MARMALADE seems to be a very personal taste.
More than any other preserve it evokes real passion.
You don’t find people getting enthused in the same way about how they like their blackcurrant or raspberry jam.
On the other hand, a discussion on marmalade often elicits very firmly held view points and definite preferences.
For some it must be totally traditional, made with Seville oranges and dark and bitter; others opt for fresh and fruity; some of us favour chunky peel; for others its slivery shreds.
Another whole group hate any peel at all and just want bitter/sweet orange jelly to slather on their morning toast.
Marmalade is after all, mostly a breakfast thing — so it must be quite right at the time of the day when we are doing our best to wake up and come to terms with the world — one wrong note can upskuttle the whole day.!
Marmalade making, like barbecing and grilling, also appeals to guys, maybe it’s something to do with all that chopping; for some it brings back memories of childhood.
For whatever reason, marmalade definitely presses buttons, which may help to explain the extraordinary success of the annual Marmalade Festival launched in 2005 in Cumbria. The first Amateur Award had just 60 entries in 2012 — 1,800 jars were entered.!
The precious jars were posted from all over the world, including The British Virgin Islands, Japan, America, Canada, Spain, France, Gibraltar, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland, Alaska, Austria and South Africa.
This year there are 11 categories in the Amateur Awards and five in The Artisans’ Category — commercial marmalade makers who use the traditional open-pan method. There’s even a children’s competition and for home-bakers there is a new marmalade cake category.
This year for the first time there is a Marmalade Literary Competition so if you’d rather wield a pen than a chopping knife or wooden spoon that category might well appeal to you.
A few months ago I got a review copy of Marmalade — Sweet and Savoury Spreads for a Sophisticated Taste by Elizabeth Field published by Running Press.
I’ve been saving it until the marmalade oranges came into the shop so I could test some of the recipes.
Darina Allen’s Old Fashioned Seville Orange Marmalade
For those of you who are too busy to make marmalade at present, just buy the fruit and pop it in the freezer until you can snatch a few spare moments.
This is my classic marmalade recipe which people repeatedly ask me for and the Seville Whole Orange Marmalade below. Seville and Malaga oranges come into the shops after Christmas and are around for 4-5 weeks, these bitter oranges are traditionally used for marmalade.
Makes approx. 7 lbs (3.2kg)
2 lbs (900g) Seville Oranges
4 pints (2.3L) water
4 lbs (1.8kg) granulated sugar
Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a spoon, put with the pips and tie them in a piece of muslin.
Slice the peel finely or coarsely, depending on how you like your marmalade. Put the peel, orange and lemon juice, bag of pips and water into a non-reactive bowl or saucepan overnight.
Next day, bring everything to the boil and simmer gently for about 2 hours until the peel is really soft and the liquid is reduced by half.
Squeeze all the liquid from the bag of pips and remove it.
Add the warmed sugar and stir until all the sugar has been dissolved.
Increase the heat and bring to a full rolling boil rapidly until setting point is reached 5-10 minutes approx.
Test for a set, either with a sugar thermometer (it should register 220F), or with a saucer.
Put a little marmalade on a cold saucer and cool for a few minutes. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s done.
Allow marmalade to sit in the saucepan for 15 minutes before bottling to prevent the peel from floating.
Pot into hot sterilised jars. Cover immediately and store in a cool dry dark place.
NB: The peel must be absolutely soft before the sugar is added, otherwise when the sugar is added it will become hard and no amount of boiling will soften it.
Add 6 tablespoons of whiskey to the cooking marmalade just before potting.
Blood Orange Marmalade
Makes 4 jars
This recipe comes from the Marmalade Book by Elizabeth Field.
We used 2 teaspoons of Campari which we felt was adequate, but you will want to add the liquor to taste or omit altogether.
675g (1lb 6oz) blood oranges approximately (we used two)
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime (we used two)
720g (1½lbs/4 cups) granulated sugar, or more to taste
3-4 tsp Campari, Cointreau or Grand Marnier (optional) (we used two teaspoons Campari)
Slice the tops and bottoms off each orange and discard. Slice the oranges crosswise as thinly as possible, then cut each slice into four or six wedges. Discard the seeds. Place the orange wedges and 1.2 litres/5 cups of water in a medium mixing bowl, cover, and let stand for 12-24 hours.
Transfer the mixture to a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring quickly to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the peel is tender when pierced with a fork. Stir in the lime juice and zest.
Measure out the cooked citrus and liquid: to every cup – measure 150g (¾ cup) – 175g (1 cup) sugar, according to your preference of sweetness. Transfer the mixture to a clean, heavy-bottomed saucepan, and add the sugar.
Over a low heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium-high and boil for 15-30 minutes or the mixture has thickened and a sugar thermometer reads 220F/104C. Use the ‘wrinkle test’ to double-check for a firm set. Stir in the Campari, Cointreau or Grand Marnier if you are using it.
Allow to stand in the saucepan for 5 minutes before ladling into hot, sterilised jam jars leaving 5mm (¼ inch) of head space. Seal. Store in a cool, dark place.
Marmalade Cake with Honeycombed Filling
How delicious does this cake sound it comes from The Duchy Originals cookbook by Johnny Acton and Nick Sandler, published by Kyle Books.
Makes a large cake — 16 slices approx.
Silicone sheet or baking tray lined with greaseproof paper
4 litre (7 pint) thick-bottomed saucepan
Round cake tin with removable base, 24 x 8cm (10x 3in)
For the honeycomb
75g (3oz) Duchy (or good quality local) honey
150ml (¼ pint) liquid glucose
400g (14oz) castor sugar
100ml (3½ fl oz) water
15g (¾oz) bicarbonate of soda
For the cake
250g (9oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g (9oz) caster sugar
3 large eggs and 1 extra yolk (about 250g/9oz in total)
250g (9oz) flour
2 tsp baking powder
50g (2oz) ground almonds
150g (5½oz) Duchy Originals (or home-made) Seville orange marmalade, plus 2 extra tablespoons
100ml (3½ fl.oz) double cream
50ml (2fl.oz) crème fraiche or sour cream
Start with the honeycomb. First loosen the honey and glucose syrup by dipping their containers in warm water, then weigh out into your saucepan.
Add the sugar and water and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Gradually raise the temperature of the pan’s contents to 150C (300F).
Something dramatic is about to happen.
Carefully sprinkle the bicarbonate of soda into the pan.
The contents will fizz up like lava from the underworld, but don’t be alarmed; this is what puts the tiny air bubbles into the honeycomb.
Stir the mixture to make sure all the powder is incorporated, then pour it out onto your silicone sheet (or baking tray).
Leave to set for at least 30 minutes, then break the brittle mass into small pieces.
Then take 100g (3½ oz) of the honeycomb and blend it in a food processor.
Stir the remainder in an airtight jar — you will have more than you need — and you are unlikely to regret it.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350G/gas mark 4. Grease the cake tin with butter, and then shake a little flour over it to form a non-stick barrier.
Turn the tin upside down and pat it so that any excess flour falls off.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl for 3-5 minutes until pale, light and fluffy.
Lightly beat the eggs, and slowly add them to the butter and sugar, mixing them as you go.
If the mixture starts to curdle, beat a little flour into it to bring it back.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and add the almonds. Mix until the contents are smooth.
Fold in the marmalade with 4 swirls of the spoon to ensure that the cake is marbled.
Then gently pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven until cooked and firm (about 50 minutes).
Turn the cake onto a wire rack.
When it has cooled, cut it through the middle with a long serrated knife and lift off the top half.
Spread the bottom half of the cake with the 2 extra tablespoons of marmalade.
Then whip up the honeycomb with the cream and crème fraiche until stiff, and blob it over the marmalade. Replace the top of the cake and leave it to set in a cool place for an hour.
Date for your diary: The Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine, May 3 to May 6, will bring some of the world’s best known chefs, critics, commentators, kitchen gardeners, foragers and wine experts to east Cork. Among those attending are Alice Waters, Stephanie Alexander, Claudia Roden, Matthew Fort, Madhur Jaffrey and Klaus Meyer. www.litfest.ie.
O’Connells in Donnybrook, winners of the Best Casual Dining, Irish Restaurant Awards 2012, have made a new year’s resolution to buy at least 65% of their core food produce from small Irish artisan food producers. From Skeaganore West Cork duck to Wexford lamb and Sally Barnes Smoked Pollock to free-range eggs from The Bergins in Co Laois, there are lots of other delicious local food products on their menu. There is also an extensive coeliac menu. Tel 01-2696116 & 01-2696125, www.oconnellsdonnybrook.com
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