My Favourite Earl Grey Orange Marmalade with Ginger (GF, V)
Marmalade probably isn't something that children like in general and I found it odd that a children’s book character like Paddington Bear favoured Marmalade sandwiches. Then I found out recently, that Paddington Bear was something which was written almost accidentally and the author apparently never really wrote for children in particular! So that explains that.
Now I’m a lot like Paddington Bear in one thing and that’s my love for Marmalade, and it’s a preference I've had right from my teens. I must point out though, that my particular preference is for Orange Marmalade and that I don’t have quite the same fondness for the other varieties of it. I don’t know of anything that tastes quite the same as slightly runny Orange Marmalade on warm and crunchy buttered toast.
I don't know that I could tell what it is about Marmalade that makes it so special to me – maybe it’s that it’s not as sweet as jams and preserves in general, or the slight bitterness. Perhaps it’s that Marmalade embodies what I love about oranges – their citrusy fragrance and taste or their beautiful sunshine-y golden orange colour.
Funnily enough, my father was the only person in my family who shared this love of mine for Marmalade. Not that I complained because it meant that there was always more for me! One question that always puzzled me for a long time was why a jam made out of oranges or lemons or other citrus fruits was a Marmalade where as other fruits were made into jams or preserves. Why not a lemon jam or an orange preserve?
It turns out that we can blame this to some extent on the English or by some extension on the Portuguese. Apparently, the name “Marmalade” comes from a corruption of “Marmalada” a Portuguese word for quince paste. The Portuguese call the quince “Marmelo”. In the good old days, this Marmelo was imported into Britain and the British started making their own Marmalade only much later. It seems that the earliest Marmalades weren't jam-like but flavoured with rose water and musk, cut into squares and packed in round wooden boxes!
Marmalade can come in so many varieties – dark or golden and glistening, quite bitter or all the way to quite sweet, almost syrupy in consistency or set and paste-like, with fine shreds of peel or chunky bits, with or without spices (I've seen chamomile and vanilla in marmalade)– and all this would be acceptable as Marmalade.
There are also different methods of making Marmalade including the old fashioned method where the oranges are boiled whole first. I even came across one method which involved slicing up the oranges and cooking them in sugar to make extra chunky Marmalade.
As I understand it, the bitter and dimpled variety of oranges called Seville oranges are the fruit of choice for making marmalade because of their high level of pectin. While it’s not always possible to use the said variety of oranges, other oranges (and types of citrus) make equally good Marmalade. You need slightly thick skinned oranges for the peel while thin skinned oranges are good for their juice only.
I make preserves and jams on and off throughout the year depending on which fruit is in seasons but for some reason it never struck me to make my own Marmalade till now. I have enough reasons to do so, that for sure. For one we get really good oranges in India, and for another the store bought Marmalade (even the non-mass produced locally made ones) is way too sweet for my liking and making Marmalade at home is easy enough and no rocket science.
This Marmalade of mine is flavoured with Earl Grey tea and has no spices additions other than enough ginger to give it a bit of warmth without an overly ginger flavour. The Earl Grey tea should be fairly strong and fragrant otherwise the flavour will not come through in the Marmalade. If you refer a plain Marmalade then use water instead of the tea to cook the Marmalade.
- Wash and dry the oranges. Using a zester or a grater, zest or finely grate the skin of 3 oranges. Using a potato peeler, peel the skin off 2 of the oranges and using a knife, finely shred the peel. You may cut them into thicker slices if you like chunky pieces of peel in your marmalade. Also use the smallest holes on the grater and grate the ginger.
- Line a large pot with muslin cloth such that the edges of the muslin hang over the side. Now cut all the oranges and squeeze out the juice into the muslin lined pot. The muslin will catch the pips. Once all the oranges have been squeezed, put them also into the muslin and tie them all up in the muslin cloth into a pouch/ bag and keep aside.
- Add the 3 cups of water to the juice in the pot and add the shredded peel, the zest and the grated ginger as well. Put the muslin bag also into the pot pushing it into the liquid. Bring the liquid to boil, and then turn down the heat and let it simmer so that the peel is cooked, soft and translucent. This should take about 40 minutes to a little over an hour approximately and longer if the peel is cut thicker.
- Take the pot off the heat. Now carefully lift out the muslin bag and keep it on a plate until it has cooled enough to handle comfortably. Squeeze out all the liquid from the bag back into the pot and discard the contents of the bag.
- Now add the sugar, the salt and the butter (if using) to the pot and put it back on the stove. Bring the marmalade to a rolling boil (the marmalade will look like it’s “rolling” at the edges) and let it boil for about 10 to 15 minutes. If you haven’t used butter you will find froth forming on the top. This froth will make your marmalade cloudy if left in, so skim it off if you want clear marmalade.
- The marmalade should start to thicken. Use the ‘wrinkle’ test to confirm if it has thickened enough. Take a little of the marmalade and put it on a cold plate. Leave it for a couple of minutes. If a thick skin forms and “wrinkles” when you move a finger through it, then it’s ready. Otherwise cook it a little longer.
- Let the marmalade cool and then transfer it to sterilized jars and store. This recipe makes one medium sized jar of Orange Marmalade.