Sunday, 15 February 2009

Lady Marmalade

No, I'm not prancing around the kitchen, swinging on a pole in a dance to the famous song 'Lady Marmalade.' Although I haven't vacated the kitchen for more than a minute all this morning. I am making marmalade and am watching it like a hawk as it bubbles away on the stove, filling the house with the scent of bitter orange. This is because last year, I had a MARMALADE DISASTER and am determined not to repeat the disaster this year.

I'd never made marmalade or jam of any kind until a couple of years ago. I remember watching my Gran as she made all her own preserves and, in the year we acquired the allotment and started getting heavily involved with all things Hugh F-W, I decided then it was high time to purchase a preserving pan and follow in my gran's footsteps. (My gran also made her own brawn and I would often find a pig's head lying glassy-eyed on the draining board in her outhouse awaiting whatever attention it required to be magicked into something edible - but panic ye not, Andy. I think I'm along way from playing with pig's heads just yet.)

So I got me a preserving pan and other jam accoutrements and had a go at making marmalade. Simple! I couldn't believe it was so easy. It was very well received by the marmalade eating community in the house (i.e Andy) and I thought, I'll make some more next year. So last year I repeated the process, only this time I was blase about the whole process and wandered off at one point to do heaven knows what instead of paying attention to my creation with my wooden spoon. Andy, upstairs in his study, called out in the nicest possible way (remember I was still teaching at this point and had a tendency towards tetchiness) 'Is the marmalade supposed to be smelling like that?' Of course, it wasn't. It was simultaneously burning and welding itself to the bottom of my preserving pan...

...and three weeks later I was still trying to clean the bottom of the pan and didn't even have a blob of marmalade for my toast to ease the annoyance!

So this year I am here, watching it carefully. I have even gone as far as cutting all the oranges up by hand instead of forcing them through my blender. It's been a labour of love, the making of the marmalade this year. The 2 hour simmer is almost done. I am listening to Radio 4's 'The Food Programme' whilst I wait. They are talking about cheese-making and I'm thinking 'Hmmmm, I could give that a go.' Apparently, the trick is in the temperature and humidity. I wouldn't make blue cheese, though. I am very much of the opinion that you shouldn't eat anything that has mould growing in it and tastes like washing up liquid.

And I'm hoping that the rhubarb at the allotment will be plentiful this year. It will be in its third season and will be well-established and plentiful which is good as I want to try a rhubarb and ginger jam. It's starting to appear above the ground. I could sling a bucket over it and force it, but I don't think any fruit or veg should be forced to do anything it doesn't want to before its time. The last thing I want is narky rhubarb.

And now I must go. The jam jars are ready to go in the oven to be sterilised, the sugar is ready to be added to the oranges teaspoon by teaspoon full for the next stage and my juices have reduced by half. The pan needs my full attention. You're on your own now...

2 comments:

Andy said...

The marmalade in year one was absolutely delicious! In year two, I think I probably should have raised the alarm when I started to smell burning, but instead I waited a little bit too long because I didn't want to cause any offence. I'm also cautious of raising the subject of courgette jam, which tasted delicious, but was slightly on the runny side. This year, so far, the marmalade smells lovely!

Denise said...

The courgette jam was VERY experimental. Please do not mention the courgette jam. On the 'MARMALADE 2009' front - we have lift off!!!

Now all I need to do is get it in the jars...