Lenten Rose/Helleborus Orientalis
All things considered it’s not been an awful January. I’ve only got caught in driving rain in too few clothes maybe twice, and as it’s mostly been mild (apart from those two times) there’s hyacinth, lenten roses and camelia blooming in the yard.
However, January blues can strike at any time and mine struck yesterday, the second last day of the month. I went out to buy a plant. Actually, I went out to buy Hope. Preferably flowering and perfumed. What I came home with was an indoor hyacinth and for the instant gratification factor, the last three Seville Oranges left in my local vegetable shop, Evergreen on Wexford Street. (Click here for a very cute YouTube video of the shop)
Apparently there’s been a run on Seville Oranges. Marmalade-making seems to be having something of a moment. I’ve never made it before but this time of year there are recipes in all the weekend papers. I opted for Darina Allen’s recipe:
Traditional Seville Orange Marmalade
Makes approx. 7 lbs (3.2kg)
2 lbs (900g) Seville oranges
4 pints (2.3L) water
4 lbs (1.8kg) granulated sugar
Square of muslin, string to tie
Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the membrane with a spoon, put with the pips and tie them in a piece of muslin.
Slice the peel finely or coarsely, depending on how you like your marmalade. Put the orange peel, orange and lemon juice, bag of pips and water into a non-reactive bowl or saucepan overnight.
Next day, bring everything to the boil and simmer gently for about two hours until the peel is really soft and the liquid is reduced by half. NB: The peel must be absolutely soft before the sugar is added, otherwise when the sugar is added it will become very hard and no amount of boiling will soften it.
Squeeze all the liquid from the bag of pips and remove it.
Heat the granulated sugar in a bowl in the oven 180C/350F/Mark 4 for 15–20 minutes. Hot sugar dissolves faster and the result is a more aromatic marmalade. Add the warmed sugar and stir until all the sugar has been dissolved.
Increase the heat and bring to a full rolling boil rapidly until setting point is reached 5-10 minutes approx.
Test for a set, either with a sugar thermometer (it should register 220F), or with a saucer. Put a little marmalade on a cold saucer and cool for a few minutes. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s done.
Allow marmalade to sit in the saucepan for 15 minutes before bottling to prevent the peel from floating. Spoon off any white scum that may have developed. (I’m not sure what this is – sugar? pith? It’s harmless, it just doesn’t look very nice)
Pot into hot sterilised jars. Cover immediately and store in a cool dry dark place.
(For Irish Whiskey Marmalade add 6 tbsp of Irish whiskey to the cooking marmalade just before potting.)
If you’ve missed the Seville Orange season – and it’s a short one – you could try Nigel Slater’s Lemon Curd for a similar citrussy hit.
Makes 2 small jam jars
Zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons
200g sugar (I use half white & half demerara which gives a more runny consistency, but a better flavour)
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk
Put the lemon zest and juice, the sugar and the butter, cut into cubes, into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the bottom of the basin doesn’t touch the water. Stir with a whisk from time to time until the butter has melted.
Mix the eggs and egg yolk lightly with a fork, then stir into the lemon mixture. Let the curd cook, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes, until it is thick and custard-like. It should feel heavy on the whisk.
Remove from the heat and stir occasionally as it cools. Pour into spotlessly clean jars and seal. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.