Bitter Seville Orange Marmalade

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It is certain that Spain is a land of oranges. Driving through the countryside and walking through the streets of villages and even of the big cities, you often find yourself amongst pretty orange trees dotted with gorgeous oranges.

Even with so many orange trees, I consider orange marmalade to be a pseudo-Spanish thing - which means for my first recipe post here I'm cheating, orange marmalade isn't exactly tremendously Spanish. It's probably more British. For a long time I have wanted to make orange marmalade with the bitter Seville orange variety. I would always ask for them in the fruit stalls in the market. I would always get the same answer: Why on earth would you want Seville oranges? They're too bitter! Also, the trees are everywhere, they're just decorative because the oranges are disgusting. Oh, it's because you want to make marmalade. Why bother? Just buy it in the supermarket…

The truth is that indeed Seville orange trees decorate a lot of the streets. But I wouldn't pick any of the oranges just in case the trees are sprayed with some dodgy pesticide, or the intense urban pollution penetrates its rind. To make orange marmalade you use the whole fruit, so whatever nasties hiding in it will end up swirling in the marmalade.

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I used to then make marmalade with normal navel oranges, and I was itching to try it with bitter Seville oranges. Then with our recent move to Andalusia, I got lucky. A friend of my mum has lots of orange trees in her garden, and a few Seville orange trees too. Miss E picked oranges for the first time ever. We made orange juice, I used the oranges in cakes, or we simply ate them. Our friends oranges are completely organic, so as if to prove it, once in a while a worm makes an appearance.

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Bitter Seville Orange Marmalade Recipe

After an extensive search online, I chose this David Lebovitz Seville orange marmalade recipe for my inspiration because his seemed to have the niftiest tricks that best suit my way of cooking. Also, because in David Lebovitz recipes I trust.

Just note that in case you're comparing his original recipe with mine, I didn't use any navel oranges because I had so many Seville oranges that I was enthusiastic to only use those. I made double the amount as in his recipe, which yielded an awfully high quantity of jars, as in about 12 jars if I recall correctly. Also, with the amount of oranges I used you need a ginormous pot, so feel free to use half the amount if you don't have a giant cauldron nor enough jars to store them in.

Seville oranges have a huge amount of seeds. You'll want to keep them and use them in the boiling process because the seeds are naturally full of pectin, which is the stuff that turns jam into its thick jelly like texture. My David Lebovitz inspired trick is to keep all the seeds that fall out of the oranges while you juice them - instead of picking them out one by one.

To take advantage of the pectin from the seeds, you put them in a muslin cloth and tie it up so that it forms a little packet. You throw this packet into your pot while making the jam. Then you can just retrieve it and pull it out when you finished making the jam. If you don't have a muslin cloth, you can use any other thin cotton cloth, as long as it won't let out nasty dyes into the marmalade. I used some sterile gauze from our medicine cabinet. The fabric is very thin so it works perfectly.

Ingredients

12 Seville oranges
15 cups water
pinch of salt
3kg sugar

Method

Wash and dry the Seville oranges. Cut the oranges in half and juice them. I used a simple manual juicer. Pour all of the juice into a big pot. Keep all of the seeds. Put the seeds into a muslin cloth and tie it up tightly so the seeds won't escape.

Cut the orange rinds into 3 pieces and slice them up as thinly as possible.

Put the rind pieces into the pot with the orange juice. Add the water and salt. Bring to boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes until the rinds are more or less translucent.

Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit overnight. This helps bring out more pectin from the seeds, and further softens the rinds.

The next day, bring to boil again. Add the sugar and stir. Bring the heat down to a medium boil. Continue to boil and stir occasionally. Continue boiling until the marmalade reaches its desired consistency. You can test it by putting a small amount onto a plate and letting it cool for a few minutes. If it turns into a jelly like texture and wrinkles when you touch it, it’s ready.

Remove from the heat. Pour into very clean jars and close the lids tightly. Sterilize the jars if you plan on keeping the marmalade for a long time.

I made this marmalade with my mum in her kitchen. We gave some jars away, and we eat lots of marmalade, so we're down to the last few jars and we're ready to make some more soon. Some ideas are to have it on toast, mix it in with yogurt or add it to oatmeal for breakfast along with a sprinkle of cinnamon. I'd love to know if you have more ideas of what to do with the marmalade, let me know in a comment below.