Following the craze for sourdough and banana bread during lockdown in 2020, Marmalade making became a go to activity during lockdown in the early months of this year.
The craze was timed perfectly as January and February are always Seville orange marmalade making months for me and other seasoned preservers. Lockdown provided more days to make marmalade. In my book First Preserves I mention how preparing citrus for marmalade is a restful activity, a good way to switch off from the demands of daily life. With restrictions on our lives, many of the demands disappeared, so for me, marmalade making became a mindful activity.
Demand for Seville oranges was intense this year. Waitrose reported an increase in sales of 22%. I was overjoyed to receive gifts of citrus by post from France and Spain, from my friends in Menton and Seville. Their boxes of citrus enabled me to make a range of marmalades using top quality fruit and traditional recipes.
From mid December 2020 to mid February 2021, I received three boxes of citrus from Gospa Citrus. These included Clemenule Mandarins, Star Ruby Grapefruits, Kumquats and Seville oranges. Opening these boxes reminded me of the timeless tranquility of fields of trees at Gospa Citrus; the aroma of the fruit was breath taking.
Clemenule Mandarins are seedless, harvested from early November to early February. They are a popular variety in Spain. I enjoyed eating these as well as making a Mandarin and Almond dessert. Star Ruby Grapefruits have a deep red flesh, sweet juice and few seeds. I used them to make Red Grapefruit and Cinnamon Marmalade as well as Grapefruit Marmalade. I also tried out a recipe for Grapefruit Gin.
Kumquats are a luxury in Somerset as the price in markets often prohibits me from buying them.
They take time to process, dissecting the flesh and pips from the peel. As with grapefruits and
Sevilles, the pith clears when cooked, making them attractive when presented as jars of marmalade. This year I cooked the fruit in an Instant Pot before finishing the marmalade in an open pan.
With the Seville oranges I decided to make three of my favourite recipes; Seville with Ginger, Seville with Amaretto and Seville orange. As with all good marmalades, I’ve squirrelled these away and apart from my family, only special friends will have these as gifts. With the last few Sevilles I made Candied Orange Peel using a recipe from Epicurious, with the marmalade an Almond Tart, Marmalade Amaretti and Vin d’Orange.
In early February I received a box of Bitter oranges and Lemons from Menton. Francophiles may know of the fame that follows lemons from Menton and how they and oranges are celebrated each year at the Lemon Festival in Menton.
I have been fortunate to visit the festival twice and hope to go again soon.The Bitter oranges are similar to Seville oranges and when cooked have a vibrant colour and a fresh orange flavour. Using my Seville orange recipe, I made batches of marmalade. The majority of the jars were donated to Horatio Garden’s Summer event in June at Longford Castle. I enjoyed talking about the provenance of the oranges to customers during the afternoon event. Like many charities, Horatio’s Garden was hit hard by COVID and I was pleased to support their fundraising efforts.
The lemons and oranges also inspired me to make a Lemon Jelly Marmalade and Bitter orange Curd. My friend in France suggested sending citrus to me every year and extended an invitation to my friends to pick fruit from her orchard as she has more than she needs. A generous offer, I am sure I’ll take up in future. As the new citrus season beckons, I think back to earlier this year remembering how special those deliveries of citrus were and how much enjoyment they gave to me and those who ate the bakes and preserves.