Seville Orange Marmalade

Oranges in SevilleFor those with a passion, the annual arrival of Seville oranges in Britain is an eagerly-awaited arrival akin to the first Beaujolais in other circles. They usually make a brief appearance just after New Year and fly off the shelves as cooks seize the chance to make their own home made marmalade.

The tart oranges from Seville are the ones that make the most superb marmalade and sauces, such as France’s classic duck a l’orange. The Seville orange has thrived in and around sub-tropical Seville for centuries and the tart fruit ripens slowly, hence their appearance on our shores in mid-winter.

The practice of making marmalade, albeit with the peel of the orange or, indeed, any citrus fruit at all, originated way back with the ancient Greeks. There  μελίμηλον melimēlon or “honey fruit” referred to quinces cooked with honey into a fruit paste. This was transformed into “marmelo” by the Romans in a cookbook on how to make various fruit preserves with honey.

Preserves of quince and lemon appear—along with rose, apple, plum and pear—in the Book of Ceremonies of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII, and a few centuries later, Henry VIII received a “box of marmalade” , which was likely to have been marmelada, a quince paste from Portugal. The extension of “marmalade” in the English language to refer to citrus fruits was made in the 17th century, when citrus first began to be plentiful enough in England for the usage to become common.

Seville orangesThere are lots of different recipes for marmalade using Seville oranges, Dundee and Oxford marmalade being the most well known.

Oxford Marmalade

Ingredients

1.4 kg (3 lb) Seville oranges
3.4 litres (6 pints) water
2.7 kg (6 lb) brown sugar
Method
Makes 4 kg (9 lb)

Peel the oranges and cut the peel into strips and the fruit into small pieces, reserving the pips. Put the pips into a small bowl. Put the strips of peel and chopped fruit into a large bowl. Bring the water to the boil and pour 600ml (1 pint) over the pips and the remainder over the orange peel and fruit. Cover both bowls and leave for several hours or overnight.

The next day, the pips will be covered with a soft transparent jelly which must be washed off them into the peel and fruit. To do this, lift the pips out of the water with a slotted spoon and put them in a nylon sieve. Pour the water the pips were soaking in over the pips into the large bowl. repeat the process, using water from the large bowl. Discard the pips.

Boil the peel, fruit and water until the peel is very soft – the longer this mixture boils the darker the marmalade will be. When the peel is quite soft, remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar, stirring until it has dissolved. Boil very gently until the marmalade is as dark as you like it, then boil rapidly for about 15 minutes. Test for a set and, when the setting point is reached, remove the pan from the heat and skim the surface with a slotted spoon. Leave to stand for 15 minutes, then stir to distribute the peel.

Pot and cover the marmalade.
Oxford marmalade
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