Some of the earliest of my childhood memories comes from the dark nights of late January when each year, my dad would make marmalade. My sister and I would lie in our beds in our bedroom at the front of the flat where we lived in Cambridge and the delicious warm smells of Seville oranges and black treacle would drift through… and in the morning there would be a shelf full of gleaming pots of gold, Dad’s marmalade. Dad would make a special pot of shred free marmalade for my sister who only liked the jelly. The first taste of new marmalade was wonderful, it had a fresh fruity flavour which over the months would develop and mature as the new batch developed and matured in its dark cupboard, darkening and deepening as it aged. This marmalade would keep for years… although it didn’t; we had it every morning with breakfast and only the occasional pot would still be in the cupboard or on the breakfast table the following January when the new batch was made.
I am sure that my grandmother made marmalade, I am sure it was a family thing in my Dad’s childhood just as it was in mine but I don’t think his recipe was from his mother. I think, although I am not sure, that he found the recipe he used in the Daily Telegraph. Over the forty or so years he made marmalade he developed his own recipe, adapting the method rather than changing the product.
There would be a difference in the taste in different years because of the differences in the Seville oranges, some more sweet, some more juicy, some with some tiny difference in flavour which changed the marmalade. All his marmalade was good but some years were definitely above average. As with all food in our household, the new batch was discussed and debated… flavour, texture, sweetness, bitterness.. because bitter is a good thing in marmalade, it has to be tangy and sharp, it is not a jam, it is… marmalade.