Oranges are the only fruit

FRIENDS who have come to visit have twice recently brought pots of their own newly-made marmalade – quite the nicest present. What prat suggested marmalade was no longer a popular taste?

Shaftesbury-based chef and cookery writer Philippa Davis bought her Seville oranges when they came into the shops in January and then got busy catching up on some recent restaurant openings …

I got out and washed my eclectic mix of pots and lids to store the marmalade in once made and then….I kind of ignored them all, distracted by trotting up to London – the beautiful, tangy, tasty fruit just sat there in a bowl.

As it was code red in the cupboard (only one pot of 2015 marmalade left),* the oranges in the bowl weren’t going to get any better and I had just heard that we should be eating 10 portions of fruit and veg a day not five, it was now or never to get making this year’s marmalade. I haven’t found anyone willing to say that orange marmalade spread onto thick buttery piece of toast counts towards your recommended daily dose of fruit and veg but I also haven’t read convincing arguments to say it doesn’t (on purpose).

* So much was made in this batch that we skipped doing any in 2016.

According to recent studies at Imperial College London, we should be eating around 800g of fruit and veg a day; that’s about 10 portions, if we want them to be beneficial – beneficial translating as reducing the risk of chronic diseases (like cancer) and premature death. Have to say my non-scientific/ life-loving mind translates that as essential rather than beneficial but there we go. I was interested to read that it didn’t make a difference if they were eaten cooked or raw, as I know many people get overly anxious whether they should be steaming and not boiling vegetables or worrying if they should even cook them at all.

The study also mentioned that taking supplements did not have the same results, as you needed the whole package that eating fresh fruit and vegetables gives.  It was noted, however, that one of the factors that the study did not take into account was if the people eating more fruit and veg and suffering less from chronic diseases also made other lifestyle choices like exercising more, which probably also helps to reduce the risk.

In the spirit of better late than never and on the off-chance I am not the only one who didn’t make their marmalade in January,  here is my favourite way to do it. (And if I am the only one who came late to the party, here’s how I think you should have done it!)

This method is simple and well worth the effort of all that chopping and juicing, so you can spend the rest of the year enjoying it, and if you’re feeling generous even give it away as presents.

They are just about to go out of season so you best get your skates on! I have checked in the local grocers, Waitrose and Borough Market and they still had some boxes.

Seville Marmalade

Clearly if I was a more earnest food blogger all my pots would be stylishly the same size but I’m happy to report the house is fairly chaotic and jam jar discipline very slack so the mongrel assortment below is what we had to use.

Makes about 5 kilos or 9 jars

4 litres water
2 kilo Seville oranges
2 lemons juice and pith only
3 kilo preserving sugar

Wash the oranges, slice in half and juice, keeping all the pips in a bowl. Using a spoon, scrape the pith from each of the juiced skin halves and add to the pips.

Thinly slice (or thickly if you like thick-cut marmalade… but I disagree ) and place in a large heavy based pan. Add all the orange juice, lemon juice and the 4 litres of water. Using a muslin tie up all the pips and pith from the oranges and lemon and place in the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for about two hours or the skin has softened and liquid reduced by half.

Remove the bag, leave to cool, then squeeze out as much of the juice from the bag, with its pectin, as possible and scoop this into the pot, discard the pith / pips etc. Wash the muslin and dry for its next adventure.

Add the sugar to the pot and slowly heat until all the sugar has melted then bring up to a gentle rolling boil and cook for 15 minutes and start checking for setting point.

You know you have reached setting point when a spoonful of the marmalade placed on a cold saucer and left for four minutes forms a skin and wrinkles when you run your finger through it.

Once setting point has been reached you can pot your marmalade into clean sterilised jars and seal.

Once cool, wipe the pots and label. Keep in a cool, dark cupboard. I am not sure how long the shelf-life is of marmalade but we have happily kept and eaten ours from over two years ago.

For more of Philippa’s recipes and travels visit her blog,