This week I’ve taken on a new preserving interest: marmalade! What brought this on was not the imminent end of Seville Orange season, but rather the discovery of a new fruit: the Bergamot orange!
The Organic Farm Shop in Cirencester has been stocking Bergamots the last few weeks. I’d never seen or heard of them before, but on a recent visit to the shop, while waiting in the check-out line with my shopping, I heard the woman in front of me talking excitedly about the contents of her brown paper bag: “I’ve heard of people using them in gin and tonics, but I think they’ll make an excellent hot tea!”
Naturally, the mention of “gin and tonic” got my attention, so I asked her what she was talking about and she kindly revealed the contents of her bag – a bundle of little “Bergamots”, something I’d never seen before. So I decided to get a few and find out what the fuss was all about. Indeed they do make great tea, and are wonderful juiced in smoothies (I surprisingly haven’t tried the gin and tonics yet).
Knowing that my access to Bergamots (and organic ones at that!) would be short lived, I wanted to do something to preserve the bounty. My friend Kavey picked some up last weekend and preserved them in syrup following her same recipe for candied clementines. I decided to use the opportunity to finally have a go at making marmalade, one of my favourite preserves and something I find far more versatile than jams (case in point: buckwheat crepes with marmalade and toasted flaked almonds – superb!).
I read up on marmalade and was immediately intimidated by the numerous steps involved. Peeling, blanching, soaking, slicing, boiling, de-seeding and wrapping things in muslin. Different people seem to have different methods, and as I read, my brain became a fog, so much so that I could no longer differentiate between pith, pulp and peel.
Fortunately I found a couple of recipes that helped simplify it all for me.
First was David Lebovitz’s Bergamot Marmalade recipe which I followed almost exactly. I was about 100g short of sugar which meant it took longer to set but the result was still freakin’ delicious and achieved my hopes of encapsulating that Bergamot goodness in a long-lasting form. Since making this, I’m finding as many excuses as possible to use it. Turns out marmalade is an excellent addition to Chinese stir-fry. (See what I mean about marmalade’s versatility?)
I was so excited by the success of my Bergamot marmalade that I decided to do it all over again with grapefruit and lemons. I had a hunch that grapefruit would require some special treatment, being so thick-skinned and pithy, so I went back to my marmalade recipe research and found Pam Corbin’s whole fruit method for making marmalade in The River Cottage Preserves Handbook (the recipe uses Seville oranges but you can adapt it for other fruits). The recipe involves boiling the whole fruit to soften the skin, then halving and de-seeding the fruit before slicing it into strips. Again, for this marmalade newbie, I appreciated finding a recipe that was crystal clear about every step (and didn’t require me tying anything in muslin).
(I know I’m being a whiney pants about the muslin thing and I’m sure if I saw someone do it I’d feel silly for ever being so intimidated. But at the same time, this marmalade making is unfamiliar territory to me, and the more a recipe requires me to do additional Google research to follow it, the less likely I am to actually make the recipe!)
While the grapefruit marmalade was boiling away, I gave it a taste and thought it was a little TOO bitter. Some sort of divine intervention from the marmalade gods took over (or was it subconscious remembrance of the Hawkshead relish company) and I decided to add some ginger. Marmalade transformed!
Some other marmalades I’d like to try:
- Gloria’s Blood Orange and Pink Rhubarb Marmalade [laundryetc.co.uk]
- Rachel’s Seville Orange Marmalade [racheldemuth.co.uk]
- Grapefruit and Elderflower Marmalade [thekitchn.com]
- Blood Orange and Campari Marmalade [bonappetit.com]
- Blood Orange and Vanilla Marmalade [sbs.com.au]