Here at Oysters and Champagne HQ, things have changed for a while. I am a bit incapacitated having had both knees operated upon last week, and so it falls to himself to be in charge, be chief cook and bottle washer and the whole kit and caboodle. And boy has he stepped up to the plate. Rather stupidly I had ordered through Crowd Farming, Kumquats, Tangerines, Avocados and olive oil, the first three duly arrived during my stay in hospital, with me getting urgent messages from himself, What do I do with these !

Never Fear, He is now the master of Marmalade. It had been said that Mary Queen of Scots was unwell, in France. To try and make her better, servants brought her some Marmalade, but all she heard was (” Ma’am est Malade “) Madam is ill but apart from anything else, it means we can always remember how to spell Marmalade correctly. The story although cute is probably incorrect as Marmalade came to the UK via Portugal, and as a quince paste. It is only in the UK that Citrus fruit Jams are called Marmalade, elsewhere they tend to be a generic JAM or Jelly in the USA. In fact my friend in Texas asked, What did he make it with !

So, my first day I at home I sat in the kitchen giving instruction. Basically equal amounts of Fruit, sugar and water, a good strong large pan, a large wooden spoon for stirring, and a jam thermometer and don’t forget you also need jars for the finished product.

Trying to make things very easy for him, the fruit had the small stem bit removed, washed and then shredded on a food processor with a grater attachment. Our oranges were in fact Tangerines, with no-pips. The fruit, sugar and water were put in the pan, stirred and brought to the boil. Jam thermometers are not expensive and make life much easier, rather than testing for setting, sometimes putting in jars, leaving to cool overnight only to find it is not set! It is imperative that the jam mixture rises to a temperature of 105/6 Centigrade. And surprisingly, it seems to take an age from reaching boiling to reaching 105 C. The best advice is, take it slowly, a long slow boil is far better than turning up the heat to a rapid boil. If for nothing else a rapid boil could and most probably would result in the jam boiling over and making an unbelievable very hot mess AND burning on the bottom of the pan ! Neither of which is desirable.

In making jams with citrus fruit, especially Marmalade and especially when cheating by shredding, it is not necessary to use Preserving sugar as citrus fruits are rich in pectin and do not need any extra help, whereas fruits like strawberries, need all the help they can get by adding pectin in the form of Lemon Juice and preserving sugar. However, making Marmalade, extra water is needed for a longer boiling period to soften the relatively tough skin.

Jars need to be sterilised, and in the past I have used the microwave but as we now have a shiny new boiling water tap ( see he was very busy whilst I was hospitalised ) it became very easy. Remember, after filling the jars with boiling water, to drain them on a clean cloth. When the marmalade has reached the correct temperature, dry the jars with kitchen paper and place on a wooden rack or thick towel ( if boiling liquid is put into jars which are on a stone or granite work service they will crack). Seal the jars with the sterilised lids and leave to cool !

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