Of late, I've been getting more active on Facebook and have been uploading a lot of pictures of food, mainly of my daily meals. Two nights ago, what went on to Facebook was not a picture of a daily meal but of midnight madness - I attempted to make marmalade, with oranges and limes, for the first time ever and it was quite a success.
The picture was quite pale despite the oranges and limes that went into it but it attracted some attention, especially for the knotted piece of cloth that was in the dish. A couple of friends asked me why and I was very relieved I knew the answer - I had done some research before getting bored and confused and didn't do anything crazy like I do when I'm eager to get on with it and not have to delve into a whole lot of learning. But then I've been called the Queen of All Things Shallow (for joking that I'd rather have a good figure than good health) so you see why I am not so inclined ...
But I digress. My marmaladic venture has its genesis in a recent conversation with my uncle who was complaining about not being able to feel the peel in most marmalades. I threw the words 'thick-cut' and 'macerated' at him and as I was saying them, I felt like I had to finally make it. I had always been fascinated by the idea of making marmalade, easily my most favourite preserve, by the idea of soaking oranges in water overnight, ever since I read the recipe, but never did anything about it because I didn't like the idea of making anything using so much sugar - I mean, eating it on a croissant or a piece of toast at a breakfast buffet at a nice hotel is one thing, but keeping it in your fridge everyday and eating it just because it's there? Nah ...
As you can see, I capitulated.
I went through several recipes which had several instructions on how to remove the pith and tie it up in a muslin bag with the pips and etc, etc, etc. I was in a hurry (it was close to midnight, I had already dithered for two days), I was tired and I didn't want to do any complicated operations. I finally came across David Lebovitz's recipe for Seville Orange Marmalade. He made it with six Seville oranges and one navel orange. I used four Nagpur oranges and three rather big organic limes but didn't make any adjustments to the rest of the recipe. The Scotch is optional so I didn't bother with that either, we don't stock any. He sometimes uses the overnight method, I did. The recipes with overnight steeping of raw oranges entailed a lot of work the following morning, which I wasn't inclined to do, so I went with this.
I didn't really cut the pieces in any aesthetic manner, the limes were tough to cut and to my surprise, were totally seedless. The oranges didn't have fat pips either, they only had pipsqueaks of pips, pardon the bad pun. But I collected them for whatever they were worth, and they were worth the effort. Reading all those recipes had taught me that the pips were the most important ingredient to help the jam set - they contain pectin, the gelling agent.
That piece of cloth there was the only thing I had close to a muslin bag or a piece of muslin - I put all the pips in it, tied it up nice and tight and put it into the vessel.
After boiling it and leaving it overnight as per the recipe, I brought it to a boil again. I don't have a candy thermometer but kept stirring very frequently the next day while it was boiling, and after one hour, removed the cloth. Then after about 45 minutes, I did the has-it-set test. I passed, but I wanted to be sure and boiled it a little more because I thought it was too liquid even then. Maybe I was right, or maybe not - I ended up with a nice, thick marmalade which is not runny. This morning I had it on a piece of shallow-fried bread, it spread
A note: Towards the last 30 minutes, there was much foam in the marmalade when it was on the fire. Some more Internet searching and I learnt that a tablespoon of butter helps get rid of it. I did add the butter but it didn't seem to have any effect. I finally skimmed off the foam.
Beware of sensitive teeth - at one point when I looked into the vessel, just the steam made my teeth tingle!