The Finn recently returned from a trip to visit his Dad in the deep heart of the desert. On his return revealed a two kilogram bag of home-grown fruit from his Dad’s garden.
It’s harsh environment, but even in the driest and hottest of climates life prevails and can, if you’re lucky, provide a bounty. Behold… Lemonades.
The Lemonade is a hybrid southern-hemisphere citrus born from combining the navel orange with a lemon – add some water, bit of Aussie sun and ding-dong , the bells of St Clements!
The fruit resembles a large lime, but ripens to a classic lemon yellow with the unique sweet taste somewhere between mild low-acid lemon and an orange. The best of both and a perfect choice for marmalade.
2kg of Lemonades, washed and sliced into half-moons
2kg of sugar – white for a lighter result, raw for a much deeper desert sunset
Juice and seeds of one large lemon
8-10 jars, washed and dried, labels removed
Wash the fruit and slice into half-moons. Combine with the lemon juice (reserving the seeds) in a heavy-based large saucepan and warm through over a medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil as the juice is released from the fruit. Cook gently for 15 to 20 minutes.
One of the issues with hybrid fruit is they often are seedless and with then need some extra assistance activating the pectin needed to set the jam. Take the reserved lemon seeds and gently boil them in a small saucepan with 100ml of water. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes and then add this liquid to the marmalade mixture.
Add the sugar all at once and stir gently until the sugar has dissolved. As soon as the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and bring the mixture to a vigorous boil. Don’t be afraid of this part, the marmalade must boil like the clappers for 20 minutes or so to transform itself from insipid sugar-juice to golden breakfast conserve.
While you wait, place a small side plate into the freezer.
Once I was making marmalade from a gorgeous grapefruit tree that grew in the garden of an apartment we once rented. The landlord despised the bitter fruit so it was left for us to eat (breakfast), cook (marmalade), and drink (gin, soda and juice) the fruit away as we saw fit. As the jam was boiling away I placed a plate into the freezer with the perplexed Finn looking on. After some time trying to decipher my actions he asked why I’d done that.
I responded, it’s an old wives’ tale – place a plate in the freezer and you’re guaranteed you jam will set. I proceeded to fabricate the story further claiming it hailed from a time when you’d make jam in the winter and place a plate out into the cold as an offering of good will and no good baker/ jam-maker worth their salt would dare break the tradition. I managed to keep that up for a good while, with a straight face, before revealing the truth. It’s all in the telling.
In fact the cold plate will help you tell if your jam has reached its setting point.
After boiling for 20 minutes, remove the plate and carefully drop a few blobs of the marmalade onto the surface. Give it a few seconds to cool and push your finger through the marmalade. If it wrinkles you’re done. If it stays runny continue to boil for a few more minutes and try again.
Turn off the marmalade and allow to cool slightly. To prepare the jars I take the cheats option I learnt from Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat. Fill each jar half way with warm water, pop into the microwave and blitz for 5-10 minutes until the water boils and sterilises the jar. Carefully tip out the water and voila – jars ready for filling. To sterilise the lids, boil in a small saucepan for five minutes.
Failing that you can pop your jars and lids into a low oven 120c and heat for 40 minutes.
Use a jug to fill each jar as close to the top as possible and carefully close the lid. As each jar cools the pop of the lid seals will ring out though the kitchen.
It’s best to let the marmalade settle for a couple of weeks before eating, but I can never wait that long. Guaranteed the half-filled left over jar will be pride of place on the breakfast table the next day, proudly offering up its desert bounty.