I saw Seville oranges in the shop the other day and it made me sad. All my life marmalade was made in January when the Sevilles arrived in the greengrocers. My dad was the marmalade maker, no doubt ably assisted by mum, and his marmalade was as it should be, dark, chunky, bitter as well as sweet and unctuous. I remember from being a very small child the smell of it drifting through our flat to where i was in bed, because it was made in the evening when dad got home from work. When we had a family we too began to make marmalade, every year, to the same recipe. As our tastes changed we ate less and less of it, so began to make less, and then we had jars in the cupboard from the previous year when we came to make the next batch the following year. And then there was the time when not only did we have the previous year, but the year before that. It was time to stop making marmalade, and sadly we did. This is something I wrote nearly ten years ago about making marmalade:
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.