Seville orange and Calvados marmalade
This month’s sugar high Friday theme is preserves. I’m not really much of a jam girl, but I do love a good marmalade. Seville oranges are the best for marmalade because of their bitterness and now (in the southern hemisphere) is the best time to make it because the levels of pectin – the substance that makes jam set – in the fruit are at their highest. Bitter oranges were bought to Spain by the Arabs and their cultivation in Spain has led to the common name of Seville oranges. A highly perfumed tree when in blossom, its other uses include the production of orange flower water and as the base for liqueurs like Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Curacao and Triple Sec. The zest also contains a substance that acts as an appetite suppressant.
I can never resist putting a splash of something into jams or preserves just to zhuush up the taste. Calvados is a French apple brandy that became a firm favourite of mine when I worked at a restaurant that specialised in food from Normandy, which is where they make calvados. So I guess with this recipe I’m … uh … comparing apples with oranges and showing it really can work.
This recipe produces a fine rather than chunky marmalade as the only fruit that’s in it are the finely sliced slivers of zest. The rest of the fruit is important in the cooking process to extract the pectin from the pips and pulp to allow the marmalade to set. The yield is about 1-1 ½ litres.
1.5 kg Seville oranges (about 8)
1.5 – 2 litres water, to cover the zest and muslin bag
Sugar (see recipe for amount) about 1 kg
1/3 cup calvados
Remove the outer skin (zest) from the oranges with a peeler and slice it into thin (julienne) strips. Juice the oranges and chop the pith that’s left and put the orange pips and pith into muslin cloth and tie it tightly. In a non reactive pan place the muslin bag, julienned zest and juice with the water and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and let it bloop away gently for an hour or 90 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by a third and the zest is tender. Allow to cool completely, overnight if you like, then squeeze out the muslin hard into the liquid and extract as much juice out of it as you can. Throw away the muslin and its contents.
Measure the remains of your pan in cups/mls and add the equivalent volume amount of sugar. For instance, if you have one litre of liquid left add a one litre volume of sugar. Place over the heat and stir until dissolved then boil fairly rapidly – a rolling boil – for 15 – 20 minutes or until the marmalade reaches setting point. To test for setting point place a saucer in the freezer for a few minutes then take it out and put a blob of marmalade onto it. Leave it for a minute and push it with the tip of your finger. It should have a wrinkled skin that’s formed on top. The pectin levels of this fruit are so high it should be pretty easy to reach setting point. Add the calvados and decant into sterilised jars.
This is a beautifully bitter marmalade with a fine texture and lingering flavour. I love it on plain buttered sourdough toast with a cup of black unsweetened Earl Grey tea.