Today, I was planning to bottle my elderflower cordial, and make a couple of sourdough loaves for next week. As if that wasn’t enough for a Sunday, we also had a load of rock to collect. So of course, I had to find something *else* that needed doing, too!
After separating the cordial from the fruit and flowers, I was about to chuck them, but suddenly couldn’t bring myself to do it. I could almost hear my grandmother sighing, ‘all that lovely fruit…’ All that lovely fruit – four whole lemons and oranges. It was too good to waste, and had been soaking in a sugar syrup of utter deliciousness for three days, which surely had to be a good thing?
It’s been a very long time since I made marmalade, but there’s a long family tradition of doing it – my Mum makes it every year, and Grandma did, before her. Our ‘family’ marmalade is dark, and rich, and often has hit of whisky or rum in it. This ‘accidental’ marmalade is nothing like it! I dug out Pam Corbin’s ‘Preserves’ (in the River Cottage Handbooks series) and realised neither of her recipes really did what I wanted, but perhaps, by using aspects of both, I could get something sensible!
I sliced my rescued fruit slices up quite finely, removing all the pips. The three days soaking in the sugar syrup had got them some way towards being candied – the skins already a little bit softened and less juice in the flesh than a fresh orange or lemon.
The total weight of sliced up citrus fruit was about 1.3kg (made up of four lemons, and four large sweet oranges), to which I added 2kg of mixed sugar (mostly golden caster & granulated sugars, but with a bit of refined caster sugar to make up the volume) and 1.5l of water. I also gave the big handful of elderflowers a good squeeze to extract the last of their flavour, before throwing these away.
Return all the ingredients into the big pan they’d been steeping in for the cordial, and bring up to a nice simmer, covered, for about an hour until the peels are nice and tender. While this is happening, assemble your jam jars and lids (I ended up with ten, mixed sizes, scavenged from my ‘saved jars’ pile) give them a careful wash, and place them in a cold oven ready for sterilising. I bring mine to 150C and keep them there for ten minutes before I turn the oven off.
When you’re happy with the texture of your citrus peel, take the lid off, turn the heat up, and boil it all as hard as you can for about 15 minutes, until it gets to setting point (I favour the cold saucer approach to checking for set – though interestingly for this particular marmalade there was a dramatic increase in the amount of foam produced as setting point was reached, which was a bit of a give away).
Once you’ve reached a set, take the pan off the heat, and just wait for the bubbles to stop, give it a stir to re-incorporate any froth from the surface, and then ladle into your hot jars fresh from the oven. I’m really messy at ladling, so I love my wide-mouthed jar funnel. Fit the lid tightly, and up-end the jars a couple of times to make sure the boiling hot jam comes into contact with all the surfaces.
If you’re American, at this point in proceedings you’ll probably feel compelled to do something with a water bath. I’m afraid our friends over the Atlantic don’t like this way of filling jars, they seem to regard it with great suspicion as being likely to kill you with botulism or other similar nasties. All I can say is, it’s the only way I, or anyone else in my family, has *ever* filled jam jars, and so far we’ve all lived to tell the tale! (More seriously, this is a nice sweet, acid concoction, and consequently pretty un-friendly to clostridial species, so you should have very little to worry about!)
I’m really pleased with these little beauties! The colour is gorgeous, a real bright rich orange, and the flavour is beautifully balanced. I’d love to say I can taste the elderflower – if it’s there it’s very subtle – but the mix of oranges and lemons gives a really nice clean crisp flavour.
It’s not an overpoweringly bitter marmalade like some of the Seville orange marmalades can be, but instead has a lovely three way balance between the acidity of the citrus flesh, the sugar sweetness, and a bitter note imparted by the pith and peel.
I wish I could offer you a taste – all I can do is encourage you to make your own! I’m so looking forward to this on a lovely thick slice of my fresh sourdough loaf for tomorrow’s breakfast.
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