What's the best time of year to make marmalade

01:00 Mon 07th Jan 2002 |

A.� The best marmalade is made from Seville oranges which have a very short season. The small sweet Spanish fruit are available at their best from mid-January for the next four weeks. Many people buy and freeze them to ensure a good supply all the year round. They freeze well; simply wipe and pack into 2lb bags. Thaw as usual and then treat as any normal fresh fruit. You should prepare fresh Seville oranges by�putting the whole fruit into a basin of warm water and giving them a gentle scrub and wash. Pat dry before you make the marmalade.

Q.� What are marmalade's origins

A.� Legend has it's a Scottish invention. In the late 18th century James Keiller of Dundee bought a cargo of bitter oranges from a stormbound Spanish cargo ship, but they were so sour that the Keillers could not sell them in their shop. His mother, Janet, started preserving them in the form of jam, and this became the marmalade we know today.

Q.� How do you make marmalade

A.� The process is similar to making jam, and make sure you use a wide preserving pan. Sterilise clean jam jars, and buy jam pot covers so you have everything ready before you begin.

You will need:

1.3kg/3lb Seville oranges

Juice of 2 lemons

2.6kg/6lb preserving or granulated sugar

Put the whole oranges and lemon juice in a large preserving pan and cover with about 2 litres of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 2 hours, or until the peel can be easily pierced with a fork. Warm half the sugar in a very low oven. Pour off the cooking water from the oranges into a jug and tip the oranges into a bowl. Return cooking liquid to a pan. Allow oranges to cool until they are easy to handle, then cut in half. Scoop out all the pips and pith and add to the reserved orange liquid in the pan. Bring to the boil for 6 minutes, then strain this liquid through a sieve into a bowl and press the pupl through with a wooden spoon - it is high in pectin so it gives a good set. Pout half of this liquid into a preserving pan. Cut the peel, with a sharp knife, into fine shreds. Add half the peel to the liquid in the preserving pan with the warm sugar. Stir over a low heat until all the sugar has been dissolved, for about 10 minutes, then bring to the boil and bubble rapidly for 15-25 minutes until setting point is reached. Take the pan off the heat and skim any scum from the surface. leave the marmalade to stand in the pan for 20 minutes to cool a little and allow the peel to settle; then pot in sterilised jars, seal and label.

Q.� You said it reached setting point - what is this

A.� To test.� put a small spoonful of marmalade on a very cold saucer (it's best to keep a few ready in the fridge or freezer as you're making this). leave to cool and then push gently with your finger, or tilt to one side. If it wrinkles, the marmalade is ready. If not, bubble for a few more minutes and try the test again later.

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By Katharine MacColl

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