Apparently, marmalade is the new “thing” to make as part of lockdown 3.0, succeeding sourdough and the infamous banana bread.

We’ve been making marmalade every year since we opened the Long Barn. Jackie loves marmalade whilst it’s Ian’s nemesis. So, this annual task falls to her every year, and Ian has to grit his teeth as the farmhouse fills with the scent of citrus.

Marmalade is such a personal thing. Are you a dark and dense lover of marmalade that looks like brown boot polish? Or do you like something lighter?

After trying many recipes, Jackie’s favourite is one from the wonderful “Salt, Sugar, Smoke” book by Diana Henry who is the cooking guru in our house.

The recipe is Nick’s “good morning” breakfast marmalade; it’s a soft set marmalade that’s bright, tangy and delicious. It’s made from a mixture of pink grapefruit, blood and Seville oranges.

Marmalade recipes tend to fall into two techniques. The first is to boil the oranges whole, let them cool and then make the marmalade. This is probably the best option if you like it dark and dense. The second is the method we use; the peel is shredded, soaked overnight and then cooked until tender. Sugar is then added and the marmalade boiled until the setting point is reached.

No batch is ever quite the same, which adds to its charm but at times makes marmalade making feel a little like Russian Roulette. Especially as the Seville orange season is quite short and remembering what worked last year if the batch was good can be difficult.

Our copy of Salt, Sugar and Smoke is well thumbed and full of notes/tips from previous marmalade making sessions. Here are our top 5 tips for making marmalade:

  • Take time to shred the citrus fruit skins into the size of shreds you like. It takes quite a while but is worth the effort. The Seville Orange skins are really thick with a lot white pith; scrape the pith out of the shell with a spoon before shredding (hang onto it).  
  • Put all pips/pith along with the grapefruit flesh into the muslin bag that soaks with the shreds overnight and is then boiled the following day with the shreds. Then squeeze the life out of it to get all the pectin juice into your mix; this helps with the set.  
  • Use both a jam thermometer and the wrinkle test; the thermometer helps get you to about the right temperature, but the wrinkle test will give you the more accurate test. And you get to taste the mix, and can add more lemon juice if you want.
  • For the wrinkle test, put a couple of saucers in the freezer when you put the marmalade on to cook. Take the marmalade off the heat when you test (if you don’t, you can overcook it) put a teaspoon of marmalade on a frozen saucer and put it in the fridge for a couple of minutes. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger it is beginning to set. We like this recipe just set, so it’s ready when it just wrinkles.
  • Let the marmalade sit for about 10 minutes before potting. It means the shreds don’t all drift to the bottom of the jar.

We have a tradition with our friend Chris who loves this recipe so much, that he gets a year’s supply for his birthday present every year. And as long as we have a supply, we include a jar in every guest Welcome Hamper. So if you stay at the Long Barn, you can sample it yourself.