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D.I.Y. Marmalade
July 2, 2017, 1:51 pm

Marmalade generally refers to a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits boiled with sugar and water. But the alchemy that goes on in your maslin pan is a result of many variables that must be understood if you want to produce those pots of amber nectar. Here are some rules for making the perfect marmalade.

Know your fruit: When picking fruits for marmalade, pick those which have sharp, bitter juice as this marries with the sugar to make a perfectly balanced, sweet but pleasantly bitter preserve, filled with fresh fruit flavor. If you opt for orange, then lightly scrub the skins under running water before use. If are not an orange fan, you can also opt for other citrus fruits such as grapefruits, lemons and limes.

Go slow: Marmalade is a classic, slow-food experience so take time over every step of the recipe. .
Get everything ready: A maslin pan is a must. Its heavy bottom dissipates heat for an even boil, and the wide, deep sides ensure an efficient and even evaporation as well as preventing too many hot splutters of boiling preserve. 
Muslin squares are needed for most marmalade recipes to gather the pectin-rich pips and peel into a pouch. Tie with kitchen string or a thick rubber band.

A sugar thermometer is very useful for amateur marmalade makers.  Use jars with tight fitting lids. The most important thing is to sterilize and pot the marmalade correctly. A wide-necked funnel is not essential, but it is useful for reducing mess when potting.
Understand pectin: Pectin is the glue that sets marmalades and jams to a glossy gel. Different types of fruit contain varying levels of naturally occurring pectin. Certain fruits, such as Seville oranges, are rich in pectin and that is why when using those, collect the pips and pith in a muslin pouch to simmer with the chopped peel before adding the sugar. The long simmer releases the pectin into the liquid and is usually followed by a good squeeze of the muslin pouch to ensure every last bit has made it into your marmalade to make it set. 


Perfect that peel: Thin, medium or thick-cut peel is really a matter of preference but, whatever you choose, stick with it. ‘Best’ marmalade should be filled with perfectly uniform shreds, and these take time to slice. The peel also needs to be very soft before pouring in the sugar as it will not soften any more after the sugar is added. This is why some recipes require an overnight soak.

Choose the right sugar: It is sugar that preserves marmalade, and with such a large proportion of it in your preserve, it is a good idea to understand which to choose.

Granulated is the go-to sugar for marmalade making. Its larger crystals will dissolve quickly and cleanly, making a clear, amber liquid that best displays your perfectly suspended peel. White granulated and the unrefined golden granulated taste quite different to each other, and it is worth experimenting. White granulated makes a brighter marmalade, whereas golden creates a darker preserve and adds delicious, caramel tones.

Dark brown sugars and treacle add depth and darkness to make moody marmalades. They should be added only if the recipe calls for them or when you are really confident at creating your own recipe.

Preserving sugar has even larger crystals than granulated for a slower dissolve, so lessens the need to stir and skim. It also creates less froth for a clearer preserve. 

Jam sugar contains added pectin which means you may need to use this in marmalade made with juicing oranges to boost pectin and aid setting.

Some recipes ask you to heat the sugar in a low oven before adding it to the pan. This stops the temperature in the pan from decreasing when the sugar is added and, consequently, reduces cooking time, which is preferable.

All the sugar crystals must be dissolved before you turn up the temperature and boil for setting point. This may take 20 minutes or more.

Timings are key: Some recipes call for you to soak the peel overnight before cooking. This means it will take less time to soften in cooking. Shorter cooking will result in a brighter, fruit flavored marmalade. Longer cooking makes for a mean and moody marmalade.
Sterilize: Before adding your marmalade to the jars, make sure you have sterilized them to prevent any unwanted surprises. Wash jars, lids and rubber jar rings in hot soapy water. Rinse, then transfer just the jars and lids to a roasting tin and heat in an oven preheated to 140 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Celsius fan) gas 1, for 20 minutes. Keep all marmalade-making utensils that are going to come in contact with your nectar in a large pan or stock pot covered in water on a low boil. Dip metal tongs into the boiling water to sterilize these as well before lifting utensils out, allowing them to cool in the air briefly before using.

Test for setting point: Once the sugar has melted and the syrup is clear, increase the temperature to a ‘rolling boil’, where the mixture will bubble vigorously all over the pan. On boiling, the pectin, sugar and acidic fruit will work together to make the marmalade set. There are three ways to test for setting point:

The wrinkle test – Put some saucers in the freezer to chill for this test. After the marmalade has been on a rolling boil for 15 minutes, remove it from heat and spoon a little on to a cold saucer. Leave for a minute to cool, then push your finger through the mixture – the marmalade’s surface will wrinkle if it is set. If it is not, re-boil for another five minutes, then repeat the test.

The flake test - Dip a wooden spoon into the marmalade, hold above the pan and rotate a few times. A set marmalade will drop from the spoon in a flake of drips.

The failsafe test - Using a sugar thermometer, which can be safely clamped on to the side of your maslin pan, is a great option for amateurs. The temperature needed for the setting point is 104.5 degrees Celsius.

Pot perfectly: The jam needs to settle and thicken slightly for 15 minutes in the pan so the peel will be suspended throughout the marmalade. If you pot while it is hot, the peel will float to the top of the jars.

Keep jars in their roasting tin from the oven while filling them with a sterilized ladle.

Fill as full as possible for the least amount of ‘head space’, where air in contact with your marmalade might lead to contamination.

If your jars have tight-fitting lids there is no need for wax discs, if not, then before screwing on the lid, add wax discs, shiny side down, to the surface of the marmalade to create a seal. Screw on the lid while hot.

Give jars a final screw once cool and clean off any stickiness with a hot, wet cloth.


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