I once had a romantic thought that I had some ‘earth mother’ in my veins. A few years ago, when I harvested my first season of 25kgs of olives from my 3 trees, I dispelled that myth. But somehow I get that good nurturing feeling when I occasionally get the urge to make preserves.
When we visited our friend Cynthia last week she greeted us by saying, “I was about to pick some grapefruit and oranges for you!” Nothing motivates me more than picking fresh produce and a winter cannot pass by without me cooking at least one batch of marmalade!
Use fresh, seasonal fruit
When I prepared the freshly picked citrus fruits I’m not sure if it was my imagination, but the citrus aromas were mouth wateringly more intense! If you cannot pick your own, try to buy the freshest citrus possible to get the best flavours and setting.
Marmalade by definition…..
is usually made from citrus fruits and it includes strips of peel. I always thought it was very British, but it is said that it is from the Seville area of Spain! Anyway, despite its apparent heritage, it is a firm favourite at the English breakfast table. I often use marmalade in cooking …… watch this space as I have earmarked a marmalade cake to make as a dessert as soon as the opportunity arises!
It’s all about the pectin content
Citrus fruits naturally contain plenty of pectin, the component that gives jams and fruit jellies their ability to set. Some fruits such as berries contain no pectin, therefore it needs to be ‘artificially’ added. In Europe and the US you can buy ‘jam sugar’ (sugar containing a % of pectin powder or sachets of pectin powder. The sachets are another ingredient that I buy when travelling or get visiting cousins and friends to bring for me. I see Amazon sells sachets of Tate & Lyle pectin powder, but have not tried buying it online. I did once send a photo and details of the packaging to a local supermarket buyer….. but I still await a response! With every farm stall and deli selling home-made preserves in South Africa there must surely be a market for this product? …… Is there anyone listening out there???).
The ‘setting’ or gelling of a jam is dependent on 3 factors: the pectin, acid (pectin needs an acidic medium to act) and the sugar content. The lower the pectin levels the more sugar is required. If you want to reduce the sugar content of a jam you can do so if you add pectin. I rather like a slightly bitter marmalade, so I reduce the sugar by 50% and add my sachet of pectin powder.
As the pectin in citrus fruits is mostly contained in the pith (white part of the peel) and the pips, many recipes call for this to be placed in a muslin bag and submerged into the cooking jam. I find this much too much work, so my recipe is really quick and easy.
It may sound daunting, but don’t stress, I have broken the easy recipe down into 4 simple stages. You will find the details in there recipe here! Citrus Marmalade
I seldom need to buy bottles as we accumulate bottles to recycle for this purpose. I have detailed how to sterilize the bottles easily in the microwave, in the recipe.
Dress them up
Look out at stationers, craft and ‘Chinese’ shops for labels. I have a pile of paper doilies from my late Mother which I still tie onto the lids for a retro feel! Family and friends love receiving a jar of home- made goodies.