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!


ann said...

Your hard work sounds so delicious. How did you come by the lovely fruits? Do you grow them?

Andi's English Attic said...

I wish I could've been in your kitchen while you did all this. Sounds cosy and delicious. Of course, I would be drinking tea and chatting, not pithing. How were your hands afterwards? xx
ps I'm impressed you got help and a dinner. Only dreams as far as I'm concerned!

Scattered Gardener said...

Ann, if only I could:-) Not having a conservatory, neither oranges nor lemons thrive in this part of SW London. I get a marmalade pack (available for about another fortnight)delivered from Riverford Organics with my weekly vegbox, but friends find their Seville oranges from Sainsbury supermarket or local greengrocers. (They usually ring the Supermarket first to check when the fruit is due in).
Andi you would not be allowed to just sit, chat and drink tea without pithing. Even tho I love you dearly. How do you think I trained P to offer help? And my hands were fine thank you (lots of oil in orange peel, plus a top up of Body Shop's Hemp Hand Cream. Slightly antiseptic/herbal, very good after orangeyness all afternoon).

Esther Montgomery said...

I remember making three-fruit marmalade in the middle of one night when I happened not to be able to sleep. It was a casual but productive pass-time. I've lost my nerve. Along with other things, making marmalade now feels like a major operation to be worried about, postponed - and perhaps not tackled.


Anonymous said...

a delicious read.

Esther Montgomery said...

Dropped by to wish you a happy Easter season.