My friend Sarah, the Artist Formerly Known As The Jam Lady, hates making marmalade. Nevertheless, she would heroically get the citrus boiling in the jam pan and season it with her angry tears, even while being glued to the floor by sticky splatters, inventing new and creative swearwords, and still come out the other side with the most delicious Clementine and Aperol marmalade. But now she has given up the jam pan and so we are having to fend for ourselves, marmalade-wise.
I’ve made marmalade often and I understand her pain: either you boil the fruit first, then slice it, in which case it’s a kitchen full of steam and sticky mess, or you juice and slice the fruit first then boil the shreds, which is frankly hard work. You can chop it up in a food processor but I like to have shreds of peel in my marms, not chips. Anyway, I was microwaving some past-their-best oranges for a Nigella orange cake when I had a brainwave: why not microwave the fruit for marmalade? Soft peel to shred more easily, no juicing, little steam and much much less mess – if it worked. So I tried it and, dear reader, you will not be surprised to hear that it worked or we wouldn’t be here now.
This is not a marmalade with shreds suspended in a beautiful clear jelly, but it is beautiful in a glorious glowing orange way, and anyway I’m happy to sacrifice a bit of beauty for a much easier, less messy process. I added Aperol because that’s what Sarah used to add – and I should be clear that this is very much her recipe with my Lazy twist – but you could add different booze, or no booze. Another time I might add some star anise or cardamom pods and fish them out at the end.
The lemon is necessary to bump up the pectin as clementines aren’t as pectin-rich as some other citrus, but you could try leaving it out and using jam sugar which has added pectin – just be careful when you’re boiling it as it will probably be ready to set much more quickly. It’s better to stop boiling before it’s quite set than over-boil and end up with a glue-solid marmalade that won’t spread. If you decide it’s too soft once it’s cooled, you can reboil it.
Lastly, if you are the kind of person who owns a sugar thermometer, you will probably also be the kind of person that knows what temperature to boil it to for the kind of set you want. I don’t own a sugar thermometer, so I rely on the cold saucer test. Double up the quantities if you like, but it’s so quick and easy to make that if you’re making it for yourself, it might be better to do small batches.
Clementine and Aperol marmalade
Makes three medium jars
- 600g clementines
- 600g granulated sugar
- 1 large lemon
- 2-3 tbsps Aperol
Put the clementines in a single layer in a microwaveable bowl or casserole dish, and stab each one a couple of times with a sharp knife. Cover the bowl with a plate or cover and microwave on High (800W) for 13 mins, by which time they should be soft. Leave to cool, then cut the whole fruit into shreds (not just the peel), reserving the juice in the bowl.
Put the shredded fruit, the juice, the sugar and 500ml water in a large pan (big enough for the marmalade to boil without boiling over), and heat slowly, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. While this is happening, wash the jars in hot soapy water then put in a low oven to dry; also put a saucer into the freezer.
Add the juice of the lemon, and also the juiced halves, then turn up the heat and bring the pan to the boil. Keep it at a rolling boil for about 20 mins, stirring regularly but not constantly (which would bring the temperature down). Now start testing by putting a half teaspoonful of marmalade on the cold saucer, putting it back into the freezer for a minute or so, then pushing the edge of the marmalade to see if it wrinkles. If not, continue boiling and test again in five minutes. Be careful at this stage to stir regularly (and carefully! Boiling hot sugar is no fun on skin) so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan. If it does, it’s not the end of the world – you can carefully ladle the unburnt marmalade off the top, or be less careful, call it Dark Marmalade, and talk loudly about the delights of its caramelised taste.
When it’s boiled to the set you want (you will probably find the bubbles change in character), take it off the heat, and remove the lemon halves, squeezing as much syrup from them as possible. Stir in the Aperol if using, then decant the marmalade into the hot jars (I use a Pyrex jug for this) and top with a waxed disc if you like, then the lids (sterilised by pouring boiling water over them). Label, store somewhere cool and dark, and keep in the fridge once opened.