A Seville-ised way to start the day!
Make your own marmalade, says Mary
For many of us, life would not be the same if we couldn’t start the day with a round of toast covered in marmalade and a cup of tea or coffee. It’s not really a meal full of local ingredients, but it is definitely a meal which is very British and probably best if the marmalade is home-made.
Everyone’s taste in marmalade is different; some like it chunky, others with super fine shreds, and a few with no shreds at all. The bitter Seville orange is the most traditional fruit to use to make marmalade with and, arguably, the best.
These oranges have a really short season, just a few weeks in January and February, but what makes them special is that they have a unique aromatic quality and are rich in pectin. If you’re able to shop around a little, it is possible to get organic Sevilles, which Nigel Slater, and more importantly my mum, insist are the best; the flavour is better, and they seem to have more pectin, which helps the set.
The history of marmalade is a complicated one, with some stories more believable than others. The name originates from an Old Portuguese paste made in the 1500s from quince, called ‘marmelada’, which was solid and sweet. It was imported by the late 15th century, and history books and food historians say that Henry VIII was given a box of quince marmalade in 1524, while they also document Mary Queen of Scots’ love of it.
The invention of modern orange marmalade as we know it is generally credited to the Scots, specifically a woman called Janet Keiller from Dundee sometime in the 1790’s. She was given a large box of bitter oranges from Seville and, not knowing what to do with them, she chopped, boiled and sweetened them, creating the recipe for the shredded jewel-like coloured jelly we love today.
Whether this story is true or not the Keiller family of Dundee built the first marmalade factory in 1797 and Dundee is known as the home of marmalade.
Look out for Seville oranges in the shops in the New Year. I buy a basket of Seville oranges, a mountain of sugar and get the box of recycled jars up from the cellar ready to fill.
I have one good basic recipe, which uses six Seville oranges, a sweet orange, a lemon, approximately 600g of granulated sugar and two litres of water.
However, I’m always intrigued by other people’s recipes. I have found one that adds a dash of whisky, just before the fruit is cooked. Apparently, there is no danger of it turning into an alcoholic breakfast spread as the alcohol is boiled away as you cook, but I gather it does add something to the flavour. I am not sure about this one as I’m not a whisky fan, but I might try a batch just to see.
Have a go. It’s easy to make, the kitchen will smell lovely, and you’ll have jars of bottled sunshine on your shelves to brighten up the most dismal morning for months to come! Find out more about Mary Kemp’s cookery theatres, demonstrations and more recipes at marykemp.net
ABOVE:A great way to start the day; toast and marmalade