Thursday, 7 March 2013

blood orange marmalade

blood orange marmalade
marmalade is a curiously british obsession. it is a preserve of much beauty with lengths of citrus peel suspended in amber tones of orange or jewel tones of green when using limes. at verde and co a line up of marmalade jars lit from behind summons a warm luminosity that is substantial enough to brighten a cold and dull winter day. at the close of the year the tidal wave of christmas and new year recipes are replaced by marmalade. they coincide with the appearance of blood and seville oranges at farmers markets and in shops. despite its inherent britishness marmalade draws its origins from the portuguese preserve ‘marmelada’ which was made with quince. the tradition goes back some two thousand years. it is to the scots that we owe marmalade as we know it now as they pioneered the switch from quince to seville oranges. by the nineteenth century british companies like robertson’s and frank cooper’s were producing marmalade commercially. frank cooper’s marmalade has a rather distinguished pedigree. it was favoured by sir edmund hilary who carried it when he scaled mount everest. the fictional james bond has it for breakfast with jersey butter.

blood oranges 
the bright sharpness of oranges always recalls snippets from my childhood. the memory of picking oranges in orchards in khanpur in pakistan is a collection of images. many pieces of the puzzle are missing except the sensation of freezing cold hands, a visual of the profusion of bright orbs against the dark green foliage, the heady citrus smell as one of the orchard keepers ran his knife along the circumference of the orange and quarters that tickled the edges of my little my mouth but that willingly released their insides. it was here that i had my first blood oranges. i will never forget the first sight of vivid streaks of maroon running into orange, nor their cold sweetness.  

the heart of a blood orange
post dinner mama would sit next to the heater with a couple of oranges and a knife. this was for maalta’s, an orange with lots of flavour and a difficult personality. mama would score the skin in quarters, pry a corner loose and then peel. that first unfurling would release the smell of citrus. we also loved kinnow’s and despite their being the easy peel kind mama retained the title of fruit peeler.   

when i was little it was mitchell’s marmalade that graced the breakfast table. it was the british who bought marmalade to the sub-continent during the time of the raj as they did to many of their colonies. baba liked rose’s lime marmalade which was bittersweet and pale green in colour. i much preferred orange marmalade. then mama started making her own out of kinnow’s, several jars of which have travelled to london. this year i decided to make my own. i started with a small batch and then made another with sevilles that was infused with gin and rosemary. there is a wealth of marmalade recipes but really there are three ways in which marmalade is made. one involves boiling the oranges until tender and then chopping or processing it, the other involves cutting the fruit and soaking overnight before cooking and the third features finely shredded peel. i used food in jars small batch blood orange marmalade recipe in which the oranges are cut and soaked overnight purely because i did not have enough time to let the oranges boil. i used almost the same amount of sugar to the weight of the oranges as blood oranges are sweeter than the traditionally used bitter sevilles. recipes tend to vary in the amounts of sugar they call for and it appears that this is what determines the set of the marmalade along with the pectin from the pith and seeds.. if you are making marmalade for the first time i would recommend reading this beautiful piece of writing on citrus preserved by corby kummer. if corby does not convince you there is no way i can.

there is something immensely calming about making marmalade. this is notwithstanding the tedium of slicing peel and the fact that this is a jam that begins the day before it can be cooked. i think it comes from inhaling the sweet and bright scent of citrus. it is like a whiff of spring in the depth of winter because although oranges are a quintessential winter fruit they hold within them the promise of warmer weather. it is in their colour and shape which is like a low and burnished sunset.

{blood orange marmalade}

five hundred grams blood oranges (roughly four or five medium sized blood oranges)
seven hundred and fifty ml water
five hundred and sixty grams caster sugar
a square of muslin
a jam thermometre of a couple of saucers
a very sharp knife
sterilised jam jars

start by washing the oranges thoroughly. then trim the top and the base and cut the orange into half. trim the core of the oranges (see the picture below). reserve these and any seeds that you find.  
half an orange, pithy core removed
then cut the orange halves into thin slices. finally cut the halves into half so that the oranges are now quartered. place the oranges in a bowl large enough to accommodate them along with seven hundred and fifty ml of water.

use the muslin to secure the pithy cores and seeds. make sure that none of the contents can escape the muslin. this bundle will be soaked with the quarters releasing pectin. pectin helps the marmalade set. tuck the bundle into the soaked oranges. cover with cling wrap and refrigerate overnight.  

the next day remove the muslin bundle from the oranges and place them in a heavy bottomed pan. add the sugar and bring the marmalade to a simmer. continue to simmer it until it has reduced by more than half and it registers one hundred and four degrees on the thermometre of passes the wrinkle test.

let it cool for five minutes before bottling. i always use discs of greaseproof paper to line the jam jar tops.


  1. saw this over instagram! looks amazing! I love that wonderful deep ruby red inside a blood orange anyway, just something about that that makes me want to dive into them. this is definitely the way to brighten a cold and dull weekday!

  2. Have to try this out someday... I love how you add a story to the recipe.. thank you for this post :)

  3. so beautifully written, M. so beautiful. love, s