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Friday, 13 January 2012

Same every year: you think to yourself, 'Any time now those Seville oranges will be in the shops' - and boom! There they are, for about a week, maybe two. It's a very brief season. I got mine just a few days ago. They seem to come earlier every year. I dread to think what would happen if I missed them. The thought of surviving a full year on shop-bought marmalade... No, it doesn't bear thinking about. I'd have to eat honey. Somehow, those manufacturers manage to get a truck-load of superb, bitter Sevilles and turn them into a sort of orange jam: bland, insipid and sweet sweet sweet. Proper marmalade, made at home, contains huge amounts of sugar, but still retains that delicious, that essential bitterness. This is breakfast, remember: wake-up time; it's not afternoon, bread-and-jam and a quick nap time. Not at all.

So here are my oranges, a little over three pounds in weight, the pulp and juice extracted, and I'm part-way through the painstaking business of slicing. I suppose one could use the processor, but I don't trust it. I simply take a sharp knife, sharpen it all over again, put something interesting on the radio and get to work. They are then stewed, for about two hours, in five pints of water. The pips I stew separately, then seive the pectin-rich liquor into the pan. Then bed.

Next day I add six pounds of sugar and boil rapidly. Here are the cooked oranges, resting, prior to being put into jars.

Now, jars. Some people find beautiful, evenly shaped ones without remnants of old labels plastered all over them, and put fancy chequered tops on them. I just grab a selection from our old jar cupboard, make sure they're clean and pop them in the oven at 100 C. Some have contained olives, some pickled walnuts, gherkins, peanut butter, perhaps even two-inch, cross-headed, counter-sunk screws. But who cares when you're spreading the product on your toast? It's one of the most satisfying moments of the year to line up the filled jars, let them cool, and stash them away, knowing that, should war break out, I'll be all right for another year. 

Well, it's almost ten; time to re-write that seventh chapter. Tonight we're off to North Wales for a long weekend. And the forecast is... no wind, bright sun, frosts, and 40 degrees in the daytime. Back Monday evening.

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