Thursday, 24 January 2013

Mastering Marmalade - or how to handle failure

Seville orange marmalade

My record with marmalade leaves a lot to be desired.  I can make jam, but somehow the knack for a perfectly set marmalade eludes me.  Yes, I know I could have added more sugar or a commercial pectin to the fruit to guarantee a set, but where's the challenge in that, and at what cost to taste and texture.  This year I did manage to produce a batch of Seville orange marmalade that tastes fantastic, has fabulous clarity and colour and .... oh, dear.

I spent three days steeping and simmering; steeping and boiling; checking temperature - with two different thermometers; and, smugly, bottling.  Jars filled and sealed, I noticed a nice crinkle in the residue coating the preserve pan. Oh, I was so confident but, you guessed it, as it cooled I realised it was so runny I could drink it!  The beautifully set film coating the pan was, in retrospect, probably thanks to residual heat.  Truth is I chickened out a degree too soon, didn't bother with a crinkle test, and paid the price.  If it happens to you, don't despair.  After 10 days, mine has miraculously thickened - a bit.  Everyone assures me they're quite happy chasing it around a slice of toast, but it's not going to win any prizes.  If you have managed to produce a great batch of marmalade, why not enter it into the annual Dalemain Marmalade Awards

As the Seville orange season is now well under way, I thought I'd share my failure with you.  Well, I can't be the only one, and I'm not short of ideas for what to do with it.  So, just in case you too came up short in the highly competitive marmalade stakes this year, here goes, and if you have any ideas you'd like to share, I'm all ears.

Spread over a baked ham before finishing in a hot oven.

Coat sausages or pork ribs in marmalade for a sticky citrus glaze.

Swirl and few spoonfuls through a cooled home-made vanilla custard before freezing for a bitter-sweet Marmalade ice-cream.  Or allow a shop-bought vanilla ice-cream to come up to perfect eating temperature and lightly mix in the marmalade just before serving.

Cut through a dish of rich, comforting, creamy rice pudding with a dollop of syrupy citrus.

Add a little to the mix for a sponge pudding, and a liberal dose to the bottom of the bowl before spooning in the sponge and steaming.

Spread liberally on buttered bread slices and you are on your way to a Marmalade Bread & Butter Pudding.

Pour the runny preserve over buttermilk pancakes.

Thanks to The Botanical Baker for the suggestion to add a couple of spoonfuls to a basic muffin recipe to add a little zing.

Replace some of the dried fruit in a fruit cake with a tablespoon or two of marmalade.

Run a few spoonfuls through a basic sponge cake recipe, bake and, while still warm, brush the top with extra marmalade.

Oh, and then, if it's very loose, you could drink it! Thank you Rosie Sykes, head chef at Fitzbillies in Cambridge, for the genius suggestion of adding a dash to a glass of Prosecco.

Next year I will master my marmalade - any tips gratefully received.  In the meantime, here's a recipe for:

Marmalade & ginger sponge pudding

Marmalade & Ginger Sponge Pudding
(Serves 4)

115g soft unsalted butter
60g muscovado sugar
2 medium eggs
115g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tbsp milk
6 tbsp loose-set marmalade

Lightly butter a 1 pint (500ml) pudding basin.  Prepare a sheet of greaseproof paper by folding a pleat and buttering.  Cut a sheet of baking foil too.
Sift the flour, baking powder and ground ginger together.
Beat the eggs together well.
Mix the softened butter and sugar together really well until pale and fluffy then add the egg gradually until it's completed amalgamated (add a tbsp of the flour mix if it starts to curdle).
Fold in the flour mixture.  Add a little milk until you have a soft dropping consistency.
Spoon the marmalade into the pudding basin and top with the sponge mixture.  Tie the buttered greaseproof paper around the basin followed by the baking foil.
Steam for 45 minutes before turning out.

Serve with cream or proper custard.