Bring a taste of the Mediterranean into your winter kitchen
The Sevilles and blood oranges from Spain have been late arriving in the UK this year but they are finally starting to make a welcome appearance in greengrocers and marmalade makers will be rejoicing when they do.
Seville oranges have a blink-and-you'll-miss it short season so you have to be quick to snap them up when they do appear. Local greengrocers are always the best place to look as they rarely reach the supermarkets, although this may be more to do with aesthetics than anything else. After all, with their thick, knobbly skins, they don't look as pretty as Navel oranges and their tart flavour means they aren't edible until they are cooked with sugar and turned into marmalade (although the juice can often be used in salad dressings instead of lemon).
Although there are some very good Seville orange marmalades available in supermarkets and delicatessens all year round, nothing beats the homemade variety.
Making marmalades, jams and chutneys at home can be a rewarding exercise, as well as an economical way to use up a glut of fruit or vegetables.
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There's something quite magical about turning a pile of knobbly citrus fruits into a few jars of sweet, spreadable marmalade.
On a frosty January morning, a few thick slices of toast (I prefer it on sour dough bought from a local baker such as Hart's Bakery at Temple Meads, or Mark's Bread in Ashton), certainly brings a blast of Mediterranean sunshine into the kitchen.
Vivien Lloyd is a former winner of the prestigious World's Original Marmalade Festival. Her book First Preserves is arguably the most definitive on the subject and probably the only one you need in your kitchen.
Vivien, who lives near Midsomer Norton, is regarded as one of the leading authorities in the art of preserving and her book is packed with easy to follow recipes and step-by-step instructions and photographs.
There have been countless books written about marmalades, jams and chutneys over the years but First Preserves concentrates on a carefully selected collection of recipes that you really want to make, rather than hundreds of recipes you'll never make.
First Preserves by Vivien Lloyd can be bought online for £11.99 including delivery from Vivien's website at www.vivienlloydpreserves.com.
Makes around 2.25kg/5lb
675g (1lb 8oz) Seville oranges
1.4kg (3lb) granulated, cane sugar
1.75 litres (3 pints) water
Juice the oranges and pour the juice with the water into a large, lidded pan with a capacity of seven litres. Remove the inner membranes and pips from the oranges. Do not remove the pith from the oranges.
Juice the lemon and add the juice to the pan. Put the orange membranes into a food processor or mini- chopper and chop finely. Put the chopped membranes and any pips into a 33cm x 33cm piece of thin cotton muslin. Tie this up with string and add to the pan. Slice the oranges and add the peel to the pan – thinner peel releases more pectin during cooking than thicker. If possible, leave the pan overnight to allow the fruit to soak. Next day, bring the lidded pan to boil, turn down the heat and simmer very gently for two hours. The peel should be tender and the pan contents reduced by a third. Remove the muslin bag and squeeze the liquid from the bag into the pan through a sieve, using a large spoon.
Warm the sugar in a low oven. Add the sugar to the pan and dissolve. Bring to a rolling boil and test for a set after seven minutes. Leave to cool for five minutes. Remove any scum from the surface of the marmalade. Pour into sterilised jars and cover with new twist top lids.
Alternatively, seal the jars with waxed discs and when cold, apply cellophane covers secured with elastic bands.