Monday, April 25, 2011

Stratton Holland's Seville Orange Marmalade

Stratton Holland makes the best Orange Marmalade I've ever tasted. It's dark, robust, full flavoured and as Stratton quips, "It's cheeky!" Making jam and marmalade is a labour of love, but like all marmalade enthusiasts, purchasing the golden elixir off the shelf just isn't an option. "You can't buy decent marmalade, so you have to make it yourself." And that's exactly what Stratton has been doing every January for over thirty years. Each winter he searches out the elusive bumpy-skinned Seville Oranges that, due to their short growing season, are only available in shops for a limited time — if you blink, they're gone! Distinct from regular oranges, the high prized wonders originated in China and India more than 3000 years ago, and were later bought to Europe by Arab traders, and established in Andalucia around Seville, hence their name. 

Knobby aromatic seville oranges

Not surprisingly, there are dedicated Marmalade enthusiasts everywhere. In fact, each February at Dalemain House in Britain's Lake District, amateur and professional marmalade lovers from around the world enter to compete in the World’s Original Marmalade Awards & Festival, where a jar of home-made marmalade is awarded 1st prize for categories such as thin cut Seville Orange Marmalade, dark & chunky or even Clergy-made Marmalade! The winner also has the honour of being stocked by Fortnum & Mason, a staunch supporter and sponsor of the awards. This year over 1,100 jars were judged from submissions as far as Japan, Australia and the British Virgin Islands, with the 2011 'Best of Show' award for the citrusy confection going to Lord Henley, using a traditional orange recipe of his mothers.

The closing dates for next year's submissions for the World's Best Marmalade is February 19 and I'm hoping that Stratton decides to enter his famous Seville Orange Marmalade for 2012, and give Lord Henley a run for his title!

Stratton's famous homemade Seville Orange Marmalade

Stratton's Famous Seville Orange Marmalade
Makes about 6 pots

3 lb seville oranges
2 lemons
2 pints water
3 lb sugar

1 piece of cheesecloth, about 18" round
Large heavy bottomed saucepan
10 canning jars

In a large pot of boiling water, soften oranges for 10 minutes and lemons for 15 minutes. Remove the fruit, retaining 2 pints of the water for the recipe.

Cut the oranges and lemons in halves, and juice them one by one, adding the juice to the 2 pints of water. As you juice the oranges and lemons, save the pips and put them aside in a separate cheesecloth-lined bowl. The seeds and membrane will be used for making pectin.

Using a sharp knife, slice the orange and lemon halves into thin strips, paring off all of the pith, and add this pith to the bowl of pips. Place the orange and lemon peel strips in a blender with a little water, and process to desired consistency. The smaller the pieces, the finer the marmalade.

Put the ground peel and reserved water in a large thick-bottomed saucepan. Remove the cheesecloth, with all of the pith and pips, and tie it up tightly with string. Place the bag in the saucepan and secure the string to one of the handles. As the mixture cooks, the pectin from the pith and pips will be extracted into the marmalade.

Heat the mixture. Add the sugar and stirring slowly, bring to a boil. Then simmer until it sets, about 2 1/2 hours, during which time the marmalade will reduce and the flavours will intensify. To test that the marmalade is set, pour a little bit onto a chilled plate and if it wrinkles up, it's done. If it doesn't, continue cooking until it's ready.

Once the marmalade is set, let the mixture cool slightly then remove the cheesecloth bag and squeeze it repeatedly to release all of the pectin-rich liquid, and add to the orange marmalade.

To store the marmalade, ladle the mixture into sterilized jam jars. Enjoy!