Now I know that we are only a fortnight away from the big day, and we all say how busy we are but, IMHO, it’s when things get really busy that we can always squeeze in one extra little bit of fun.
Which is why this week I made a batch of marmalade, and I thought that as well as giving you the recipe, you may like to see how you can fit making this delicious treat into your already hectic routine, and even dress the pots up to give as a few little hostess gifts during the holiday period.
First of all you’re going to be out shopping some time this week, so remember to buy: a couple of organic grapefruit, four organic lemons and four organic oranges. The organic bit I insist upon, because the best bit about marmalade are the chunks of fruit with their skin, and really, we do not want to eat fruit that has been sprayed with nasty chemicals!
And while you are buying the fruit, remember to pick up a big bag of sugar too. 6 lb should do it.
In the evening, while you are chatting to your husband/children/best friend/yourself, and as your evening meal is cooking, just grab a chopping board and the fruit that you have washed. Slice all the fruit into small pieces (keep the pips or seeds to one side) and drop them into a big saucepan or preserving pan, measuring the fruit into a bowl as you go, because you’ll need to add three times as much water as fruit to the pan. Tie the pips/seeds into a muslin and hang them from the handle of the pot so they are dangling in the water and fruit. Cover with a lid or a big sheet of tin foil.
Now you can have your dinner and you don’t have to worry about the fruit until the next day.
Next day, late afternoon, set the pot to heat. You don’t have to stand beside it and watch it come to the boil, or stir, just bring it to the boil then let it simmer away for two hours. You’d like this to happen about three hours before your supper.
This is the moment when you will thank me for suggesting you make marmalade, because your whole house will smell divine! Cooking citrus fruit really does smell like Christmas!
Next step, retrieve the muslin bag with the pips then weigh how much fruit and liquid there is in your pot. I use a second saucepan and a big bowl for this. Return the fruit to your preserving pan with the its own weight in sugar. Heat gently until all the sugar has dissolved then turn up the heat and boil rapidly until set.
The ideal is to have a couple of saucers in your fridge or freezer, and when you think it is nearly sets, drop a spoonful onto the cold saucer and push gently with your finger. If the surface of the marmalade ‘crinkles’ slightly then you are done!
Turn off the heat, sit down and enjoy your dinner, all the time feeling like a saint because you have actually made enough totally delicious marmalade to keep you, your family and a couple of friends happy for a while to come.
The marmalade will cool a little while you eat, and when you are ready you can simply ladle it into your clean (preferably warm) jam jars. My trick for having the jam jars and lids squeaky clean and warm is to pop them into the dishwasher while the jam is cooking. The end of the cycle should pretty much coincide with the marmalade being ready.
Make sure all the lids are perfectly dry then simply place one on top of each full jam jar. Let them cool over night, and the next morning while your tea or coffee is brewing simply tighten the lids, stick on some pretty labels, and store in a cool dry place until required.