Mrs. Beeton’s Family Cookery and Housekeeping Book: A Useful Guide in Households, both Large and Small (1905) has four recipes for Orange Marmalade made with Seville Oranges. They are all complicated because, as anyone who makes Seville knows, there is a lot of work involved. At the bottom of the first recipe she writes: NOTE: The best marmalade is made by Keiller, and many are of the opinion that when it can be bought so cheaply and good it is scarcely worth making it at home. (I checked and you can still buy Keiller’s Marmamalde lo these many years later). Course, you can also buy it from me.
Here is one of the recipes:
Equal weight of fine loaf sugar and Seville oranges, to 12 oranges for one pint of water. Average cost, 6d per lb.
Let there be an equal weight of loaf sugar and Seville oranges and allow the above proportion of water to every dozen oranges. Peel them carefully, remove a little of the white pith and boil the rinds in water 2 hours, changing the water three time to take off a little of the bitter taste. Break the pulp into small pieces, take out all the pips and cut the boiled rind into chips. Make syrup with the sugar and water; boil this well, skim it, and, when clear, put in the pulp and chips. Boil all together from 20 minutes to ½ hour, pour it into pots, and, when cold, cover down with bladders, or tissue-paper brushed over on both sides with the white of an egg. The juice and grated rind of 2 lemons to every dozen of oranges, added with the pulp and chips to the syrup, re a very great improvement to this marmalade.
Time: 2 hours to boil the orange-rinds; 10 minutes to boil to syrup; 20 minutes to ½ hour to boil the marmalade.
Seasonable: This should be made in March or April, as Seville oranges are then in their perfection.
About two years ago, I started to hear about the world famous but seldom seen Meyer Lemon. Mostly, my source was the Harvest Forum at iVillage*. I heard from my local fruit monger that Superstore sometimes carried them but I didn’t have any sense of when they were in season or what they looked like. Then, I went to Texas to visit my BFF. I am teaching her to do small batch jam making. She had Meyer Lemons in her fridge so we made a small amount of marmalade winging the recipe. I don’t normally recommend this but by now, after 1000 jars of marmalade plus or minus, I have some sense of what the basic drill is. In any case, those Meyer Lemons made great marmalade.
Flash forward to my visit to the Dentist (four small cavities – time to start brushing between tastings). My dentist laughingly says she should underwrite my jam business because it so clearly drives business to her. But I digress. She had seen Meyer Lemons at Superstore and made curd. Making curd is out of the question for me because I can’t stop eating it. But again I digress. I whipped over to Superstore to be told they had Meyer Lemons a week ago. I was dejected so had to buy myself a chocolate croissant. A week later, my dentist came through for me again – Meyer Lemons had been spotted at Costco. I leapt into the Mazda and headed for the store, thinking, if they don’t have them, I’ll get customer service to call around and see if there are any left at the other stores (always contingency planning am I). Long story short, a cornucopia of plenty greeted me. I put numerous boxes in my cart and then answered questions from other customers about what the hell those were and what the hell one did with them. Interestingly, these Meyers were not quite the same as those in Texas – they were larger and orange in colour.
I got home, adjusted the recipe my recipe for the volume of each clamshell of lemons and got busy slicing. Damn things are full of seeds but luckily, I had learned how to “supreme” citrus so I cut the core out of each half lemon which removed most of the seeds with it. I only cut myself 4 times. The recipe called for soaking the peel overnight, then boiling for 30 minutes before adding the sugar (if boiled in sugar solution, peel will not soften). The next morning, I leapt out of bed, turned on the stove, and added the sugar. I was well on my way to achieving a merry boil when I realized I should have boiled the peel first in the soaking water. Oh well!! There was nothing to do now but forge ahead. After all, one cannot retrieve sugar molecules once they are in solution unless one has lab equipment. Luckily, Meyers have a very soft skin and the marmalade turned out well. It was thick with loads of peel which I know my customers love. I now firmly believe that, like apricots, the divine purpose of Meyer Lemons is to give their little lives to Marmalade. Holy schneikies – it’s good.
*Drops voice* I would say it’s my new favourite but I’m afraid the other marmalades will hear me. ssshhhhh!!!!!
*Harvest Forum is a discussion board of all things canning. It has been around for a long time and is a valuable source of the kind of information you never find in books. Many of the people who post there and answer questions are expert canners – some teach canning in University extension classes. I highly recommend this site for new canners as well as experienced ones. I learn something almost every time I go there.