Seville Orange Marmalade – Step By Step
Seville orange marmalade is one of the best of all marmalades, and the bitter Seville oranges are now available at markets around Melbourne. Ask your local green grocer to get some in for your marmalade making weekend. If you haven’t made jam before give it a try but start by making a small batch as it is always much easier to manage; making jam does require a little bit of organisation.
The starting point for marmalade is to wash the fruit, juice it and then remove the pith and pips, and tie it up in a cotton or muslin bag. This bundle of pith and pips will be your source of pectin, the natural setting agent. Without it your marmalade will be runny, so don’t throw anything out during preparation of the oranges. The rind is sliced with a sharp knife into 2 cm long fine strips, whatever size you want in your marmalade. The juice, cut rind and bagged pith and pips are then put in a large ceramic bowl and left to soften overnight. This gives you a little time to scurry around collecting jars, buying sugar, getting the equipment you need out onto the bench and contemplating your plan of action.
Select jars with clean, undamaged lids that will close securely and make sure they are not too big as you will need to put them in a pot and cover them entirely with boiling water to sterilise the completed product. Other things you need are: a big stock pot to cook the fruit and sterilise the jars; a large pair of rubber tipped tongs and oven mitts or, better still, heavy-duty rubber gloves (not dishwashing gloves) to protect you from burns when placing and removing the hot jars from the boiling water; a sugar thermometer to measure the setting point (104.5ºC) is not essential; a small plate to put in the freezer for testing the setting point; a soup ladle for filling the jars and finally, a jam funnel (a wide necked stainless steel funnel) to minimise the mess when filling the jars. Still interested?
It does all sound a bit daunting to a novice but don’t be put off as it is quite doable and it really is satisfying producing your own product, especially when you sit down and put the fancy labels on. My first attempt at doing this sort of thing was a tiny batch of just 3 small jars of kumquat marmalade. Using fruit from my small tree and the recipe in The Cooks Companion by Stephanie Alexander I was quite proud of my success. The next time I felt more confident to scale up the process but I do advise not getting too ambitious as very large, catering-sized cooking pots of jam take longer to reach setting point with the danger of losing freshness, and the larger volume retains heat so the fruit continues to cook after the pot is taken off the stove. An overcooked marmalade will have a tacky texture and taste caramelised rather than of fresh, tangy citrus. Scaling up the amount of fruit you process also means you need to add a larger amount of water and sugar which may not fit into your pot, especially as the sugar expands the mix. All things to consider.
While not an exact science, marmalade making does have several approaches to achieving the best ratio of sugar to fruit and fruit to liquid. These ratios are important for setting as much as temperature and level of pectin. A general rule of thumb is for the sugar and water to be twice the weight of the fruit you stated with. But this ratio fails to take into consideration the amount of juice in the fruit, also a considerable liquid component. So, another approach, albeit messy, is to weigh the cooked rind and measure the liquid (juice and water). With a ratio of cooked rind to sugar of 1:1.3, rather than the 1:2 ratio with whole fruit, I have used much less sugar and achieved good consistency and flavour. I have indicated approximate amounts for sugar and water as a guide.
Makes 4-5 300ml jars of marmalade
- 1 kg Seville oranges, washed
- 1-2 kg white sugar*
- 1 litre water, approximately*
- citrus press
- sharp cooks knife
- 1 large stock pot
- unused Chux wipe or muslin cloth
- kitchen string
- large ceramic basin
- large mixing bowl
- durable rubber-tipped tongs
- oven mitts or heavy duty cloth lined rubber gloves
- sugar thermometer
- small plate
- 4 x 300 ml jam jars with secure lids
Cut each orange in half and squeeze out the juice using a citrus press. If you have an electric one it is easier to squeeze a lot of fruit. Keep squeezing until the pith comes away from the rind. If necessary, use your fingers or a teaspoon to remove all the pith. You should end up with a nice clean rind.
Collect the juice and place it in a very large ceramic bowl that will hold everything once the oranges are all processed. Using a sharp cooks knife slice each half of the rind, depending on size, into 3 or 4 2 cm wide strips. Flatten each strip on a cutting board and finely slice. This is a bit tedious, so put on some nice music and slice away. Place the cut rind in the large bowl with the juice.
Wash the new Chux or muslin by steeping it in boiling water before use. Put the pith and all the seeds in a muslin or Chux and tie it up securely with string. Place it in the ceramic bowl with the rind and the juice. Add enough of the water to just keep the rinds moist and leave to soften overnight.
The next day put the soaked rinds and pulp in a large stockpot and bring to the boil. Simmer uncovered until the rinds are soft and appear translucent, approximately 1 hour, depending on how finely you have sliced the rind. Cool the contents and then carefully remove the bag of pulp to a bowl with tongs. Leave it to cool. Next drain the contents of the pot into a colander placed in a large basin. *Weigh the rinds and roughly measure the liquid volume. For every 500 grams of cooked rind you will need to add 650 grams of sugar, a ratio of 1:1.3. A lot of recipes suggest a 1:2 ratio of whole fruit to sugar which is fine but I have been successful using less sugar. The amount of liquid should be about twice the weight of the cooked fruit but bear in mind that the liquid component will be juice and water.
Place a small plate in the freezer to chill. Return the rind and liquid to the pot. Squeeze and knead the pulp bag to extract as much of the slimy pectin as possible and return the extracted pectin to the pot. Stir and turn on the heat to medium. As the mass is warming gradually add the sugar while stirring to ensure it is dissolved. When the sugar is dissolved bring the contents to the boil and then keep it at a steady rolling boil for about 20-30 minutes. You will need to check the setting point regularly in the last 15 minutes by placing a little of the marmalade on the chilled plate and leaving it for a minute to chill; run your finger through it and if it wrinkles slightly and is tacky it should be at setting point: or measure the temperature of the boiling mass with a sugar thermometer: the set point is reached when it reads 104.5ºC. Turn off the heat.
Sterilise the jars and lids. Place the jars in the sink and the lids in a stainless steel bowl. Boil a kettle of water and pour the contents into the jars until full and fill the bowl of lids with boiling water. using tongs carefully tip out the water into the sink and drain the jars on a clean tea towel. An alternative is to sterilise the jars in a hot oven for about half an hour. Now you are ready to start filling the jars. Using the ladle and jam funnel, fill the jars to within 4 mm of the top. Screw on the lids firmly. Any left over marmalade can be put in a small bowl and stored in the fridge for immediate consumption. Wash the stock pot, put in as many jars as it will hold in a single layer, and add water to just cover the lids. Heat and simmer the jars for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove the jars using the rubber tipped tongs and an oven mitt. Place on a rack or board and cover with a towel to let the jars cool down slowly; you should hear the occasional pop as they cool and a vacuum forms and the lids are sucked inwards. Make a cup of tea or coffee and put your feet up; you’ve earned a rest.
Marmalade, well sealed, will keep in a cool cupboard for 12-18 months, unless eaten. Once opened it is best to store in the refrigerator.