BITTER SWEET EPIPHANY

Oak Marmalade_EditedI once heard the taste of a freshly made batch of Seville orange marmalade described as a ‘bitter sweet epiphany’.  I agree, this burst of citrus sunshine brightens the darkest day.

I eagerly await the day in dullest winter when these knobbly and ugly citruses from Seville arrive for marmalade season. The season’s short and tart, but the result is sublime. Bon Apetito!

Seville conjures up all sorts of images:  sultry nights scented with white orange blossoms, stallions ridden by dashing caballeros wooing elegant Señoras during the Feria, and Semana Santa’s penitentes marching through the streets carrying Madonnas and crucifixes. Seville was the ancient capital of Andalucia, the home of flamenco, and the departure point for the conquistadores.

In addition to the operas, ferias and festivals this Andalusian city has given us, there is the humble Seville orange. ‘Seville’ oranges are not vibrantly juicy like Spanish navels nor are they the colour of a winter sunset like the blushing crimson blood oranges from Sicily. Bitter, thick skinned, heavily piped and an ugly cousin of the Moroccan orange, these aromatic oranges give a tang that makes them the only fruit for the Mother of all Marmalades.

Blink and you’ll miss it, the season’s so short… just.a few weeks.  I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t actually make my own.  Mine never lives up to expectations.  So I phone the pros…the ladies at the WI, who are masters of marmalade.  I phone those who make the clear chunky type.  I’m not a fan of marmalades with brandy or ingredients which makes them look dark.  I also don’t like it mixed with other citrus fruits…just Seville oranges.

My favourite version is ´Mr. Ringrose’s Marmalade´ from Constance Spry.  It is made in a huge casserole where whole oranges simmer for at least half a day.  Then they are cut into quarters, the pips and pulp removed, and the peel sliced.  Mix pulp and peel together and to each pound add a pint of the water in which the oranges have been boiled. To each pound of this add 1 and 3/4 pounds of sugar.  Dissolve over low heat, then boil rapidly for half and hour or until it sets. This last procedure is tedious, but finally it begins to thicken.  The wondrous smell of this concoction is overwhelming.

Before your eyes these dear wrinkly skinned fruits turn into marmalade.  It’s the combo of sweet and bitter that creates the jewel-like amber taste.  Like the first daffodils in February, this citrus blast will brighten your breakfast in the mid-winter gloom.  Suddenly you feel the hot sun of Spain on your toast and relive happy times you have had there.  That’s worth the time and effort, and the wait.

I bought my first jar last Friday at the Country Market in Faringdon.  Already I feel happier. A Bitter Sweet Epiphany!  Viva España…Viva Seville…Viva Naranjas!

 − Mrs M

 

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