Hints from far and near

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?

Never mind – after the phone call ended I had to fiddle around with heating and filling the jars; all seems well as you can see…. I can but live in hope.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  Use a setting mixture eg serto. Seems a bit like cheating to me.

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9 Responses to Hints from far and near

  1. Dianne says:

    I’ve made grape jelly, but never marmalade. Looks challenging. Heck it’s all I can do these days to make a morning blend of yogurt, banana and a few other things. I usually forget something.

  2. Ray Barnes says:

    Oh Freda, so disappointing, I thought you were going to say by the time you’d got off the phone, the marmalade was set like concrete!
    Believe it or not, I used to make about eight different types of jam (one memorable year 56 pounds of it), but never attempted marmalade. Used to rely on my mother for that.
    She made orange and ginger, rhubarb marmalade, lemon and raisin marmalade and everything else you can think of, right up to the age of 92.
    She had been blind by then for 15 years. The mere thought exhausts me.
    Good for you. Enjoy!

  3. LC says:

    Impressive. And great that there was enough accompanying laughter to require . . . uh too much info!

  4. Mina says:

    Ah ….. but you have not said what was the state of the final product. Runny or sliceable! Either way it will no doubt taste really good.

  5. freda says:

    Lovely to share all the marmalade and jelly memories. Mina, this lot seems to have set ok, so I can hold my head up high.

  6. Mrs Gerbil says:

    I also make my own marmalade using the tin of prepared oranges. So much less hassle than from oranges, but still home made.

    I use 3/4 of the required sugar to give a bit more tartness and flavour. My diabetic brother-in-law appreciates this too! As for setting point, I put a plate in the freezer to chill before I start anything. When the marmalade (or jam) looks about set, I put a small amount on the plate and wait for it to cool, which takes about 10 seconds. Then I feel it and if it feels like marmalade that would spread, I regard it as set.

    For bottling, I invested in a jam funnel. Mine came from a hardware store, but Amazon sell them. It makes bottling (why bottling when it’s going into jars, I will never work out) so much easier and safer.

    PS You could try making whisky marmalade. Once marmalade has set, let it cool for a couple of minutes and add a splash (or couple of tablespoons) to mix and stir in.

  7. freda says:

    Sounds so much more civilised than my effors, Mrs G. A funnel and put the plate in the freezer next time. Will try to remember, and thanks for the tip about the sugar, mine is too thick and too sweet really. Never mind, it is at least edible.

  8. Ken Stevens says:

    Never ceases to entertain AND educate. You talented old devil, you! All good stuff

  9. friko says:

    I use the back-of-the-wooden-spoon method and the plate in the fridge method. Both work for me.

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