I have had the same standard breakfast since I was about five years old: two slices of brown toast with butter and either jam or marmalade. I know it’s nothing groundbreaking, but it can be quite magical. At the weekend I was gifted a beautifully rustic sourdough loaf from 10 Greek Street that made perfect breakfast toast. Being January, there was also an enormous jar of homemade marmalade in my fridge (and several more in the cupboard) and a pat of slightly salted butter in the butter dish, slippery from the warmth of the kitchen. I woke up a couple of mornings ago to find Ollie at the kitchen table, leafing through the paper with sticky orange fingers. “I love marmalade season,” he said.
As do I. With all of the pitfalls of January; a lack of funds, terrible weather and a bit of post-Christmas junk in the trunk; there is always Seville orange season, which is enough to brighten up a dull month. Almost as soon as new year is over, I go in search of those tough and slightly wrinkled little oranges that, I hope, will bring me lovely breakfasts for the rest of the year. I spend many a happy January evening in the kitchen, shredding peel into matchsticks with a stanley knife, perfect for a month in which economy drives and health kicks keep us in the house. Building up a storecupboard full of preserves gives you the virtuous feeling that you are stocking up for the year ahead.
I make several batches of orange marmalade in January, when Seville oranges are readily available, and then top up my cupboard with various other citrus marmalades, and jams, throughout the year. This year I intend to make a batch of ‘Wedding Breakfast’ marmalade to be opened around the time of my nuptials in June, but am still yet to decide on which type of alcohol to add (it has to be boozy!), and would also like to experiment a little with the addition of blood oranges and grapefruit. The first marmalade I make, however, is my all-time favourite, never-fail marmalade: Nigel Slater‘s Orange, Lemon and Ginger marmalade. The recipe is extremely easy to follow: the peel is shredded and placed in a bowl and the juice squeezed over by hand, followed by a couple of litres of cold water. The leftover pulp and pips are wrapped in a muslin bag and pushed into the bowl and the whole thing left overnight. The pulp and pips are the most pectin-rich part of the fruit, so their addition will help the marmalade to set. The mixture is then boiled and simmered to soften the peel before the muslin bags are squeezed out and discarded, the sugar is then added and the mixture boiled again until it reaches setting point. It sounds like a lengthy process, but it is remarkably simple. The most difficult part is deciding when the setting point has been reached. I was lucky enough to have some advice on this from preserve maestro Vivien Lloyd who recommends the ‘flake test’ – this works really well, or you can use the chilled saucer method that Nigel recommends in his recipe.
This marmalade has the perfect combination of sweetness and sourness with a rather unsubtle punch of heat from the ginger – great if you like a little spice in your breakfast – and a generous amount of peel. It never fails to bring a little sunshine into these dark and gloomy January mornings.
The recipe, by Nigel Slater, can be found here.