It’s funny how your tastes can change as you grow older. I was never a fan of bitter orange marmalade when I was little. I found the taste bitter and I never understood how so many older people liked it. A few years ago, I bought some while I was still working in London. And I changed my mind. It seemed like the perfect jam to have with a piece of baguette with butter for breakfast. When I moved to Cyprus I stopped eating a lot of the foods I enjoyed while I was in London – mostly because they were difficult to find. Cyprus has so much good local food, but it is still expensive to find “international” foods such as nice preserves, chocolates, crisps (potato chips) and other goodies that I actually took for granted when I was in London. I think that’s part of the reason I started cooking so much in Cyprus. Frustrated by the fact that I could not actually find many of the foods I missed, I just set out to try and make them myself.
A few years ago, I went to the village with some friends from London. I remember seeing a tree heavily laden with bright, plump and juicy looking oranges. So we climbed onto the tree, picked a few, and proceeded to eat them. They were sour. Full of pips. And quite frankly some of the tartest oranges I had ever tired. Years later I told my aunt about the horrible oranges from this tree. She laughed – as she usually does when I tell her my food stories – and told me that it was a “kitromila” tree (bitter orange). Traditionally used in Cyprus to make a type of dessert spoon sweet called “glyko” (you can find recipes for “bergamot glyko” and “walnut glyko” here). So that explains it. They weren’t bad oranges. They were good “kitromila”. Two more years after that, and it finally dawned on me that “kitromila” are actually the same thing as bitter oranges or seville oranges. And that’s when it clicked. I could actually make the bitter orange marmalade that I missed so much. So that’s what I set out to do here.
This week I decided to follow a recipe by the incredible David Lebovitz. I have never gone wrong with a David Lebovitz recipe. He is one of my favourite food bloggers, and all the recipes I have tried from his website have been delicious. He has a fantastic writing style, which makes you feel as though you get to know the “real” him. Which I love. I changed a few things, adjusted the quantities, and the timing of some steps, but otherwise it’s the same recipe.
A few things about this recipe: It took me about 1.5 hours for my jam to set, which is considerably longer than the usual 40 minutes that most jams take. I think this must have something to do with my stove as previous jams have also taken a long time to set. Make sure you finely slice your oranges in this recipe. It makes for a nicer textured jam. It sure does take awhile to slice and dice the oranges, but it’s definitely well worth it – some of the best jam I have had. And if you make the jam around dessert time, I noticed that it would make a fantastic syrup on top of ice cream. For David Lebovitz’s recipe click here. For my very minimally adjusted recipe, see below.
6 Seville oranges
10 cups (2.5 liters) water
pinch of salt
1/2 a vanilla bean
8 cups (1.6 kg) sugar
1 tsp brandy
1. Wash and dry the oranges. Slice all oranges in half (around their equator). Squeeze and strain the juice out of the oranges.
2. Gather the seeds (there will be a lot) and place them in a cheese cloth. Also gather any pulp and put it into the same cheese cloth. Then scoop out the pulp from the inside of each orange half and add to the cheese cloth. Tie the cheese cloth tightly, to form a ball. You may need to make two balls The pulp and seeds are important because the pectin they release are what help the jam reach setting point.
3. Dice the oranges into very small thin slices, not more than 1 cm long. They must be slivers.
4. In a large pot, add the orange juices, the muslin seed pouch(es), water, salt, vanilla bean and orange rind. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Boil for about 20 to 30 minutes until the orange pieces become translucent. Take off heat and leave for 24 hours. The muslin seed pouch(es) will release more pectin, which is good for the jam.
5. Add the sugar to the mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then bring to a rolling boil. Stir the mixture to avoid it sticking to the bottom. After 25 minutes, remove the vanilla bean and muslin seed pouch(es).
6. Continue to boil the mixture until the jam reaches setting point. Start testing the jam after about 40 minutes. It took me about 1 hour to reach setting point. You can test the jam to see if it has set by putting a small drop on a plate that has been chilled in the freezer. Return the plate with the drop of jam back to the freezer for 1 minute. After 1 minutes, remove the plate and look at the jam – if it does not stick to your finger when you touch it and has created a little film on top, then the jam has reached setting point.
7. At this stage, stir in the brandy to the jam. Let the jam cool for ten minutes, and then pour into jam containers. Close the jam containers while still hot and place in the fridge after 5 hours.