o-vision for computers, then you could smell what I smell. The gorgeous, heady scent of simmering Seville oranges has to be one of the most pleasant aromas – ever. Earlier today, as the fruits were bubbling away I nipped upstairs (sounds a very daring dereliction of marmalade duties, but it was the pre-sugar stage) and found the aroma was even more powerful up there. I was sorely tempted to lay down with one of my sunbeam-comatose cats and forget the preserve making altogether. But I didn’t and here I am with a dozen jars of deep amber marmalade cooling on a table, ready for labelling – and slathering.

The odd thing is that until recently I didn’t even like marmalade. I would describe myself as ‘not a marmalade person’, just as people here in the UK may also describe themselves as ‘not a Marmite person’. Love or hate territory; nothing in between. My wonderful neighbour Kath, a retired catering manager, faithfully brings over a jar – or three – of homemade marmalade at this time of year. Kath knows that I don’t indulge because ‘I am not a marmalade person’ but that Mr A and Miss R love it. Mr A goes through an embarrassing amount of Kath’s marmalade. One recent early morning however,  I accidentally put some of Kath’s marmalade on toast. How do you accidentally put marmalade on toast, you may ask. Before you surmise that I was hung-over (I don’t do hung-over) I must say in my defence that it was still pitch-black outside, and with dodgy kitchen lighting I mistook marmalade for my beloved apricot and vanilla jam. The thing was, I really liked it. Surprised, yes, but pleased. The marmalade I had eaten before must have been mass-produced, shop bought stuff. You know the kind – all sugar, no bite rubbish. This was still sweet, but it had an underlying bitterness that was very appealing. I have since fallen in love with my friend Deirdre’s dark marmalade and asked for her recipe. Quasi-scientist that I am, I also looked at a number of recipes (all vaguely similar) and techniques (wildly differing) before combining my own instincts with elements of Deirdre’s recipe and some from Pam ‘the Jam’ Corbin’s  recipe found in Preserves. So, here I am, surrounded by jars of dark, toffee-ish Seville orange marmalade wondering how many salad-only days I must endure to make up for the obscene amount of toast and marmalade I will go through today.jars of seville orange marmalade

The Science Bit: Available from mid-January to the end of February, Seville oranges (Citrus auranitum) are strictly for marmalade and medicinal purposes. In the interests of research I tasted a little raw juice, and gagged – don’t be as foolish as me. In common with other oranges, Seville oranges are great sources of Vitamin C and fibre, but also have useful amounts of some B vitamins, beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, lutein (for eyes), potassium and tumour-preventing beta-sitosterol, hersperetin and naringenin. The high amount of pectin found in Seville oranges are not only great for achieving ‘set’ with marmalade (you should never have to add commercial pectin) but it also binds to some carcinogens that are produced in the gut and carries them out of the body. When ephedra was banned some ‘natural’ weight loss medicines started adding bitter orange extract in its place, but clinical trials have shown it to be a dud and potentially dangerous in higher amounts. I would stick with the marmalade.

Sterilising Jars: Seeing a gleaming row of homemade marmalades and jams lined up in the pantry (with the prettiest jar on your kitchen table) is such a satisfying sight. That all of those hours of hot boiling and stirring can produce something to enjoy for months to come is a great feeling. However, it will be marred by ruinous mould if the jars aren’t sterilised. Doing this is a bit of a bore but necessary to ensure your precious jellied nectar remains micro organism-free. There are probably at least three ways to sterilise your jars. My preferred method is to wash the jars and lids in very hot, soapy water, rinse them and put the jars only in a low oven (120C/250F) and the lids in just boiled water. ‘Bake’ and ‘soak’ for five minutes and dry the lids thoroughly before using. When making marmalade or jam it’s a good idea to do all of this just before  you need the jars, so they don’t have time to pick up any germs.

Almost Ready: This is where all the kerfuffle about marmalade comes into play. Some – like Delia Smith – favour an elaborate multi-stage rocket-science process that, to my mind, would suck all of the joy from preserve making. Whereas others I’ve read about are more of the scary chuck it all in with no timings given variety. I am in the MOR camp: proper measurements, some timings, but also using your nose and instincts. It seems to have worked for me on this recipe and with similar preserve recipes. If you like every step spelled out to you then the Delia one is the one to go for – it’s got many fans – but if you like the idea of trusting your instincts a little I hope you try this one.cut seville oranges and lemons

Tawny Seville Orange Marmalade

What You Need

1.5kg/3.3lbs Seville oranges, scrubbed and stem nubs removed

2 lemons, scrubbed

3kg/6.6lbs preserving sugar (or granulated sugar)

Knob of butter (about 25 g/2 tbsp)

Equipment: Large preserving pan, but any large, wide heavy-bottomed pan will do (stainless steel preferred); long-handled wooden spoon; more sterilised jars and lids than you think you’ll need (I use ‘hand-me-down’ jars so my collection is all shapes and sizes); muslin/jelly bag – or 2 x metre square pieces of muslin/fine cheesecloth + culinary twine; cutting board; large sharp knife; colander; large bowl; 2 saucers; large roasting tin (this is not a misprint); ladle

What You Do: Cut the fruits across  the segments. Put into the preserving pan with 3 litres/3.17 quarts of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 2 hours with the lid on. Halfway through the simmering heat your oven on very low (100C/212F), pour your sugar into a large roasting tin and heat the sugar for about one hour. This odd little trick will ensure that the sugar dissolves quickly when added to the remaining ingredients. You don’t have to do this but it does cut down on the time it take to boil and may help prevent the sugar from sticking to the bottom of the pan. This is very useful with ordinary granulated sugar which dissolves more slowly than preserving sugar. At this time also pop your saucers into the fridge so that you can later test for set (that is to say, when the marmalade has achieved the right balance of solidity).

hulled out cooked seville orangesStrain the fruits into a colander and allow to cool enough to handle – keep the liquid. When cooled, scoop out the seeds and membrane from the fruits and place in the muslin bag, or a bowl/another colander lined with two muslin pieces. Take the peel and slice it into thick, medium or thin shreds, according to your own preference. I tackle this sticky task by stacking three scooped peels, slicing them in long quarters and then cutting finely across the quarters. Put the cleaned preserve pan on the hob/stove and add in the shreds and any clinging membrane (which will melt with slow cooking). Tie up the muslin cloths or muslin bag of seeds and pulp and add this to the pan. Measure the cooking liquid – hopefully you will have 1.7 litre. If not, add a little water to make this up, or strain off some if you have too much. Cover the shredded peel with the watery juice and add in the warmed sugar. Bring the pan to the boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.marmalade on hob with muslin bag

At this point you can have a delicious marmalade within about 15 minutes of boiling. And this may be what you want. But boil slowly – bubbles just breaking all over the surface – for a further hour and you will have a toffee-scented, almost dessert-worthy, marmalade. During this hour or so stir frequently to prevent the sugar burning. It may spit violently and foam up so I don a long silicone kitchen glove to prevent adding to my small family of arm and hand burns. When it reaches what I term as the toffee stage the smell will change so that the toffee smell overrides the orange smell. It will also look glossy and opaque.seville orange marmalade boiling up This is the moment to boil rapidly for a minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat and take a saucer from the fridge. Place a teaspoon of marmalade on the saucer, allow it to cool for one minute, then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles you have set. If it doesn’t, re-boil for a further few minutes and test again. When it’s done, add in the knob of butter and stir in one direction until most of the scum disperses. Or you can skim it off with a slotted spoon rather than use the butter. Let the marmalade settle for 10 minutes before carefully ladling into sterilised jars.

Uses: On toast of course but also in cakes, as a topping for cakes, pancakes and steamed puddings, as a glaze for ham, in bread and butter pudding instead of the usual currants, in sandwiches with soft cheese. Pam Corbin recommends marmalade in sweet and sour chicken.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Dad!

Makes 8 x 450g jars

single seville orange marmalade jar

10 thoughts on “Tawny Seville Orange Marmalade

  1. JK says:

    Herrroooo foody blogger -some great ideas already so keep them coming.

    I will give this a go after a bad setting experience following pam the jam’s recent SM recipe in the Grauniad courtesy of Saint Hugh – very useful descriptions of the clues at the vital setting stage. Will aim to improve on the one successful jar which emerged as a hedged bet. The rest were gloop which did not take to rescue attempts. I was not alone judging by the comments and letters which followed…….Jk

    1. Sorry about the bad ‘pam the jam’ experience. What a lot of effort you will have expended. I hope you can still find Sevilles to try my version – if you dare. I would feel well chuffed if this works for you where HF-W’s pal’s didn’t. I promise not to get above myself though! Good luck and let me know how you get on. DId you see any Royals – or even some bunting – last week?

  2. Oh my goodness, I absolutely must try your recipe this week (as if anyone could read about “toffee-scented dessert worthy marmalade” and NOT crave it!). Funnily enough, it’s only been within the past month or two that I too stumbled across bitter orange preserve and fell in love with it. Thanks go to Bonne Maman 🙂 I’m not sold on toast, but there is nothing quite like individual little steamed marmalade puddings to finish off a good meal. Wonderful post, thank you!

    1. Glad you had a look at such an old recipe of mine. It really will make your house smell amazing!

  3. Mandy_S says:

    Thanks for this entertainingly written recipe. I made tawny marmalade by accident earlier this week when I took my eye off the pan during boiling. It was a pip’s breadth away from becoming a burnt black mass. Luckily the day was saved… and as you say, it’s delicious and what a color!

    1. Although mine was deliberately tawny I’m glad your less deliberate making of it was successful >Much better depth, I think. Enjoy it!

  4. shahla says:

    Kellie if only you knew that your tawny orange jam ignited a sparkle of love between my daughter Ainaz and her adorable other half( Stefan)….long story….only if you knew…. 🙂 xoxo

    1. Wow! I’m nearly speechless. Thank you. Write to me if you are up for sharing the story with me. I’ve got a contact form up at the top somewhere. Thank you for letting me know this unusual and very brilliant news. 😊

      1. shahla says:

        🙂 Wow Kellie!!!!! Such a fast reply!!!!! :)))))) !!! the story started in Vancouver Canada and they are in England right now visiting Stefan’s parents…the family…I emailed my daughter after I posted the comment here….. this is what she wrote me this morning (our time… now it is around noon) :
        “”” There are jars of the Tawny Orange jam that started Stefan and I’s communication, everywhere in the homes 🙂 hehe…. I think we started a trend! “””
        and then I searched you and here we are…. small world…. and this beautiful global connection made my day…. I will ask her to tell you the rest…….. much love to you. shahla <3

  5. Jill says:

    This is a beautiful recipe, and the 94 year old mother of a friend pronounced it the best Tawny Seville Marmalade she had ever tasted. We are lucky to have our own tree with abundant fruit. I have experimented with peeling the oranges and lemons first, in long strips, and cooking them with the orange and lemon halves. I find it makes the rinds easy to chop once the first boiling is over, without the messy task of removing them from the fruit. Happy jam making!

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