On a cold and frosty morning with a touch of the white stuff just kissing the ground, there is nothing better than a large pot of tea on the kitchen table and the delicate fragrance of oranges wafting through the house. Cold days were meant for making marmalade. The end of January and the appearance of Seville oranges simply cannot be a mere coincidence (there seems to be no reasonable logic as to why we don’t have them in the summer but somehow we don’t). Those beautiful sunshine orbs of culinary delight were designed to bring joy to even the gloomiest of January days. After an awful week of writer’s malaise and then being struck down with the worst case of tonsillitis I think I’ve ever had, I certainly needed their orangey cheeriness to tempt me back into the kitchen.
We are huge fans of marmalade at Margot and Jerry HQ. Marmalade on toast, marmalade in cakes, marmalade on ham…… I think that perhaps we have smeared it on almost everything, hence we are down to the last pot from last year’s marmalade marathon.
It would seem that we are not alone either with our love of dear old Paddington’s preferred preserve either. Did you know dear Reader, that each year in Cumbria, the World Marmalade Awards are held, with entries flying in from all over the place? Staggering, isn’t it? One day, I may even be brave enough to bubble wrap one of my attempts and enter the Amateur categories just for a bit of fun! I can only imagine that it is every bit as fierce as our annual village show where the judging is tighter than a sprinter’s jock strap and entries receive short and to the point critiques, next to their tiny tasting spoons.
With so many marmalade recipes out there (believe me half the village swear that their family recipe is the best), the key is to find one that works for you. Something tried and tested and easy in my case! I use the wonderful Pam Corbin’s (River Cottage preserving queen) ‘whole fruit’ method – so simple to follow and has marmalade made in an afternoon. Always keen to turn my hand to a bit of a kitchen experiment though, this year I thought I might tamper with the recipe a bit and add some ‘alternative’ flavours of my own to enhance the zestiness of the Seville oranges.
First up, a lavender marmalade using culinary lavender from Hampshire lavender farm, Long Barn in Alresford. Adding the lavender at the end of the marmalade cooking stage is the key – too much and the results will end up tasting rather like a zingy pot pourri! You have been warned, dear Reader! A teaspoon of culinary lavender between 3 small jars of marmalade is plenty – tiny flecks of purply blue peeking out between the shreds when you look at the jar. A good spoonful of the lavender marmalade added to a simple madeira loaf cake recipe or classic Victoria sponge mix is pure afternoon magic with a cup of Lady Grey.
Running out of Sevilles, I thought that I might try ‘marmalading’ some of Jerry’s other seasonal favourites, blood oranges. Using the same ‘whole fruit method’ and simply swapping the Sevilles for blood oranges, I then added a little something special when the marmalade had completed its unctuous molten lava simmering stage. GIN! Well, if you can have whisky marmalade, dear Reader, then why not gin marmalade….? As you know, gin is never too far from my thoughts.
Choosing a local favourite (lovely Twisted Nose gin who I’ve told you about before, dear Reader), I added 3 tsp of gin for each medium sized jar and stirred through before popping into jars. The gorgeous pink grapefruit notes of the gin really went well with the blood orange overall flavour of this batch of marmalade. Not a buttery toast sort of marmalade (gin at the breakfast table being frowned upon by most, dear Reader…) but a brilliant little number for using as a glaze. Something I tested out with my latest recipe.
Sticky marmalade pork (Serves 4)
6 thick cut pork belly slices
2 tbsp. blood orange gin marmalade
3 tbsp. dark muscovado sugar
a small pinch of mustard powder
juice of half a lemon
4 star anise
salt and pepper
Begin by preheating the oven to 220 degrees Centigrade/ gas mark 7/ 425F.
Pat the pork slices dry and place them in a large ovenproof dish – season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, mix the marmalade, sugar, mustard powder and lemon together.
Spoon the mixture over the pork belly and coat the slices on both sides before sliding the star anise between the slices.
Place in the oven for around 40 minutes. Keep checking the pork and basting with the sauce regularly. After 40 minutes, the pork should have crispy edges and a slightly charred, barbecue look.
Sticky, messy, sweet and savoury – something a little different from the usual marmalade on toast. Served with a red cabbage and carrot coleslaw with a mustard and cider vinegar dressing, it’s the perfect supper to drive away any wintry blues and any lingering tonsillitis….
Before I sign off dear Reader, just to say that I shall be talking all things marmalade with the lovely Georgie on BBC Radio Solent’s programme The Good Life on Sunday 1st February just after 1pm – do tune in. Pretty please.