Orange you glad?

Terrible pun, lovely preserves.

Last year, a friend turned up at my door with a bag of Seville oranges, which are rarer than hens teeth and have a super short season. I’d never made marmalade before, or curd that wasn’t lemon, so I turned that kilo-ish of oranges into a small batch each of curd and marmalade.

The curd was nice, but I could take or leave personally – it seems my tastebuds are particularly fond of lemon curd and not “other versions”. The marmalade was an absolute winner though, and worth every bit of the effort.

This year, I was once again thwarted on my quest for Sevilles, so did the only sensible (!?) thing I could think of, and bought a wholesale box. I also bought 20 kilos of caster sugar to get started with (caster was only 5c a bag more expensive, and dissolves a lot more quickly than granulated). After doing the maths, I realised that I may possibly have bitten off more than I could chew, and had to go on a quest for jam jars.

These gorgeous wee beasties are sour and full of pips, but smell amazing. There’s no way you can eat them though, unless you want your tastebuds to be puckering up a week later. The juice will also absolutely find every hint of a papercut that you have, guaranteed.

The marmalade recipe, once again from River Cottage Preserves, recommends juicing the oranges into a sieve over a bowl, and that turned out to be fantastic advise.

For the marmalade, I knew a conveyor belt would be needed as it’s a two day process at the best of times. I juiced the first batch of oranges on Saturday, and then pulled all the remaining pulp and membrane out of the shell halves, before spending an absolutely ridiculous amount of time (with a good knife too!) turning it into a mixing bowl full of 1mm slices. The pith stays on, which was news to me, and I was worried that it would be too bitter, but there’s a heck of a lot of sugar in the recipe – double the amount of fruit.

The peel gets mixed with the reserved juice and water, and left in the fridge overnight.

Next day, it’s into a pot and cooked up for a couple of hours until the peel is soft and the liquid has reduced a bit. Then in with sugar and lemon juice, and lots of testing and thermometers until it hits setting point and is ready to pot up. The timing on this was funny. Some batches hit setting point at 15 minutes, some took 35. I stuck my jars and lids through the dishwasher, then into the oven at 120C until ready for them – and only took them out a couple at a time. For food hygiene and setting potential, the whole thing needs to stay above 85C as you work, which is easier said than done.

Most was straight up orange, but I also made a batch with whiskey and another with a box of posh stem ginger. Both test pots have proven scrummy.

The marmalade will be good, unopened, for two years. Given that this is almost 2 weeks of daily orange chopping, my arm may have recovered enough by then to make some more. Yes, I did try to use a food processor for the chopping, but the results were not what I wanted at all.

After giving away about 3 kilos, and freezing another 3 kilos, and giving away about 15 jars, this is what I’m left with.

Half of these are destined for my mother and her friend, who I’ve spotted eating it from the jar with a spoon. Good endorsement, that.

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