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Ap-peel of marmalade grows in time

By Features Reporter

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Claire Thomson.Picture: Sam Folan/PA
Claire Thomson.Picture: Sam Folan/PA

Ever made your own marmalade? Marmalade is admittedly not to everyone’s taste, writes Ella Walker.

Too bitter, too lumpen, too chewy, too astringent. Paddington arguably has quite a bit to answer for.

He (and his creator Michael Bond) – like Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne and honey before him – made the stuff seem magical, essential, delicious. He pulled sandwich after sandwich out from beneath his red hat, making us hanker for a bite. But many a child has bitten into one such sandwich and felt betrayed by the bear from Peru.

It is often only later – as it was for me – that the bitter appeal begins to make sense.

Usually my marmalade supply comes courtesy of my boyfriend’s mum. She delivers it in old wax topped Bonne Maman jars; jars that have been so well used over the years, the entirety of the labels have peeled off. But with so many pandemic-induced breakfasts spent at home, demand has increased beyond reasonable production levels, and using the barest smidge of marmalade to make a jar last is, frankly, untenable.

So smack bang in the middle of Seville orange season (December to February), I decided it was time to scrabble together a batch myself.

You’d think it would be relatively straightforward: pick a recipe, boil some oranges, whack it in jars. But once you start reading up on marmalade and comparing recipes, and then comparing those to your own (very specific) idea of what marmalade ought to be, the whole process becomes soupy with nostalgia, research and hope.

I begin by reading Lucy Deedes’ beautifully illustrated new recipe collection, The Little Book of Marmalade, which describes a whole year’s worth of ways to use it. Then I got side-tracked by Claire Thomson’s classic marmalade recipe (her jars seem to glow), and revisited the wise words of jamming queen, Pam Corbin (I trust the woman implicitly).

Then my mum’s boyfriend – our marmalade queen – admitted she’d misplaced her own mum’s recipe and in recent years has just followed the instructions on the netted bag of Sainsbury’s Seville oranges.

And so I’d like to tell you that I diligently followed one single recipe, but it seems that when the marmalade making is upon you, much comes down to instinct and, in a pandemic, what’s available in the cupboard.

Once you’ve wrangled with a massive pan of molten orange and decanted it into those jars though, the pride and sense of achievement is something else.

Eating marmalade is a small thing, having the time, energy and ingredients to make your own, a privilege, but if you can, do. Paddington had the right idea all along.

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