Marmalade? I’ve got whisky in my jars!


Lucky 13 jars – with and without whisky

I HAVE to do it. Although I still have jars of marmalade from previous years in the cupboards and cellar I have to make some more the moment I see Seville oranges in the shops.

And every year, although I seem to keep saying it, this seems to be earlier than the one before.

There are plenty of recipes available like this one hereĀ  so I’ll just give a few tips.

Don’t buy more than a couple of pounds at a time. One pound of fruit requires two pounds of sugar and two pints of water and that will give four or five jars. Adjust the water, more or less, if you want a thinner or thicker preserve.

Sevilles freeze well if you can’t make your marmalade immediately.

Preserving sugar is a waste of money: use granulated or caster, a brown sugar for a darker colour.

Making marmalade is rewarding but tiresome. Spread it over two days to avoid it monopolising your whole day. I normally wash, halve, reserve the juice and pips and pith separately, then shred the peel with a sharp knife. Patience is all. Then soak the shreds in the water and juice overnight to soften.


Seville oranges make the best marmalade

Remember to take the volume of juice into account when calculating the amount of water. You’ll also need the juice of at least one lemon per pound for pectin. Theoretically Sevilles don’t need it but I find they do.

Next day tie the pips and pith into a secure cheesecloth bag to dangle into the pan, then bring to the boil and simmer until the peel is soft. Only then add the sugar, after removing the pips.

Add it bit by bit to ensure all the sugar has dissolved.

Bring back to the boil, stirring every so often. The liquid will reduce somewhat until, when it reaches the correct volume at the right temperature with the right amount of pectin, thicken to become marmalade.

But very often things don’t run that smoothly.

Put three or four saucers in the freezer.

When you think it might be ready (the mixture thickens, coats the back of a spoon, starts sticking to the sides of the pan, or, irritatingly, none of this), about 15-20 minutes in, take out a saucer, scoop out a spoonful off liquid and leave it in the fridge for five minutes. meanwhile, turn off the pan.

Then check. If it wrinkles or drips slowly off the spoon it is ready. If not, try again.

Some people swear by jam thermometers but I swear at them as they always lie.

If it hasn’t set by the second saucer add the juice of half a lemon.

When it has, stir to distribute the shredded peel, allow to cool slightly and add a tot of your favourite whisky. if you want to make a jar or two of marmalade without booze, fill these first before adding the spirit.

Don’t worry about any scum. You can skim it but it usually disperses. If it doesn’t, stir in a knob of butter. If that doesn’t work scoop it into a bowl or jar for your own use. The scum will rise to the top and can be spooned off.

Beginners may find the shred slowly rises to the top of the jar. This means it hasn’t been stirred properly or was potted too soon. This generally works: invert the jars so they rise again. Then keep doing it until the little buggers give up and are more or less evenly dispersed.

Marmalade can be eaten as soon as made and keeps very well.


The orange peel, water and sugar is bubbling nicely