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Sunshine on a rainy day

Posted on | Tags: cooking, preserving, jam making, winter, magic spells | Comments (14)

Grandma's recipe for marmalade is the most ludicrously inconvenient recipe you'll ever read.

handwritten recipe for marmalade

A spell for conjuring sunshine in winter, AKA Grandma's recipe for marmalade

For each pound of oranges, add one tangerine and one lemon. Lemons vary in size quite a lot - how large a lemon? Oh never mind, I'm sure it won't make that much difference; the dominant fruit will still be oranges.

For each pound of fruit... OK, better weigh them then.

citrus fruit on kitchen scales

Actually, the size of the lemon makes quite a lot of difference.

... Blimey, that's a lot of water! I'd better get out the biggest pan (one year I started from 5lb of oranges. That was a mistake.)

OK, so add the water, leave to soak, simmer for two hours, then calculate how much sugar I need? Based on weight?? So how much sugar am I supposed to buy? Just get a lot - I'll use it up eventually (at time of writing, while the fruit soaks, I had three kilos in the cupboard and suspected it might not be enough. At time of posting, I know it wasn't.)

You see that note at the bottom in different handwriting? That's me recording the weight to volume conversion factor. Having a pan with a scale on the side is really helpful, too.

scale on inside of pan

The scale isn't much clearer in real life than it is in this picture

The thing about marmalade is that I love it, but don't eat very much of it. I'm not quite sure how that works, but I'll have a bit on toast and really enjoy it, then not want to eat more for a while, so it takes a while to get through a normal-sized jar. Making my own, I can bottle it in tiny little jars scrounged from cafes and - in rather larger numbers - from the local hotel (thanks, Becky!) That's not the main reason for making my own, though.

My true motivation for making marmalade in January is the smell of chopped citrus fruit.

chopped citrus fruit

The red is grapefruit. Pretty, isn't it?

In the absence of smellyvision (seriously, it's 2021 - why do we not have smellyvision yet?) I'll have to trust to your imagination to conjure up the intoxicating scent of lemons and orages, heaped on a chopping board. This is a splash of sunshine brought into my dining room on a dull, damp, January afternoon.

Some people use a food processor, but I enjoy taking the time to shred the rinds with a knife in a repetitive, meditative motion, while breathing the heady scent they give off.

The following morning that scent is permeating through the house, increasing as I boil it to soften the fruit. Then I add the sugar, stir it carefully as it dissolves to make sure none catches on the bottom, and then...

I find boiling marmalade mesmerising, with the flecks of golden rind rising and swirling in the depths, and scraps of foam forming and jostling across the oiling, roiling surface. In case you share my peculiar fascination, here's twelve minutes' worth of bubbling marmalade. Enjoy!


PS I know it's not January - I took a while to get this post uploaded.

PPS A housekeeping note: I have an email list now. If you'd like me to let you know when I have a new blog post up, please click the subscribe button at the top of the page and fill in the form. I promise I won't flood your inbox with spam!

Comments (14)

  1. Rob Horn:
    Feb 08, 2021 at 10:31 PM

    Loving the marmalade, can almost smell it! Kate made a batch a couple of weeks ago and there are few things better than that smell!!


    1. rseabrook:
      Feb 08, 2021 at 10:58 PM

      I couldn't agree more! Glad to hear you've got some too.


  2. Rebecca Olds:
    Feb 09, 2021 at 11:19 AM

    You make me want to make marmalade.

    I don't actually like marmalade. So, hmmm.


    1. rseabrook:
      Feb 10, 2021 at 01:30 PM

      It's all about the making! You can always find someone else to eat it...


  3. Lally Craig:
    Feb 09, 2021 at 03:22 PM

    Is Grandma my godmother Grace? It looks like her writing and the recipe reminds me of her in its glorious insouciant eccentricity!


    1. rseabrook:
      Feb 10, 2021 at 01:32 PM

      Yes, that's Grace. "Insouciant eccentricity" - what a wonderful phrase, and how very accurate!


  4. Elaine:
    Feb 10, 2021 at 01:13 PM

    Sadly marmalade is wasted on me, I can't stand the taste and, never having had a sense of smell, I don't have a clue what it smells like. Love your post though as it reminds me of my lovely Mom who always went to the market in town in search of Seville oranges at this time of year:)


    1. rseabrook:
      Feb 10, 2021 at 01:33 PM

      Oh, what a shame you can't smell it, but I'm glad I reminded you of your Mom :)


  5. Jayne:
    Feb 10, 2021 at 07:31 PM

    Make full size jars as well and you are half-way to lots of wonderful homemade birthday gifts for the whole year!

    But I am sure the house will have smelled wonderful and I am envious - cannot eat it anymore, although I used to love it.


    1. rseabrook:
      Feb 11, 2021 at 07:49 PM

      Oh no, another one who can't enjoy marmalade - I'm starting to feel guilty about posting this, now!


  6. finley:
    Feb 11, 2021 at 05:35 PM

    hi rachel , this lokks excellent i might give it a try


    1. rseabrook:
      Feb 11, 2021 at 07:50 PM

      Seville oranges are very seasonal, but you should still be able to get them now. Don't hang around, though!


  7. Paul Campbell:
    Feb 14, 2021 at 07:48 AM

    My nan and mum both used to make marmalade so I know how good home made ones taste. I’ll have to give it a go and see how it comes out.


    1. rseabrook:
      Feb 25, 2021 at 09:45 PM

      There might still be seville oranges available. I know some people use ordinary sweet oranges, but to me, it's just not the same.


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