Strange as it seems, there is actually fruit that is seasonal at this time of the year and its season is a very short one indeed... merely four weeks from mid January before they disappear from the shelves again! That's almost as short as the season for white asparagus in June.
I ordered some the other day from my new organic fruiterer - with the baby here, my shopping habits were the first thing to change and I buy more and more online... a weekly box, full to the brim with organic fruit and vegetables, is the best thing since sliced bread.
When it comes to oranges, you might think that it doesn't really make a difference whether they're organic, or rather waxed and sprayed or otherwise treated, given that you peel them anyway - if you're planning to make a chunky marmalade, however, that's a different matter entirely! Of course, the only oranges worth considering for marmalade afficionados are Seville oranges, so when I saw some on Abel & Cole's speciality fruit list the other day, I felt compelled to add some to my delivery.
Now, I am not a big marmalade lover per se, but I had my Mum here, who always buys some jars of it when she is in the UK - it's a perfect souvenir for discerning gourmets back home and the people she buys for like it cut thick and chunky... which is not always easy to find in the shops, so we decided to have a go at making some ourselves.
Cutting through the first orange, we immediately understood why this variety is used for preserves only - there is virtually no flesh or juice, the main components are, indeed, peel and pith. According to the recipe I found on my supplier's website, nothing goes to waste - the peel is cut (thin or chunky to your liking), the juice is added to the pot and even the rest of the fruit is used to act as a sort of gelling agent, cut up and tied into a pudding cloth, it is cooked with the marmalade to extract all the pectin in the dry matter, to make sure the marmalade sets.
We altered the recipe just by cutting right down on the sugar - Seville oranges are very bitter, a prime flavour characteristic of marmalade, and some brands disguise this by adding sugar by the truckload. You don't actually need that much, if you're keen on that bitter taste, and if you're not, then I dare say you should rather buy apricot jam! My Mum was very pleased with the result and so were her friends back home, so even though I won't eat much of it myself, I thought it's worth sharing the recipe...
Seville (bitter) orange marmalade
(makes 4 medium jars)
1 kg Seville oranges (organic, unwaxed)
2 lemons (organic, unwaxed)
1 kg sugar
2.5 litres water
Cut oranges and lemons in half and squeeze out all the juice.
Remove all pips, flesh and white pith and put in a pudding cloth - tie up tightly with a string to hang into the marmalade pot.
Cut the remaining outer skin into strips, thin or chunky to your liking.
Transfer to a large put, top with the juice of the fruit and the water. Bring to a rolling boil, then cook for ca. 2 hours or until the peel is soft. Remove the pudding cloth, leave until cool enough to handle, squeeze the contained liquid into the pot, then discard pudding cloth and content.
Add the sugar to the pot and cook until dissolved. Turn the heat up and bring the marmalade to a rolling boil. Cook for another 10 - 15 minutes to the desired consistency.
Fill the marmalade into sterilised jars, close the lids tightly and turn on their heads to cool.