HBTW was out today so my instructions were to make the marmalade. We use the fail-safe method of a can of thinly cut oranges and juice, and add water and sugar. The mixture has to be simmered until it reaches setting point.
I have to admit that I am no longer the principle cook in the Dalamory household. Tea and toast, beans on toast, scrambled eggs and anything cold that just needs chopped…… those are the main things I produce. Today we seem to have the tail end of Hurricane Irene, with lashings of rain and near-gale force winds, so it seemed a good time to take on the marmalade challenge.
All was going well – largest pot with mixture boiling, except that it was hard to control the gas, then the telephone goes. Cooking-genius friend on the line, who couldn’t laugh at me because she has cracked ribs, so instead she decided to join in with the fun. In days of old I had great trouble testing for setting point – usually with a cold plate and half a teaspoon of mixture, when the marmalade rippled, all was well. The trouble was that it was not as easy as it sounds. In fact, it was remarkably easy to get the setting point wrong. The result then meant either too runny or needing to be cut out of the pot in slices. CF is still on the line and she introduces another variable, a test she had inherited from her mother (mine was inherited from mother-in-law) – the newer test meant stirring the gloop with the wooden spoon, then holding the spoon upright to let the drips fall off. Setting point is reached when the last drop doesn’t want to drop off the spoon and stays on it like a half moon.
By this time we were engaged in the equivalent of live-time radio food programmes. I was asking for the exact shape of the half-moon, CF wanted to know the speed of the drops. In between I tried the plate test, just for fun. Then I laughed so much I had to run to the toilet…… Too much information?
It occurs to me that buying marmalade would be easier, but it never tastes as good. Btw I have tried making marmalade from oranges themselves, but that was too hard and too sticky.
Update on Friday 8 September
The debate goes on, so far there are an additional three ways that are used for testing that marmalade or jam is ready.
- Dip a tablespoon in the pan and then leave the spoon level for a few minutes. If the liquid wrinkles when the spoon is tipped up, the jam is ready.
- Use a tried and tested jam thermometer. This relies on accurate time-keeping.
ie boil at exact temp of x for exact no of minutes.
- Use a setting mixture eg serto. Seems a bit like cheating to me.