The ap­peal of peel

Mar­malade should al­ways have a spe­cial place in our hearts–and stom­achs–says Emma Hughes, who ex­tols the virtues of mak­ing your own at this time of year

Country Life Every Week - - Reel Life -

For break­fast, this is both the best of times and the worst of times. on the one hand, the first meal of the day has never been so pho­tographed, so el­e­vated, so cel­e­brated in news­pa­pers and colour sup­ple­ments. on the other, the dishes we’ve loved for decades could soon be wiped out en­tirely by chia-seed por­ridge and kale smoothies.

of all the po­ten­tial ca­su­al­ties in the war against stodge—sausage sarnies, por­ridge made with cream, fried bread—the sad­dest loss would surely be mar­malade. Just think of the his­tory: it was James Bond’s toast top­ping of choice (he al­ways went for Cooper’s Vin­tage ox­ford) and Sir Ed­mund Hil­lary took a jar up Everest. Not even Mar­mite can com­pete with that.

Made well, it’s also a thing of ex­tra­or­di­nary com­plex­ity and beauty. A jar of re­ally ex­cel­lent mar­malade looks like some­thing pre­cious that In­di­ana Jones would have held twin­klingly up to the light.

How­ever, we shouldn’t de­spair—not yet. For starters, mar­malade’s pa­tron saint, Padding­ton Bear, isn’t go­ing down with­out a fight. ‘I’m not sure I like the sound of green juice very much,’ he told me over email, via his agent (al­ways a ded­i­cated let­ter-writer to his Aunt Lucy in Peru, he’s had to be­come au fait with elec­tronic cor­re­spon­dence since the Padding­ton film came out in 2014). ‘I ex­pect it would make my toast go soggy. Mr Gru­ber once told me that a fa­mous per­son said a meal with­out wine is like a day with­out sun­shine and I feel much the same way about mar­malade. I can’t imag­ine what life would be like with­out it.’

If, like him, you’re keen to cham­pion its cause, why not start by whip­ping up a batch of your own mar­malade? Now’s the time. With the chaos of Christ­mas be­hind us and joy­less Jan­uary stretch­ing ahead, ded­i­cat­ing a day to peel­ing and slic­ing things qui­etly in the kitchen is surely just what the doc­tor or­dered.

‘orange If it goes well with juice in a cock­tail, it’ll work in mar­malade’

Of course, you can make per­fectly good mar­malade from any cit­rus fruit, but, re­ally, if you’re a first-timer, you want or­anges. If you can source Sevilles, which are nat­u­rally high in pectin, so much the bet­ter (watch Waitrose like a hawk dur­ing their short sea­son), but blood or­anges are just as good. Look for firm fruits of a uni­form size and make sure you freeze any you have left over.

Next, you need the right kit. A big, wide-bot­tomed pan is es­sen­tial, but don’t fill it too en­thu­si­as­ti­cally—if it boils over, you’ll spend the rest of the month chip­ping sugar off your cooker. Try not to let the sugar catch, un­less you’re aim­ing for a fin­ished prod­uct that tastes of bon­fires. (Speak­ing of taste, a good slug of booze never goes amiss. Whisky, Cam­pari, even gin—if it goes well with orange juice in a cock­tail, it’ll work in mar­malade.)

For per­fect re­sults ev­ery time, there are a few sim­ple rules you can fol­low. Make sure it’s set (once it’s been at a rolling boil for a quar­ter of an hour or so, use the ‘wrin­kle test’, in which you spoon a lit­tle onto a cold saucer, leave it for a minute to cool, then prod it; if it’s ready to pot, it will wrin­kle), but don’t be tempted to go past the set­ting point, un­less you like tar­mac on your toast.

Give it 15 min­utes to stand once it’s ready—if you pour it out while it’s hot, all the peel will rise to the top of the jar. For a gor­geously clear am­ber re­sult, skim any scum off the top of the mar­malade be­fore you pour it into jars.

So what are you wait­ing for? Dust off your jam pan, put the ra­dio on and get pre­serv­ing. It’s not merely a plea­sure, but your duty. Just ask Padding­ton.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.