Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Oranges and lemons

Something of a CitrusFest at home today. It's marmalade season, so I started preparing Seville oranges this morning. Splitting each fruit in half, squeezing the juice and reserving all the pips - many more than your usual oranges, and a great source of pectin, which makes the marmalade set - then paring the peel (taking care to slice close to the skin, as too much of the white pith would make the final product bitter). One and a half kilos of oranges later, (some prepared by beloved, who finished the job while I had some soup for lunch) I squeezed a couple of lemons, bagged up the pips and orange flesh, added two and a half litres of water and set the whole lot to stew gently for a couple of hours until the peel was tender and the kitchen full of wintry scented orangeness.

I had a load of lemons in the fridge too, so while I was waiting, thought I would have my first crack at lemon curd. This is a delicious preserve, and very simple to make - don't know why I haven't done it before. For three jars of curd I needed four lemons, four ounces (100g) of butter, four free range eggs and a pound (450g) of sugar.

Squeeze the lemons, grate the peel, put together with the other ingredients in a large heatproof bowl over barely bubbling saucepan of hot water and stir occasionally for about an hour. when it thickens (like a delicious lemony custard), strain and pot up in sterilised jars, then eat - with toast, in muffins and tarts, or however you like it - within about a month. It will keep in a cool cupboard but needs to be refrigerated once opened.

Once the curd was done, I got back to the marmalade, which by now had reduced by about a quarter. I added 2 kg of preserving sugar, stirred, tasted, then added about 1 and a half more, brought it to the boil and kept it going, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for about 40 minutes until it looked a couple of shades darker and was just about setting on spoon. I find with jam, I can use the saucer technique, where you test a teaspoon of the mix on a cold saucer and if it wrinkles when you push it with your finger it's reached setting point. Marmalade may have overcooked if I get it to that stage, so it's worth stopping sooner and having a lighter set so it doesn't go bitter and burnt tasting. Looks prettier in the jar too!

Finished abour 5 pm and felt I'd almost done a full day's work! Though this time of the year it's great to stand over a hot stove and stir up something delicious on my day off. P took over in the kitchen to make a sausage supper and then we headed out to the Jolly Coopers on Epsom Common, for live music (including our son's band) at their monthly jam night. How appropriate!