I learned to make marmalade when I lived in England and was working as a caretaker for an elderly woman who lived next door to me. I became quite good friends with her daughter, Fiona, who was obsessive about her jam and marmalade making. Going to Fiona’s house on a ‘jam day’ was always very atmospheric. Walking through her door, you would enter into her factory – various stations were set up around her little South London flat. One for cutting and preparing fruit, one for measuring vast amounts of sugar, the canning section full of jars and other preserving paraphernalia, and of course her stove, with dented old pots precariously perched on all burners. She was serious. Because she was a gardener and got gluts of fruit from her various clients, her jams ranged from your run of the mill, ubiquitous English Strawberry to the more exotic Kiwi Ginger. Her creations were always delicious, but her marmalade was truly spectacular. She never gave me an exact recipe because she said there wasn’t one, so in her honor I’ll do the same here for you all. This is about using what you have, and relying on your instinct and taste to create something wonderful.
You can use any citrus with this recipe. Satsumas are lovely because they don’t have seeds in them. If you use a citrus with seeds, after slicing the fruit remove all the seeds and tie them into a little muslin pouch and add to the stewing fruit. The seeds add their magical pectin and help the marmalade to set. You can discard the seed pouch after the fruit sit overnight.
Slice the satsumas as thin as you like. I like to use a mandolin for nice thin slices, but I know there is a contingent of folks out there that like their marmalade thick cut, so do what you like. Put the sliced fruit and all the juices that collect on your cutting board into a pot. Add enough water to just cover the fruit and bring to a simmer. Cook until the fruit is just soft, but not so much that it starts to disintegrate. If you are using citrus that has a tougher peel than satsumas, you may have to keep topping up the water to make sure all the fruit is just covered as it cooks. Once the fruit is soft, turn off the heat and let the stewed citrus sit overnight. This allows time for the pectin to be extracted from the peel and helps with the final set of the marmalade. The next day, measure the volume of the fruit/water mixture you have. Pour into a larger pot, then add the same volume of sugar, and turn on the heat. Let this come up to a simmer and while it does, put a few plates into your freezer. Cook and reduce the marmalade, and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Once its been cooking for a bit and the foam has subsided, add a bit of salt, some lemon juice and vanilla. I like to add proper vanilla seeds instead of vanilla extract because the tiny black seeds look so beautiful suspended in the golden gel of the marmalade. At this point, once it looks like it’s getting thicker and has reduced a good amount, I take a plate from the freezer, pour a spoonful of the marmalade on it and put it back in the freezer to cool. Once the marmalade is cold to the touch, I run my finger through it to see if the surface of the marmalade wrinkles as I push through it. If it does, it’s done! If it doesn’t, cook for another 5-10 minutes and keep testing. I also do my tasting from the cold marmalade on the plates; you may want to add more lemon juice, you may want more vanilla. Once you have reached the jelling point, take the marmalade off the heat and can it immediately if you are so inclined. If you don’t want to can it, keep it in the refrigerator.
*One final note: a hit of whiskey stirred into the marmalade at the end of cooking is very worthwhile.