I love marmalade, I think it’s mainly due to my Mum making a massive batch of it every year, mainly for Dad to use on his toast; I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him have anything else on his toast to be honest. I’d planned to make some last year, but was a bit lax and missed all the Seville oranges. So this year, I made sure I knew when they would be in the shops and bought enough to make two batches.
The River Cottage Handbook on preserves has to methods for making marmalade, the whole fruit method and the sliced fruit method. As I’ve not made marmalade before, I thought it best if I made one batch of each, so that I could decide which was easiest and tastiest.
The first method I tried was the whole fruit one, which sees the whole oranges boiled until the rind is soft. They are then sliced up to your preferred thickness, before being boiled with the sugar until setting point is reached. I didn’t put a plate on top of the oranges when boiling them, so they were floating, rather than submerged, but it didn’t appear to affect them, as all of the rind was soft.
It felt like it took an age to chop them up though, I wasn’t expecting it to take me so long. It wasn’t that they were tough to chop up or anything, just really messy. I think it would have all gone a bit quicker, if I’d scooped out the flesh and then chopped the rind, rather than trying to do it all together.
The main issue I had with this method though, was with the boil, as even though I took it way above the required 104.5°C setting temperature, it just wouldn’t pass the crinkle test. In the end, I think I boiled for around fifty minutes before I decided that enough was enough and potted up. While it did set in the jars, it wasn’t with the stiffest set, although that’s no to say it was overly runny either.
The following weekend I decided to try the sliced fruit method, which takes considerably longer to complete. This is mainly due to the need to soak the rind in its own juices overnight. I thought that chopping the raw rind would be quite hard, but it didn’t seem to take me any longer than for the whole fruit method, although I did have to put a couple of plasters on my finger to stop it blistering.
Once they’d been sliced and soaked, they were boiled with their juices until soft, before the sugar was added. Unlike the whole fruit method, this batch had absolutely no issues passing the crinkle test, in fact the moment it hit the requisite temperature, it was pretty much ready. The set in the jars was much, much stiffer, with pretty much no wobble whatsoever.
As you can see from the photos, one batch was thick cut and the other thin cut. The colour of each batch was different too, which was pretty much all down to the type of sugar used; plain granulated in the thick cut and demerara in the thin cut. I don’t know if these differences had an impact on the ability of each batch to set or not, further experimentation is probably the only way to tell.
Personally I like my marmalade to be thick cut, but also strongly flavoured; imagine buying an Olde English type from the supermarket. In that respect, neither batch I’ve made is really to my tastes. The thick cut, isn’t strongly flavoured enough and the colour is too light, while the thin cut has the flavour and colour, but the rind is too thin. I’m not sure which method I’ll use next year, but I do know that it’ll be thick cut and using demerara sugar, which should at least give me the flavour, colour and chunkiness that I’m after.