How to grow Seville oranges

The gardeny bit


High quality marmalade simply would not exist without Citrus x aurantium. This is because the thick peel is brimming with pectin: which is the stuff – strictly speaking a structural heteropolysaccharide – which makes jam set. Without pectin we would have to create raised edges to our bread in order to stop the jam (or jelly if you are an American) sloshing over the sides and all over our ties and bows, or whatever it is women use to hold up their chins.

Oranges have been grown in Seville as an ornamental plant since the 12th century because they have very lush foliage, cast good shade and the flowers were used for making neroli oil. This has a sweet scent and is named after Anne Marie Orsini, Princess of Nerola, who used it to scent her gloves and her bathwater. It is also one of the ingredients in Coca Cola.

If you wish to grow your own then that is perfectly possible if you have a greenhouse into which they should be brought when the winter is particularly horrible. They look wonderful in a big terracotta pot or wooden container.

What is particularly odd about this variety of orange is that the farmers who grow the fruit have absolutely no culinary use at all for them. Pretty much the entire crop is picked at once (in January) and shipped off to Britain.

The good people of Andalusia must think us very strange.

The marmalade galaxy

James Alexander-Sinclair takes the long view


There seem to be more marmalade recipes than there are stars in the Milky Way. Everybody has their different slants and variations. We thought that it would be a jolly good idea to celebrate this little winter obsession.

Marmalade has become a peculiarly British thing. Odd, seeing as its entire existence is based on the availability of the Seville orange. The word originated in Portugal where marmelada is a sort of paste made from quinces – via the Latin for honey apple (or quince) melimelum.

However, it is has quite fuzzy European usage – marmalade (pronounced to rhyme with Douglas Bader*) is German for any sort of jam as is marmellata in Italian.

Marmalade moved from quince to oranges in the sixteenth century when the availability of sugar meant that people began crystallising fruits, and oranges (although not the only fruit) were among the first as the sugar made the previously inedible bits (the peel) edible and there is nothing better than making money out of something that was previously thrown away.

It is but a short step from there to marmalade – although it would be another century before somebody clicked onto the idea of pectin.

*the famous legless Battle of Britain pilot.

Cakey pudding? Or puddingy cake?

Mark Diacono’s idiot proof recipe


A pudding cake is just about the most forgiving any-clown-can-get-it-right pud, hence here’s mine.

I made it first last week, while putting this year’s Seville marmalade on the shelves and discovering a jar from 2011. As I am old and forgetful, I restrict the ingredients to those that are always around the place and the make the weights as memorable as possible. It is ungetwrongable, and rather good.

  • 225g each of unsalted butter, plain flour, marmalade
  • 80g each of caster sugar, light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 large eggs zest and juice of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Lightly butter a 24cm x 20cm ovenproof dish.

Put all the dry ingredients into a food processor and zap to combine. Add the butter and eggs and process thoroughly. Add 150g of the marmalade and zap to combine. Pour into the dish and bake for 30 minutes. Check the cake with a toothpick - it should emerge clean. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes if needed.

Melt the remaining 75g marmalade in a pan, stirring in the lemon juice and zest.

Pour over the top of the cake and serve with way too much cream and a large pot of tea.

Jekka’s honey marmalade

Jekka McVicar doesn’t know just about herbs


Makes 3-4 lb of marmalade

  • 450g Seville oranges
  • 600ml water
  • 1 large lemon
  • 450g sugar ( pure cane not sugar beet)
  • 450g honey

I am a huge fan of the pressure cooker and this is my recipe using this wonderful old fashioned device.

Put all the whole washed fruit in the pressure cooker with the water. Put on the lid and bring to high pressure (15lb). Cook for 20 minutes. Reduce pressure immediately.

Remove the fruit from the liquid, leaving the liquid in the pressure cooker. Allow the fruit to cool a little, then make sure the peel is really soft by pressing it between your fingers, if not (this rarely happens) return to cooker and reheat returning to high pressure for 3 more minutes.

When happy, cut the fruit in half, reserving all the pips and inners into either a piece of muslin or a jelly bag. Once all the fruit has been cut in half, tie up the muslin/bag and put back into liquid, replace the lid , return the cooker to the hob and bring back to high pressure cook for a further 5 minutes. Reduce pressure -this can be done slowly as you finish slicing up all the rind into thin strips. Once the pressure cooker has reduced pressure remove the lid and the jelly bag squeezing out any extra juice into the cooker.

Add the sugar and honey to the hot liquid and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved, add the sliced rind. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly, stirring from time to time until setting point is reached. (See Old Ellen’s marmalade recipe for setting tests.)

Turn off the cooker, allow the contents to stand for 12 minutes, then stir well. Pot and cover.

The alchemy of preserves

Nigel Colborn keeps his under wraps


Mrs Colborn is, without doubt, the maker of the world’s finest marmalade.

Each January, she develops a brooding, watchful attitude, lurking around supermarket fruit sections or haunting streetmarket fruit stalls until the first of the dry, bitter, unappetising Seville fruit arrives. Then, the house is filled with tantalising citrus vapours, the kitchen is clamorous with the clattering of sterilised jars and it’s safer to keep well out of the way. Cauldrons bubble, plates are chilled and dobbed with increasingly viscous matter while strange incantations are muttered sotto voce.

This year she made two batches: one dark, bitter, complex and challenging – like a novel by Thomas Mann or a late Beethoven quartet. The second is a touch lighter in hue with a little more acidity, stronger fruitiness but without the brooding lower-register tones. Flavours like these can only appear in homemade marmalade. They cannot be bought.

Mrs C has recipes.

However, to reveal them – even if one could access the detail – would be more dangerous than climbing Nelson’s Column while intoxicated and with one hand tied to one leg.

It’s all in the eating

On toast or warm bread?


This is the main reason why most people make marmalade: to eat for breakfast (or, indeed, anytime – I used to eat marmalade and toast in the bath after enduring very cold rugger matches, a small comfort after an hour of being trampled) on toast or freshly made bread.

My preference is for sourdough bread no more than three hours out of the oven, enough butter to make a cardiologist cringe and then a generous (but still transparent) spreading of marmalade. If that is not available then a warm white roll is a pretty good alternative. This must be very slightly crispy - but not so much that it drops sharp crumbs down the front of your pyjamas* - warm enough to melt the butter and fresh enough to smell of childhood.

The marmalade itself must be chunky – discerning folk will have absolutely no time for those pale imitations with a slightly jellified consistency and barely visible shreds of peel. These are not worthy of the name of marmalade and are really only acceptable at hotel breakfast buffets when everything else is either inedible or unspeakable – and even then only under extreme sufferance.

Harking back again to my schooldays….. we were given disgusting fried bread two or three days a week and the only way to make it palatable was with a slathering of marmalade (which came in catering sized tins so was probably not up to snuff). Some boys also put marmalade on the sausages and bacon but I never really saw the point. I have asked the notorious foodie, Mark Diacono, about this and he says, and I quote:

“Bacon: NO. NO. And thrice NO. Sausages: Yes, as long as cooked with the marmalade rather than applied after.”

So now you know.

* this is particularly important to those of you who breakfast in bed as one of the pleasures of this practice is to eat a hearty breakfast and then go back to sleep again for half an hour. You do not want to wake up with a jagged crust in your more tender areas.

The marmalade oscars

Kendra Wilson gets sticky


Did you know that there is an international competition when it comes to marmalade? Mind you there are competitions for most things but this seems a million miles away from the X Factor or the Winter Olympics. For marmalade the ultimate goal is the Dalemain Marmalade Awards which take place at Dalemain in Cumbria.

The idea is that you make a jar of your finest and it is then, accompanied by a charity entrance fee, dispatched to Cumbria to be scrutinized, tasted, dissected, analysed and judged by experts. There are a number of categories –

  • Home made: the amateur category. Jars arrive from all over the world (as far away as Japan and Alaska). Last year there were 2,000 entries.
  • Artisan: for commercial makers who still bubble it away in open pans rather than industrializing the rind out of it in factories.
  • B&B and Hotels: for establishments who make and serve their own marmalades.
  • The Marmalashes: a competition (begun in 2011) between the marmaladers of Great Britain and Australia. So far the Aussies are way ahead so something needs to be pulled from the boiling pan.

Most importantly, the competition raised over ÂŁ23,000 for charity last year. It is sponsored by Fortnum & Mason who, if you drop off your jar at their famous Piccadilly store, will send it to Cumbria and give you a jar of their own marmalade in return.

There is excellent video here and all the details are on the Dalemain website

Nasty bitter stuff

Not all Englishmen eat it - James Delingpole


As a child I used to think that marmalade was a bit like Patum Peperium, one of those disgusting grown-up spreads that you only learned to love when your taste buds matured. But I’ve now hit middle age I realise the problem lies not with me but with the product: marmalade is bitter and horrid and there’s an end to it.

“Ew ew, it’s all bitter and I don’t like it,” mimics my (marmalade-loving) wife, in a petulant, babyish voice when she wants to tease me about my (supposed) deficiency. As far as I’m concerned though, she’s the weird one, not me. The things that work best spread on toast are either sweet (jam, honey, etc) or savoury (Marmite, peanut butter, etc). Why spoil everything with this bastard hybrid which gives the illusion it’s going to taste all warm and sweet and orangey - but then hits you with that gag-inducing, entirely unnecessary bitter note?

Sometimes, when you’re abroad, you can get jam made with sweet oranges - which I like. What I can’t understand is the mentality of whoever it was who decided: “Why don’t we experiment using Seville oranges instead, with chunks of their skin, to make it taste extra-vile.” Yes, you might argue that that person was mature, sophisticated, adventurous. I’d call him a masochist.

Vin d’Orange

Rex Vacherot, our man in the Garrigue


I know what you are thinking: this marmalade stuff is all very well but where is the alcohol?

There must be someone out that there who makes drink from Seville oranges. You are right there is Vin d’Orange. There are, of course, a hundred different recipes which are happily squabbled over by French people but in essence this is a Provencal aperitif which holds a colour that reminds one of hot evenings, sun setting through pine trees and that special feeling you only get when wearing rope soled espadrilles. It is best taken before a very good dinner.

  • 1 kilo bitter oranges
  • ½ litre eau de vie (or vodka, if you must)
  • 750g sugar
  • 2 litres of white or rose wine
  • I vanilla bean and some cinnamon
  • Crush the oranges (peel, pith and pips) with the eau de vie.

Add everything else then leave well alone for a month. Filter the lot into bottles.

That’s it. There is only one proviso: do not use plastic containers for the crushing and leaving stage.

Biscotti all’arancia della nonna

Petra Hoyer Millar breaks the family vow


I write this in a disguise worthy of Inspector Clouseau as sharing any patisserie related recipes with anyone outside the family isn’t very popular. You see, my grandfather was a master pâtissier, who learned his craft over many years in the sovereign patisserie territories of the world: France, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. His recipes were his trade, and he therefore, quite understandably, guarded them fiercely. To such an extent that even his treasured recipe notebook is written in code, which sadly none of us can decipher. My grandmother, a wonderful cook herself, fortified his fortress of recipes sternly, and made all of us children promise we wouldn’t ever reveal any of the secrets of their craft. Until now that is.

Guilt ridden, I give you one of my grandmother’s own recipes, which she learned from her mother. Despite it’s incredible simplicity, these are simply the loveliest of orange biscuits I have ever come across. Fortuitously, these biscuits also present a good excuse to use the precious rind of oranges for anything but marmalade, as despite this most delectable of features, is not much favoured by yours truly.

A child of the Mediterranean, my grandmother never skimped on gastronomic offerings, generosity is key. This recipe is therefore munificent in its quantities, but with the aid of ye oldie arithmetic, one can of course make smaller batches.


  • 300g (good quality) unsalted butter
  • 300g granulated sugar (Tip; she infuses her sugar by keeping it in a huge jar with copious vanilla pods)
  • Grated peel of 2 amply proportioned oranges (add more if you wish)
  • Generous splodge of vanilla extract
  • 1kg of sifted fine flour (00 flour preferable but not a prerequisite)
  • 2 tsps of baking powder
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsps milk
  • Couple of tbsps of sugar mixed with a pinch of the orange peel
  • Icing sugar to decorate

Forget your magi-mixers, these biscuits are best made by hand. Preheat oven to 160°C and line large baking sheets with baking parchment.

  1. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, orange peel and sugar into a bowl. Rub in the butter to a fine crumb.
  2. Crack the eggs into a small bowl, and gently whisk in the vanilla and milk. Carefully pour the egg mixture into the buttery crumb and gently combine, until it forms a lovely, fragrant dough.
  3. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for at least an hour to rest.
  4. At this stage, the world is your biscuit oyster, and one can roll and cut into any desired biscuit shape. My grandmother though, made them circular, but it is important that they are rolled thinly. Thin is key. She liked them so thin in fact that she used her pasta machine (on its widest setting) to not only ensure they are suitably thin, but also consistent in height for an even bake. Unknown to some, pasta machines make rather good biscuiting equipment.
  5. Once the biscuits are cut to desired shape and on baking tray, allow to rest for a few minutes in the fridge. Though if one is hurried, and keen for a biscuit you could be forgiven for skipping this part.
  6. To finish off, very gently paint the biscuits with a smidgen of water – either with a pastry brush or fingers, and coat with a generous scattering of the orange peel sugar.
  7. Bake for approximately 10 min (or) until golden.
  8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  9. Sift icing sugar over the biscuits.

And there they are, or as my grandmother would say ‘Eccoli qua!’, truly delicious, in their buttery orange goodness. Enjoy, and please for my sake, don’t share this recipe with anyone.

Mum’s the word.

Jar-Jar blinks

Manny Crawshaw’s conserve class


Things you need when making marmalade: oranges (check), sugar (check), patience (check) and jars.

When it comes to this last thing you have to be pretty organized. Every suitable jar that you have used through the year needs to be stashed somewhere reasonably dry (it is unhelpful and probably unhygienic when the lids rust). You then have to sterilize them before use. The easiest way is to put the whole lot in a dishwasher immediately before filling them. Part of the charm of this method is that you end up with a whole load of jars of different sizes – we have everything ranging from kilner jars down to small redcurrant jelly and mustard jars.

If, however, you wanted something a bit more standardized – if, for example, you were thinking about giving your precious marmalade away to friends* then you might want a posh jar. Step forward Burgon and Ball (the highly esteemed purveyor of high quality stuff for gardeners) who have a range of very desirable jars just right for impressing the sternest of in-laws. Similar jars are available labeled Chutney or Jam.

*Jars of home made jam or marmalade are one of the best presents you can give. It shows thought, care, skill and generosity.

Nigel Slater’s marmalade cake

Lucy Masters cannot resist its many charms


I love making cakes. I’ve no interest in any other cooking. I can rustle up a bowl of tomato pasta if pushed, but it’s done grudgingly. Cakes though, are another matter, and one that makes cooking them full of joy and expectation. However, I’m no perfectionist. I’m slapdash and impatient so I need quick and foolproof recipes on which I can totally rely (because are there any better words than ‘Shall we have a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake?’)

The recipe:

  • 175g butter
  • 175g golden, unrefined caster sugar
  • A large orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 75g orange marmalade
  • 175g self-raising flour

For the frosting:

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsps orange juice

Set the oven at 180°C/gas mark 4. Line a loaf tin about 25 x 11 x 7cm deep. Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and beat till pale and fluffy. Finely grate the orange. Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. With the machine at moderate speed, pour in the beaten egg, a little at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition. Beat in the marmalade 
and the grated orange zest.

Remove the bowl and fold in the flour with a large metal spoon. Do this slowly, firmly but carefully, till there is no sign of any flour. Gently stir in the juice of half the orange. Spoon into the lined cake tin, lightly smoothing the top. Bake for 40 minutes, checking it after 35 with a metal skewer. Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and cool on a wire rack.

Sieve the icing sugar and mix it to a smooth, slightly runny consistency with as much of the remaining orange juice as it takes. Drizzle the icing over the cake letting it run down the sides, and leave to set.

Feeling bloated? No problem…

Jekka McVicar has all the answers


According to world renowned herby person, Jekka McVicar, the Seville orange is not just about stickiness and breakfast time.

There are medicinal properties wrapped up in the skin of Citrus aurantium, the bitter orange.

Uses and properties

Bitter orange peel is mainly used to enhance appetite and to treat dyspeptic complaints.

There are numerous traditional uses for the peel from sleeplessness to flatulence and bloating.

Medicinally, it is taken as a tea and is thought to be especially good first thing in the morning.

On butlers and small bears

Literary marmalade


Marmalade has an important role in British society. It is one of those foods that conjure up visions of rainy afternoons, herbaceous borders, cricket and proper toast in silver toast racks. The sort of thing that has always made expatriates shed a quiet tear of homesickness.

Captain Scott carried marmalade to the Antarctic in 1912. Sir Edmund Hillary breakfasted on marmalade while climbing Everest in 1953.

It is not therefore surprising that it has also frequently appeared in British culture. Alice (in Wonderland) snacks on marmalade during her long fall after following the White Rabbit down a burrow. James Bond eats a boiled egg and wholewheat toast with marmalade every day for breakfast. The opening sentence of P.G.Wodehouse’s ‘Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves’ is:

“I marmaladed a slice of toast with something of a flourish, and I don’t suppose I have ever come much closer to saying “Tra-la-la” as I did the lathering, for I was feeling in mid-season form this morning.”

But probably the greatest use of marmalade in English literature comes in the character of Paddington Bear. If you are unfamiliar with the great hero of Michael Bond’s book then you should have missed out on a great thing.

Paddington is a bear - probably one of the two greatest bears in literature (the other, of course, being Winnie the Pooh) – who came from darkest Peru and was discovered on Paddington Station by Mr and Mrs Brown with whom he set up home. Paddington had a tragic childhood in that he was orphaned when only a few weeks old following a terrible earthquake. He was brought up by his Great-Aunt Lucy and came to England when the poor old thing had to go into a Home for Retired Bears in Lima.

Anyway, the point is that Paddington always has a jar of marmalade in his suitcase and almost invariably a marmalade sandwich under his hat. A very sensible precaution.

© Amanda Slater

Drying times

Washer uppers need good tea towels


A wise person may well have once said, “You can never have too much really good chocolate or too many dishcloths”.

The latter commodity is always useful for covering rising bread, polishing your crystal glasses, tucking raffishly into one’s belt as you whizz round the kitchen being efficient, as improvised oven gloves or for the purpose nature intended: drying up.

For one of the unavoidable effects of any sort of cooking - but particularly cooking that involves sticky stuff is the washing up. Sure, we have dishwashers to take the heavy work but there is something old fashioned and comforting about picking a plate from a draining rack and drying it with a good quality cloth. It used to be part of everyday family life. “You wash, I’ll dry”. A time for mindless labour and conversation.

The drying up cloth makes an excellent present and a statement in itself: maps of holiday destinations, pithy quotes, a collection of farmyard animals or garden birds, representations of great master paintings or the self portraits of a class of primary school children. All of these have been splashed over dishcloths that I have known.

Emma Bridgewater is well known potter, and great supporter of the National Gardens Scheme, and has produced this very striking number. It follows the pattern of her simple, but beautifully designed, collections of breakfast china.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s cake

Tiffany Daneff is impressed


Chocolate cakes are good, when the chocolate is grown up with that heart of darkness to it. Lemon cakes (drizzled ones especially) disappear within a day in my household as no one, not even my ever dieting neighbour who has taken to shaking his head at cake with his coffee of a morning, can resist that unctuous teasing contrast between sugary and citrussy. But this cake has been a revelation. It delivers the 200% satisfaction of a proper fruit cake with that secret extra something that we marmalade lovers know can only come from the Seville orange.

What Hugh says: I’m a big fan of this teatime cake, first rustled up by my colleague Nikki Duffy. It has the hearty, substantial charm of a traditional fruit cake, but is lighter in texture and fresher in its fruitiness. The ground almonds are not essential but they do give the cake a particular, yielding moistness. Serves 10–12

You will need:

  • 3 tablespoons whisky
  • 100g sultanas
  • 100g ground almonds (optional)
  • 175g light brown flour (or 225g if not using the ground almonds)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3–4 large eating apples (about 500g in total)
  • 200g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 200g soft dark brown or dark muscovado sugar
  • 3 large free-range eggs
  • 150g thick-cut orange marmalade
  • 25g demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas 3. Butter a 20cm springform cake tin, line the base with baking parchment and lightly butter the paper. Warm the whisky in a small pan, then remove from the heat, add the sultanas and leave to soak while you prepare the cake. Put the ground almonds, if using, flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl, combine thoroughly and set aside. Peel, quarter and core the apples, then slice thickly.

Beat the butter and brown sugar together thoroughly, ideally in a mixer or using a handheld electric whisk for several minutes, until really light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour mix with each, and amalgamating each thoroughly before adding the next. Add the remaining flour and fold it in.

Beat the marmalade to loosen it, then fold into the cake mixture. Fold in the sultanas and whisky, and finally the slices of apple. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared cake tin and scatter the demerara sugar over the surface. Bake for about 1ÂĽ hours, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Let the cake cool slightly in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Variation This cake is delicious made with dried cherries in place of sultanas – soaked in whisky or added just as they come, as you please.

Extracted from River Cottage Fruit Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, ÂŁ25, Bloomsbury

Old Ellen’s marmalade

Camilla Swift shares 100 year old recipe


Old Ellen was my great aunt Margery’s ladies’ maid who stayed valiantly on in service till the ripe old age of 90 occasionally dusting and making marmalade. Her family objected to her still working so took her away. Three weeks later she was dead.

She gave this recipe to my mother as a leaving school present, thought it might come in handy in the years to come. My mum gave it to me. It’s 100 years old but still works.

  • 4 1/2 lbs/
  • 8 Seville oranges
  • 1 sweet orange
  • 1-2 lemons
  • 9 lbs granulated sugar NB not preserve sugar
  • 9 pints water
  • 15 -18 jampots (Bon Maman has good lids)

Makes approx 15- 18lbs of jam.

Wash fruit, cut in half, scoop out insides with a spoon - pith, fruit, pips, the lot. Chop everything into small pieces and put into muslin bag to drip overnight into a bowl containing 1 pint water.

Slice, peel very finely and put in basin with remaining 8 pints (NB if bored with chopping up peel, put what’s left in another muslin bag to steep overnight for added taste.)

A tall kitchen stool with rungs is ideal for the dripping muslin scenario. Leave them hanging overnight like marmalady bats from a sturdy ruler balanced between the rungs. Then arm yourself with an agreeable glass of wine and go catch up with boxed set of Breaking Bad. (NB this last bit was not part of old Ellen’s original recipe)

Next day

Put aside muslin bags. Boil contents of bowls for at least 2 hours until peel is soft.

Warm sugar gently in low oven and add to mixture (you can warm this gently too but not essential).

Simmer mixture gently until sugar is melted, stirring occasionally, then squeeze bags hard either with hands or between two plates to release pectin and add to liquid.

Boil furiously for about 15 minutes or until mixture reaches setting point, 220 on jam thermometer, or do the cold plate test. Drop a small amount on cold plate – if it wrinkles when pushed with finger it’s ready. If not carry on boiling and testing at 10 minute intervals until it is.


  • Put plate in fridge to speed up setting test.
  • Turn off pan while testing.
  • If there’s a lot of scum, you can get rid of most of it by stirring in half a teaspoon of butter, the rest can be spooned off.
  • If in doubt under rather than over boil.
  • If under you can always reboil even if it’s been in the jar. Over boil and it becomes too solid and you’re kiboshed.

Leave to rest and cool for 15-20 minutes before pouring into warmed pots. Times aren’t always exact but fear not. This works.