Oranges are the only fruit

The golden age of marmalade, they say, is over. Volume sales are heading steadily down and the sticky citrus treat is the worst performing item in the nation’s jams, spreads and honey sector.

But in a productive corner of the Wiltshire countryside, my mother is single handedly keeping jar manufacturers in business. With unbounded energy, she peels, chops, simmers and bottles to the sound of Woman’s Hour and Classic FM.

As a child I would know it was the season by the thick, fruit-laden smell emanating from inside before my key was through the door. Vats of hazardous molten sugar filled the kitchen with a sweet fog and seating was a problem – most of the stools turned upside down, knotted muslin full of dripping fruit tethered to the four legs and collecting in a bowl below.

Anything that could make a jam or jelly was included in the process, but marmalade was always the winner when it came to thick, crumbly toast.

Anyone wishing to preserve the king of breakfast treats can follow my lovely mother’s simple recipe:

  • Squeeze 1.5kg of Seville oranges
  • Shred the rind (by hand if you can be bothered)
  • Tie the pith and pips in a muslin bag
  • Put the juice, rind and bag with 4 litres of water and the juice of two lemons in a large saucepan.
  • Bring it to the boil, then simmer uncovered for two-and-a-half hours or until the rind is soft.
  • Remove the muslin bag and let it cool, then squeeze the liquid from it into the pan (this is the gloopy, cloudy pectin that makes the marmalade set)
  • Add 3kg of sugar and stir until dissolved. Let it boil for 20 minutes.
  • It should be ready, but a clever trick to check is to put a saucer into the freezer for a few minutes, then dribble a bit of the mix into it. If it wrinkles and sets a bit then its good to go.

Get the jars out, activate toaster and feel all patriotic and smug. Just don’t take the pith.

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3 Comments on “Oranges are the only fruit”

  1. Grazing Kate Says:

    I’ve heard that having appeared in the press that marmalade sales are in decline, they have now shot right back up….It can’t just be down to your mother, surely?

  2. Liz Says:

    Glad your Mum and mine are at different ends of the country otherwise we’d be heading for the great UK jam jar shortage. My Mum is 88 this year – last month she made 50lb of marmalade – and apparently although sales of marmalade are down, sales of seville oranges have sky rocketed – now I can see why..

  3. Grazing Kate Says:

    Lis is right – it’s Seville oranges that have increased in sales – my mistake. Wow, Liz, 50lb marmalade is impressive – and even more at 88!

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