Thursday, 28 January 2010

Happy Marmalade Making Day to my dearest and only daughter

Beauty in a jewelled jar.
I am the Marmalade Queen.

Every year for 37 years and more, I make marmalade according to a Cordon Bleu recipe which has been tweaked with various "Sweetpea" variations so that every jar of every batch tastes differently by the time I eat the delicious citrus preserve. By my own fanaticism, I am obliged each January, to seek out vendors of Seville oranges to make sufficient marmalade for 52 weeks of the year, FOR ME TO EAT ON TOAST, and for gifts, if I think the person is truly worthy of such a treat. I joke! Some people though have been gifted such a jar and don't know the golden treasure in their hands!

I just want to say a very Happy Birthday to Felicity because I have an enormously fond memory of being as huge as an elephant and unable to walk, let alone stand from the chair, unless hauled up by my husband. I had refused to go to hospital all day and for several days before that, just so that they would not induce me, like they did with my son, and just so that I could get the oranges preserved into the jars! When I arrived at hospital and told the nurse (nay, the ward sister!) that I was having the baby she laughed condescendingly. Of course, a woman of my size WAS pregnant! ... But I WAS HAVING the baby...the waters broke as soon as I arrived in the toilet area and out the new one popped, like a little fish, an Aquarius...I lost more than 3 stone immediately which is why the nurses just couldn't get me warm! So Happy Birthday, my lovely one! Enjoy today's holiday! AND thank you for always wishing me a Happy BIRTH day!

Back to the treasured golden substance! Most Seville oranges are organically grown and I think they don't have wax on them. About 5 years ago I was so proud as to have organic oranges from a farm which was being articled in the Telegraph. What luck! I had bought 4 crates before I knew that. That's about 120 oranges or more! I made marmalade every day for over a week! MMMMMmmmmm! A sticky business and hands need much moisturiser afterwards.

This year I zapped two batches in the food processor and then because I felt I MUST, I hand-sliced another two batches. IT is so therapeutic to feel the sharp knife melt through the cooked skins, and for me to create long thin slices or shorter ones or to chop them finer still.
I love to tie the citrus pith and pips into the new pure white muslin cloth. Over the years it will become stained despite being washed! I love to watch the liquid boiling in the pan, changing colour and texture according to how much sugar I add. I try to go easy on the amount of sugar as I don't like marmalade to be over sweet! I don't like commercial pectin so add several lemons to the oranges. Even so, our current gas hob just does not bring the temperature up to create an excellent rolling boil, as did my gas hob at my previous home. It's an important stage in the making of the marmalade and I can't blame the maufacturer of the hob as it is first class hob for all other purposes. However, I content myself with a more runny model of marmalade than eat manufactured substitutes of a setting agent. I do add some whisky or brandy, ginger and or cinnamon and a variety of other flavourings according to my whim or plan!
That's all I'll tell you! My daughter has orders to make me the marmalade if at any point in the future I cannot make marmalade. I have to confess that for one year after a major op I was unable to lift any pan and indeed warned not to. Fortunately, I had sufficient stock to carry me through that year and I think the year afterwards when I could not locate the orange beauties in Châtellerault. BUT now a special stall sells them, as marmalade making with 'des oranges amères' has become more popular with the French.

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