Mediocre marmalade and some handy ratios

April 25, 2013 § 3 Comments

Oh dear. I’ve been silent on the subject of the World Marmalade Awards at Dalemain this year which were held at the beginning of March.

It’s time to disclose that this year I achieved marks of only 15 out of 20 for my Seville orange marmalade and, slightly better, 17 for the bergamot. This compares to the almost perfect score of 19 last year and, worst of all, to husband Tim’s respectable score of 18!

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So what went wrong? I did go and chat to the white-coated WI judges this year. It seems I went a little bit too far with my liking for a soft set, and once again my marmalade was criticised for being cloudy. This is a tough one to crack but their advice was NOT to squeeze the muslin bag containing the pectin-rich peel and pips.Just to remind myself for next year, previous advice on achieving clarity was NOT to add the knob of butter when boiling but to skim, skim and skim again, also to add a just a dash of alcohol at the end when ready to pot.

On reflection, my peel was slightly unevenly distributed within the jar. Thinking back, I potted hot straight from the pan relying on a gentle shake to redistribute the peel but was distracted from doing this by a teenage tantrum shortly before setting off to a match at the Etihad stadium…The lesson is that marmalade cannot be rushed.

So far so fair. I felt somewhat peeved to have been docked a mark for having placed my label a few millimetres too high up on the jar. The WI ladies like it low it seems. I did subsequently have a look at The National Federation of Womens’ Institutes “On the Show” publication which states:

“Labels should be plain, neat and straight and of suitable size for the container. Place label between the seams of the jar. Label should state contents and day, month and year of making.”

Hmmm, nothing about vertical positioning of labels here. I think I was robbed.

Bitterly disappointed but undaunted I went along to the marmalade Q&A session to learn how to correct my mistakes and also to try and answer a couple of queries raised by a like-minded friend Shelley who had written a week or so earlier as follows:

“Really nice to talk to you about marmalade last week. Looking at your notes and reading various recipes gave me quite a bit to think about. The part in the recipes that was puzzling when I made mine this year was in the Riverford recipe which states 1.5 kg oranges, 2 lemons and approx 2.5kg sugar BUT in the video on the Riverford website the guy says after boiling there should be approx 1.7litres of liquid and then to add 450g sugar per 500ml which would only require 1.53 kg sugar so big discrepancy. As I mentioned to you I have always been a bit puzzled by the fact that the amount the liquid reduces by can vary between batches so I quite liked some guidelines on how much liquid should be left.

Also in your notes from the Marmalade workshop with Jane Maggs the optimum sugar content was 59-65% but if you add 450g sugar per 500ml liquid then sugar content is (450/950)*100% = 47% unless I am missing something.

I would like to try another batch just to see if I can get a different result but it is getting late in the season and I’m not sure we could eat it all anyway.”

First of all Shelley, I have to admit to a typo of my own – the recipe actually said 2kg of sugar and I then typed it incorrectly as 2.5kg. There’s still a discrepancy but not as bad as it first appears.

I put the water question to the panel comprising from L to R Jane Maggs of Wild and Fruitful; Jonathan Miller preserves buyer for Fortnum & Mason, compère Dan “Master Baker” (careful how you say that) Lepard, Pam “The Jam” Corbin all round preserving expert and author of Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2, and finally Rosemary Jameson, the Jam Jar Shop lady.

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There was unanimous agreement that it would make perfect sense to put a lid on your pan and use less water. For reasons of custom, tradition and utility most recipes expect you to add water to the peels in a non-lidded preserving pan, boil for 2 hours to soften the peel by which time approximately half the liquid will have boiled away. Most people used to have just one large unlidded preserving pan thus recipes were drafted to take account of the larger amount of water needed.

Jane Maggs said that most standard marmalade recipes adopted a rule of thumb by which for every 1lb fruit, 2 pints water and 2lb sugar were required. If half the water boils away then you’re left with 1lb fruit and 1 pint water which is matched to 2lb sugar giving approximately a 50:50 ratio. There is approximately 5% natural fruit sugar in the boiled peel liquid so that plus the small amount of evaporation that takes place when boiling for a set will give you the right sugar percentage of around 60% to achieve a set.

Thinking afterwards, there’s an unstated assumption that 1 pint water weighs 1lb. It doesn’t unless you use a US style pint which is just 16 floz rather than our UK 20 fl oz pint.

Looking again at the Riverford recipe, I think it’s never going to work matching 450g sugar to 500ml liquid. All that will happen is that the liquid has to boil away until the correct balance is achieved. Next time I’m going to work with a 1:1 ratio. This will require 1.7kg sugar for 1.7 litres liquid, so still a discrepancy with the 2kg weight of sugar stated in the ingredients list but not so great any more.

The other difference between the Riverford marmalade recipe and the standard ratios is the proportion of water added (2.5 litres) to weight of fruit (1.7kg once lemons are taken into account). The standard ratios would suggest 3.4 litres water (twice the weight of the fruit). I wondered why this might be and remembered that the Riverford recipe uses only finely shredded peel removed from the whole fruit using a peeler. This means that all the pith which is used still attached to the peel in a standard recipe is discarded in the muslin bag. As less fruit is used, so the quantity of water needs to be less. I assume that what the recipe wants is for the boiled liquid to be equivalent to the weight of fruit you first started with (1.7kg fruit for 1.7 litres water) which sounds both nice and neat and inherently sensible in terms of achieving a good concentration of flavour.

So that’s it – rather technical I know but at least I’ve recorded my thinking ready for next year. And if I can’t achieve a clear marmalade I can be happy in the knowledge that Jonathan Miller, buyer for Fortnums will only ever consider cloudy marmalades as these have more flavour.

Bergamot preserves

February 8, 2013 § 3 Comments

I drink quite lot of Earl Grey tea and enjoy the instant flavour hit that bergamot can bring to an otherwise indifferent teabag. So when I recently saw bergamots on sale in their natural state for the first time ever I just had to buy a bagful. They’re a spherical greenish-gold citrus fruit the size of a small orange, a speciality of Calabria in Southern Italy. They don’t look anything special but scratch the surface of the skin and the powerful and unmistakeable aroma is released.

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Having inspected and admired by bag of bergamots, the question was what on earth to do with them? They look a bit like small oranges and have a sour juice so they are obvious candidates for marmalade. I decided that for starters, I’d make a half-size batch of marmalade, modifying my favourite seville orange recipe to suit these strange and exotic citrus fruits.

I decided that a fine shred marmalade would be most appropriate so as not to overpower the preserve with overly-thick chunks of that highly aromatic peel. This requires carefully peeling the fruit with a sharp potato peeler, in a single spiral if you’re up for the challenge, then cutting the peel into the finest shreds possible with a sharp knife.

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The shreds of peel together with a muslin bag containing the peeled half-fruit shells and pips are soaked overnight in the quantity of cold water specified in the recipe to which the squeezed fruit juice is added. This soaking has a dual purpose: it begins to soften the peel and helps dissolve the all-important pectin which is mainly contained in the white pith and pips.

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The next day, the peel is boiled, partly covered, for a full 2 hours so that it softens thoroughly. It should be meltingly soft, the texture of overcooked pasta at this stage as, weirdly, once the sugar is added it stiffens up again.

The boiled liquid, once cool enough to handle is measured (or weighed if you prefer) in order to calculate the required quantity of sugar (450g sugar per 500ml liquid). Also at this stage you can decide whether you want to remove some of the precious bergamot shreds to achieve the right balance between clear jelly and pieces of peel. You could always try and crystallise any spare peel for an unusual cake ingredient.

You’re then finally ready to combine the calculated amount of sugar with the citrus liquid in a preserving pan to achieve a set. This shouldn’t take long so it’s essential to have all your preserving bits and pieces laid out and ready (sterilised jam jars and clean lids ready; jam thermometer and funnel to hand; and several saucers chilled in the freezer). It’s also worth tasting the liquid before you begin boiling to check acidity levels. The liquid should taste distinctly sour and if it doesn’t, you can add the juice of a further bergamot (or a lemon if you have bergamots to hand!) to the pan.

I would guess that the bergamots have a high pectin content as I achieved a set quite quickly (less than 15 minutes’ boiling) and rather suddenly. I took the mixture off the boil at about 103 degrees C, ie before the mixture reached my seville orange soft set temperature of 104.5 degrees C. The set I ended up with was quite firm though not the dreaded “rubber set” but ideally I’d have gone for something softer.

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The end result was a delicately coloured marmalade with greenish tinge and, though I say so myself, exquisite flavour, not too sweet with plenty of acidity. My only quibble was that in a jar the marmalade looks a tad cloudy, and as I mentioned before, the set was just a little firmer than my personal ideal.
Rereading my notes from last year (should have done this before I started!) I see that one suggestion to avoid cloudiness is to skim regularly during boiling rather than adding a knob of butter to prevent scumming

I reckon the marmalade is still good enough to send off to the 2013 World Marmalade Competition so a jar is winging its way to Dalemain in Cumbria as we speak, entered under the “Any Citrus” category. Fingers crossed…

A fortnight later, the rest of the bergamots had ripened a little and become more golden in colour:

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This lot were destined for an experimental batch of bergamot curd. I decided to use a lemon curd recipe, swapping the lemons for bergamots which are approximately the size of large lemons and have similar acidity levels. Recipes for lemon curd are many and various so, for simplicity, I chose one using whole eggs rather than just egg yolks. This gives the curd a tendency to become a little lumpy as the coagulation temperatures of yolk and white are different, but this is not a problem as the finished curd is sieved before potting.

You need to rig up an impromptu double boiler but this is easily achieved by setting a heatproof bowl into a pan of water and then it’s simplicity itself to combine the zest and juice with the eggs, butter and sugar:

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The curd will thicken quite quickly but does requires constant stirring with a wooden spoon or balloon whisk as it does so. Once it’s passed through a sieve you’re ready to pot:

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The end result is silky smooth, golden and packs a punch in terms of a powerful perfumed bergamot aroma. Personally I think it’s a bit much spread on your morning toast but it’s perfect for puddings, swirled through Greek yoghurt or combined with crème fraîche and fruit for a pavlova or roulade filling.

Recipe for Bergamot Marmalade

Makes approximately 1.1kg marmalade – 3 regular sized jars

Ingredients

850g bergamots
1.3 litres cold water
Approximate 1kg granulated sugar

1. With a potato peeler peel the skin from the bergamots, leaving as much white pith on the fruit as possible. Slice the peel into thin shreds and put into a large pan lidded pan.

2. Line a large bowl with a piece of muslin, leaving plenty to overhang the sides of the bowl. Cut the bergamots in half. With your hands, squeeze the juice from the fruit over the bowl, dropping the leftover squeezed fruit, pith, pips and flesh, into the muslin. Lift the muslin out of the bowl, gather the sides and squeeze any remaining juice into the bowl. Tie the muslin together to keep the fruit in and form a bag.

3. Place the muslin bag in the saucepan with the peel, leaving the top of the muslin overhanging the saucepan. Add the squeezed fruit juice and 1.3 litres cold water to the pan. Heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours, until the peel is tender.

4. Remove the muslin bag and squeeze all the sticky juice from the bag into the pan. An easy way to do this is to put the bag in a colander and use a spoon to press it out. Measure the contents of the pan in a jug (or weigh in the pan using a suitable pair of scales having had the foresight to weigh your pan in advance). Return to the pan and add 450g of sugar for every 500ml liquid. Gently heat until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 5 minutes.

5. Test that the marmalade has reached setting point by putting a teaspoon of the liquid on a cold saucer and gently pushing with the back of a spoon. If the liquid starts to wrinkle, setting point has been reached. If no wrinkling happens, keep boiling and retest every 5 minutes. If using a sugar thermometer, setting point is likely to be achieved at about 102 degrees C. Turn off the heat as soon as you reach setting point.

6. Skim any scum from the surface. Leave the mixture to stand for 15 minutes. Stir gently, then carefully spoon into warmed sterilised jars. Put screw top lids on while the marmalade is still hot and turn upside down for 5 seconds to sterilise the lids.

Recipe for Bergamot Curd

Makes about 600g curd enough to fill 3 or 4 small jars.

Ingredients

4 bergamots
4 whole eggs, lightly beaten
150g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
350g golden caster sugar

Before you begin, you need to set up an impromptu double boiler. I did this by setting a medium sized metal mixing bowl over a large saucepan of cold water. It’s OK in fact desirable that the bowl sits in rather than over the water as it would if you were aiming to melt chocolate.

Grate the zest and squeeze the juice from the bergamots and put into the bowl part of your double-boiler set-up. A microplane grater makes grating the zest a doddle. Add the eggs, butter and sugar to the bowl, set it over the pan and turn on the heat. Stir with a wooden spoon regularly as it slowly warms through.
Once the water is boiling, keep stirring as the eggs coagulate and the curd thickens.

As I’m a curd-making novice, I checked the temperature of my curd once it looked sufficiently thickened and removed the bowl from the heat once it reached a temperature of 80 degrees C. This worked well as the finished product has a soft spreading consistency and for my taste is neither too runny nor too thick.

Don’t worry if your curd is not perfectly smooth as the next step is to push it through a sieve into another very clean and dry medium bowl. This removes the grated zest and any stray eggy lumps that may have formed.

Once the curd has been sieved, carefully spoon it into small jam jars sterilised in your preferred way. As the flavour of this curd is so intense, small jars are best. I like to warm them in the oven set to its lowest temperature of around 120 degrees C. Cover and once cool, the curd is best stored in the fridge.

Honours even: world marmalade awards 2012

April 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

Once again, the World Marmalade Awards held at Dalemain in Cumbria brightened up those last days of February just before spring proper arrives. Tim and I had both submitted our marmalades for judging, each using our favourite recipe. Tim favours a straightforward Delia Smith recipe with a firmish set, whereas I’m wedded to an alternative recipe with very fine shreds of peel and a softish set. You can find both of our recipes via the Recipe Index page.

We were delighted to discover that both of us had been awarded 19 marks out of a possible 20 this year. This gained us a silver award each and, more importantly meant marital harmony over the breakfast table was maintained.

So where did we each drop that final elusive mark? In my case the judge remarked that my marmalade was “just rather cloudy” which was true as this picture of my 2012 batch shows:

I don’t know what made my marmalade cloudy this year but the most likely tip I’ve found is to skim off the scum rigorously while boiling and NOT to add a knob of butter to the boiling pan to reduce scumming as this will cause it to be dissolved back into the mixture, thus making it cloudy. So that’s the change I’ll be making next year.

In Tim’s case, the judge quibbled that his peel “needs a little more cooking” something which can be pretty easily put right. I think this may have happened as his oranges were hanging round in the fridge for about a month before he got round to making his marmalade right at the last minute.

Here’s one of the judges giving Tim a few tips to achieve that elusive gold next year:

It’s human nature to dwell on the one point lost but perhaps it’s more constructive to focus on what we did right.

We both used beautiful organic oranges delivered via our Riverford veg box man. This was really top quality fruit which was bursting with zesty flavour. I bought my fruit early and used it straightaway and found the peel was quick to soften (ready in half an hour or so whereas older fruit can need an hour or more to soften) and a set was achieved relatively quickly once sugar was added. I think a shorter cooking time means a fresher, zingier citrus flavour.

I experimented with a sugar thermometer this year and stopped boiling once my marmalade reached 104.5 degrees C in order to achieve the wobbly softer set I was looking for. I think if I’d used the chilled saucer and fingertip wrinkle test alone, I’d have been tempted to boil the mixture for a good 5 minutes or so longer.

I potted while the mixture was still extremely hot, filling the jars to the brim, hoping that the peel would be correctly saturated with sugar and would therefore be suspended in the marmalade in perfect equilibrium. It didn’t work and infuriatingly rose to the top! This was soon put right by making sure the lids were on firmly and gently inverting and rotating the jars once the marmalade had cooled a little to help redistribute the peel.

Enought navel-gazing and what of the marmalade festival itself? As well as viewing the hundreds, nay thousands of jars of marmalade on display in the house itself, I attended three additional events this year.

The first was food historian Ivan Day’s talk on the history of marmalade and its links with Dalemain. He then proceeded to cook “Lady Westmoreland’s White Pot” a recipe for an enriched bread and butter pudding from a collection within the Dalemain archive. He’s a fascinating man with a laudable devotion to authenticity and an evident passion for his specialist subject. I’ll be checking out his website http://www.historicfood.com/portal.htm for details of food courses next time I feel like treating myself.

The second was celebrity baker Dan Lepard’s breadmaking workshop. One might have expected Dan to talk about baking the perfect loaf of bread to set off a pot of award-winning marmalade, but this session was more of an improvisation on the theme of bread prompted by audience questions. Lots of interesting tips for the serious home-baker with a good deal of previous experience, but I’d defy a novice to be able to bake a simple loaf after this 2 hour session!

My final special event was a marmalade-making workshop run by The Jam Jar Shop team. Our little group of four actually made a batch of marmalade in less tanusing the boiled whole orange method under the watchful eye of our friendly Jam Jar Shop tutor who took this picture:

In case you’re wondering how we managed to prepare a batch of marmalade in less than 2 hours, the whole oranges had been precooked in order for us to be able to complete the marmalade making process in a reasonable timescale.

What did I learn that was new? Well, making marmalade with soft precooked oranges is something I don’t do often. It’s pretty easy to cut up the peel and scrape out the pith using this method but I still prefer to begin with raw fruit as I think ease of cutting is outweighed by a slight loss of flavour.

I learned how to refine my muslin bag-making technique. First, we enclosed all the pith and pips in a big square of muslin and tied the square securely with string to enclose all the contents and stop them escaping. So far so good. Next, we were told not to trim the string but to fold in all the loose raw edges forming the neck of the bag then roll it back down towards the knotted string. Next we wrapped the string around the resulting roll of fabric and tied securely thus enclosing all the raw edges and stopping any loose threads escaping into the pan of marmalade. Finally, the long ends of string were knotted together to form a loop secured to the pan handle for easy retrieval. Very professional looking and a tip I’ll be using again.

This method forms a robust bag that can stand up to the all important squeezing to extract as much pectin as possible so that the marmalade achieves a good set.

The peel was a little irregular as four different people had cut it up each according to their own preference and skill level but the end result of the workshop wasn’t at all bad:

If you fancy giving this marmalade-making method a go next year (or maybe you have some Sevilles stashed away in the freezer), you can download the recipe directly from the Jam Jar shop website by following this link http://www.jamjarshop.com/makingjam/marmalade/index.asp

Silver medal Seville orange marmalade 2011

February 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

I posted recently about my silver medal winning marmalade at the World Marmalade Awards at Dalemain in Cumbria and promised to divulge my new marmalade recipe. OK folks here’s how it’s done:

Recipe for Thin Cut Seville Orange Marmalade

This is the recipe which was enclosed with my Riverford Organics “marmalade kit” (a big brown paper bag containing 1.5kg of spanking fresh Seville oranges and 2 lemons, all unwaxed and organic of course). Many thanks to Riverford and owner Guy Watson for this recipe which Guy demonstrates at www.riverford.co.uk/marmalade
I’ve quoted it exactly as printed with my editorial comments included in brackets.

Ingredients

1.5kg Seville oranges
2 lemons
2.5 litres cold water
Approximate 2kg granulated sugar

1. With a sharp knife (or vegetable peeler) peel the skin from the oranges and lemons, leaving as much white pith on the fruit as possible. Chop the peel into 3mm strips (or thinner if you have the patience) and put into a large pan (lidded stock type pot rather than a preserving pan best for this stage).

2. Line a large bowl with a piece of muslin, leaving plenty to overhang the sides of the bowl. Cut the oranges and lemons in half. With your hands, squeeze the juice from the fruit over the bowl, dropping the leftover squeezed fruit, pith, pips and flesh, into the muslin. Lift the muslin out of the bowl, gather the sides and squeeze any remaining juice into the bowl. Tie the muslin together to keep the fruit in and form a bag.

3. Place the muslin bag in the saucepan with the peel, leaving the top of the muslin overhanging the saucepan. Add the squeezed fruit juice and 2.5 litres cold water to the pan. Heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours, until the peel is tender.

4. Remove the muslin bag and squeeze all the sticky juice from the bag into the pan. An easy way to do this is to put the bag in a colander and use a spoon to press it out. Measure the contents of the pan in a jug (or weigh in the pan using a suitable pair of scales having had the foresight to weigh your pan in advance). Return to the pan and add 450g of sugar for every 500ml liquid. Gently heat for 15 minutes, until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 15 minutes. (Knowing what I know now, I would start testing after just 5 minutes of rapid boiling especially if the oranges are very fresh).

5. Test that the marmalade has reached setting point by putting a teaspoon of the liquid on a cold saucer and gently pushing with the back of a spoon. If the liquid starts to wrinkle, setting point has been reached. If no wrinkling happens, keep boiling and retest every 10 minutes. (I would in fact retest every 5 minutes). Turn off the heat as soon as you reach setting point.

6. Skim any scum from the surface. Leave the mixture to stand for 15 minutes. Stir gently, then carefully spoon into warmed sterilised jars. If using screw top lids, put the lids on while the marmalade is still hot and turn upside down for 5 minutes (surely should be 5 seconds?) to sterilise the lids. If using cellophane, put a wax disc on the marmalade while warm, then seal with cellophane and an elastic band.

So that’s it – the time consuming part is cutting the peel into appropriately thin shreds, and removing the glue from recycled jam jars of course…

After attending a really helpful marmalade making workshop given by Jane Maggs at Dalemain, I have a few extra pointers for success. Jane runs an artisanal preserving business “Wild & Fruitful” from her home kitchen in Cumbria and took double gold in the artisanal producers category at last year’s Marmalade Awards with her Lemon and Lavender Marmalade so could not be better qualified to advise all us would-be winners. An added bonus to the workshop was the presence in the audience of previous amateur winner Dr Yen-Chung Chong. Dr Chong, a retired biochemist now living in Brighton struck gold with his Campari and blood orange marmalade. He helped us out by adding a good dose of scientific method to marmalade-making and debunking one or two marmalade making old wives’ tales along the way.

Pointers for marmalade success:

1) DO try and use really fresh Seville oranges from early in the season – they become available in late December. The fresher they are, the more flavour they have and the higher the pectin content meaning a set will be achieved with less boiling. Less boiling means more fresh flavour and no caramelisation (a marmalade fault in the judges’ eyes).

2) DON’T omit the lemons – these sound in some recipes as if they are optional but a good set can only be achieved if the mixture has the correct acidity – a pH of 2.5-3.5 is apparently optimal. No need for litmus paper, just aim for breakfast orange juice acidity. Jane tasted her mixture after adding and dissolving the sugar, adding the juice of 2-3 more lemons to the mix at this stage. Don’t be afraid to do the same.

3) DO soak the peel, juice, water and muslin bag of pith mix overnight. This helps dissolve the pectin and soften the peel. Given that it takes a while to cut up all those oranges, it helps in terms of time management to be able to spread the process over 2 days.

4) DO make sure the peel is boiled until it is thoroughly softened. This may take 2 hours or even more. Tough peel is a common marmalade making fault picked up by the judges. And don’t imagine that the peel will continue to soften when the sugar is added – in fact it firms up a little at this stage.

5) DON’T be afraid to add extra water during the peel softening stage if it boils off too quickly. And you can measure whether your mixture has reduced by half by using a wooden spoon handle or chopstick calibrated with a discreet pencil mark.

6) DO squeeze your muslin bag to extract all of that vital pectin – it really won’t make your marmalade unduly cloudy.

7) DO consider warming your sugar in the oven to make sure it dissolves quickly.

8) DON”T bother with expensive big-crystal preserving sugar (no need for jam sugar with pre-added pectin either). Ordinary white granulated sugar is just fine. There was a consensus that cane sugar just had the edge on beet sugar in terms of flavour, clarity and set. You can salve your conscience about the extra food miles in cane sugar by buying the fair trade version.

9) DON”T add too much alcohol if you like a boozy marmalade as it will prevent it from setting. Keep the alcohol content down to 2% of the finished product if you want to achieve a set without boiling for too long. Dr Chung informed us that alcohol will help to clarify your marmalade and will not all be boiled away but will reduce proportionately with the rest of the liquid.

10) Don’t try and reduce the sugar content in your marmalade recipe too much. Sugar, acidity and temperature are all contributory factors to achieving a good set. Jane reckons that a 65% sugar content for marmalade is about right and counsels not taking the percentage below 59%. In fact for anyone selling marmalade commercially, 56% is the minimum sugar content set by Trading Standards so go below this at your peril…

11) DO start testing for a set early on in the boiling process. Jane reckons on achieving a set with really fresh oranges early in the season after just 4-5 minutes. So start testing after 5 minutes and every 5 minutes thereafter.

12) DON’T overboil as a rubber set is not good! Jane removed her pan from the heat during the testing process and spent quite a bit of time testing for a set, waiting for the marmalade to go cold before pushing the surface of the gel with a clean finger to test for that all important wrinkling. Experienced marmalade makers can simply lift the spoon from the pan and if the liquid falls in thick droplets “flakes” from the spoon, they can tell at a glance that it’s ready.

13) DON”T wait too long before potting if you want your marmalade to keep well and not go mouldy. Waiting 15 minutes before potting is probably too long. We’re told to do this to make sure the peel is evenly distributed and doesn’t all rise to the top. Jane reckons that if the peel has absorbed the sugar syrup correctly it will have the same specific gravity as the surrounding liquid and won’t rise to the top even if potted when very hot. She advises potting hot, filling the jars very full, screwing on the lids straightaway and, with a hand suitably protected from the heat, gently inverting the filled jars after 10 minutes to correct any tendency in the peel to rise. Doing it this way stops bubbles forming in your marmalade too.

14) DO use new lids if you want to a win a competition – also try and fill your jars with a jam funnel so the jar top is left completely clean. And only use the wax discs if you’re covering with cellophane rather than a screw top lid – some entrants were marked down for using a redundant wax disc with a screw top lid.

All that remains is to affix a pleasing label neatly to the side of your jar, package the jar well in bubble wrap and cardboard and pop it in the post.

Best of luck for next year’s competition!

Preserving pans at dawn – return to the Dalemain marmalade competition 2011

February 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Husband Tim and I decided to go head to head this year and both enter jars of marmalade into the World Marmalade Awards at Dalemain in Cumbria. Tim achieved modest success last year and achieving 16 marks out of a possible 20 and hoped to up his game. Risking marital tension but unable to resist the challenge I decided to take him on and enter a jar of my own.

This was perhaps a little rash as I am practically a novice at marmalade making having only made one batch before. I was inspired by a slightly different recipe for marmalade which accompanied our Riverford organic fruit and veg box in mid January this year. This was accompanied by a little video clip of hunky Guy Watson, proprietor of the Riverford business nonchalantly cutting peel to make his version of marmalade. The differences are that the peel is removed from the orange using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler before shredding, resulting in delicate shreds rather than chunks, also there is markedly less sugar in his recipe. I thought that this less sweet marmalade might play well with the judges.

We decided to visit the Marmalade Awards in person as they take place up the road in Cumbria so it was the perfect excuse for a weekend away. We arrived early, parking on the sweeping lawns which front this rather lovely stately home. On into the courtyard to pay our entrance fee then with bated breath we entered the main house searching for our jars amongst the thousand plus entries…

I was surprised and delighted to discover my jar (Thin cut Seville category) with a silver award and 18 marks out of a possible 20…

But poor Tim (Man Made Seville category) was robbed with just 14 marks…

Still basking in my triumph a week later but hope I haven’t upset Tim too much.

It was a really fun day out and I was surprised to find both my sons enthralled by the marmalade making demo given by the very knowledgeable Jane Maggs who makes artisanal preserves under the name “Wild and Fruitful”:

The range and inventiveness of commercial marmalades on display was an eye-opener too. Clearly I wasn’t the only one attracted to this “Breakfast Mojito” marmalade made with limes, muddled mint and a healthy dash of white rum:

I can see that the Marmalade Awards are going to become an annual event in our household from now on with even younger son Arthur keen to enter a jar of his own next year.

My next post will be on the new recipe I used this year, annotated with top tips picked up from the demo plus ideas on how to pick up those extra marks from the demanding Women’s Institute judges.

Dalemain marmalade competition 2010

February 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

We wait with bated breath this morning for the results of this year’s “Grand Prix of Marmalade” held at Dalemain, a country house and estate near Penrith in Cumbria.

http://www.marmaladefestival.com/competition.html

Marmalade is a man-thing in our household.  Much as I enjoy marmalade, it’s my husband Tim and our two sons who insist on its presence at the breakfast table.  It’s become part of our annual ritual that Tim tracks down Seville oranges every January, painstakingly shreds the tough peel and produces 6 or so gleaming jars of marmalade that generally last us through until August.  Then it’s back to the Tiptree or Frank Cooper’s to get us through the rest of th year.

We discovered the Dalemain marmalade festival during a tour of the house and gardens during the summer.  It seemed entirely natural that the right category to enter would be the “man-made” one (name self-explanatory).

Here is Tim carefully scraping pulp and pips from the juiced Seville oranges into a piece of muslin.  These are a rich source of pectin and will give the marmalade the right set.

Here are the prepared oranges ready for the first boiling stage. This fills the house with delicious orange aromas brightening up the depths of winter. You can see the little muslin bag containing pips and pith tied to the preserving pan handle.

Here is the selected jar ready for despatch to Dalemain:

I must say the marmalade was very good this year, the aromatic and with just about the perfect set – not too runny, not rubber-solid.  Tim’s fate is in the hands of those tough Women’s Institute judges now who’ll make their decision later this morning.  Let’s see what happens…

Recipe for Seville orange marmalade

This is the recipe that Tim uses for consistently reliable results.  It’s from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course.

Ingredients

2 lb (900g) Seville oranges
1 lemon
4 lb (1.8kg) preserving sugar (ie the large crystal kind, NOT the one with added pectin) or granulated sugar
4 pints (2.25 litres) water

Measure the water into the preserving pan.  Cut the oranges and lemon in half and squeeze out the juice. Add the juice to the water and place the pips and bits of pith clinging to the squeezer onto a square of muslin.

Cut the orange peel (not the lemon peel) into quarters with a sharp knife, then cut each quarter into thinnish shreds.  As you cut, add the shreds to the water and any further pips of pith to the muslin. The pips and pith contain the all-important  pectin to set the marmalade so be diligent at this stage and don’t just chuck it away.

Tie up the piece of muslin to form a little bag and tie this to the handle of the pan so that the bag is suspended in the water. Bring the liquid up to simmering point and simmer gently, uncovered, for 2 hours or so until the peel is completely soft. Test by pressing and/or biting it.

Remove the bag of pips and set aside to cool. Add the warmed sugar to the pan and stir it occasionally over a low heat until it dissolves. Increase the heat, and squeeze the bag of pips over the pan to extract as much jelly-like pectin as you can, scraping it off.  Stir to mix thoroughly.

Once the mixture reaches a fast boil, start timing. After 15 minutes test for a set by spooning a teaspoon of marmalade onto a saucer cooled in your freezer. You have the right set if, once the mixture has cooled for a minute it has a crinkly skin. If it’s not reached setting point, boil for another 5 minutes and test again. Keep doing this until setting-point is reached.  This can take some time depending on your particular batch of oranges.

Once setting-point is reached, remove the pan from the heat. Skim off any excess scum at this stage.  Leave the marmalade to settle for 20 minutes. This resting will ensure the peel is evenly distributed in the jar when you come to pot.

While you wait, warm your cleaned, rinsed and dried jars (6  1lb jars or their equivalent) in a moderate oven for 10 minutes.

Pour the marmalade with the aid of a metal jam funnel or ladle into the jars.  Top each with a waxed disc and seal with a lid immediately.  Label when cool.

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