The Saturday Paper

O Tama Carey

- O Tama Carey is the owner of Lankan Filling Station. She is a food editor of The Saturday Paper.

I love citrus, a family of fruits all with a sour tang and varying degrees of sweetness, their history a tale of hybrids. There were four firsts – citron, pomelo, papeda and the mandarin, the only sweet one – that were mixed and interbred so successful­ly we now have a large and happy clan of great variety. Mandarins are a particular favourite of mine and in that group clementine­s are one of the standouts. They are firm and versatile, generally without too many seeds and have a delightful balance between sweet and tart. They are the perfect size both to eat and to fit nicely in your hand. It’s also particular­ly lovely that citrus appear in winter when their brightness and zest are a gift in the gloom.

It’s claimed that Seville oranges are the original marmalade citrus, which makes sense, as without all that sugar I’m not really sure what you would do with them. All citrus though can be wrangled into making this jewel-like treat. Kumquats give a delicious flavour, but having to cut enough of those little fruits to make it worthwhile falls into the category of futile kitchen jobs, much like picking thyme leaves. Limes and grapefruit both work well as they too live on the more bitter edge of the citrus family. Lemon marmalade is more uncommon but equally good. I have made a few versions, one that was perfect and another, with lemonade fruit, that was probably a little too sweet to attain the balance needed. Blood orange is another fine fruit to use, partly, I think, because it is so pretty. There are endless types of mandarins, many unsuited to the job, but the clementine is perfect for its flavour, tartness and skin thickness.

As much as I love a good jam – essentiall­y the same thing – there is something more complex and grown-up about marmalade. The bitterness gives that extra edge that I so love. I also love that the flavour comes from the skin, so often discarded but the part that contains all the aromatic oils.

One of my favourite breakfasts is to eat eggs and soldiers with a pot of tea and then finish it with another slice of toast with too much butter and marmalade. It’s also a glorious flavour to follow on from some bacon. I also find marmalade on toast is a perfect afternoon snack – and, yes, as I write this on a sunny winter’s afternoon, I have had to stop for a moment to do just that…

The only disappoint­ing thing about marmalade is that I always feel like it’s quite healthy, but then you make a batch and realise just how much sugar goes into it.

I currently have about five different versions of marmalade rattling around my house with various viscositie­s – some are gifts, some I’ve made. One version, from a particular­ly large batch I once made, is almost 10 years old. I’m not quite sure how it’s lasted this long without being eaten but it is still delicious.

The recipe here does give amounts but can easily be adapted to any citrus of any amount – useful, as when citrus season does happen there is usually a bounty of the fruit. The ratios I use are: 120 grams of castor sugar for each cup of fruit and liquid.

From there, your marmalade journey can start. Purists would say sugar is the only other thing needed but I feel a little spice never hurt. The pepper here is almost indistinct as a flavour yet you feel it as a slight tingly after-heat; the star anise has a deep aniseed woodiness that grounds the sweetness of the marmalade and matches the flavour of the clementine­s. The salt is added for extra balance.

 ?? Photograph­ed remotely by Earl Carter ??
Photograph­ed remotely by Earl Carter
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