In my last post I suggested that a batch of rosehip syrup might prove handy with the Christmas gift season approaching. Today I have another homemade present idea, and this one has already been tried and tested on last year’s recipients. They almost all said it was too sweet, so I’ve tweaked the sugar content this year to make it as bitter as any true marmalade lover could wish. The one person who truly loved it last year, Tom’s brother-in-law, sent me a forlon facebook message the day his jar ran out, so apologies to him in advance if he now finds his favourite marmalade unpalatably sharp. Sorry Don.

The genius of this marmalade is the grapefruit and lemon, which contribute the sour element which you get in a traditional marmalade from Seville oranges. Since Seville oranges aren’t available until January and don’t last long, this means your marmalade-making season is extended, theoretically year round. I think of this as a winter thing, though, because of the citrus which are around in the colder months, and slightly more obtusely, because I associate homemade marmalade and grapefruit for breakfast with my family and Christmas time. My mum also introduced me to Campari and grapefruit, which is the drink equivalent of this: clean and reviving and bittersweet.

I plan to post some more recipes in the run up to Christmas for the edible presents I make – there are a few things that always seem well received (there have also been plenty that didn’t work out as I hoped…but I tend to think that chucking a substandard biscuit in the compost is less effort than transporting an unwanted gift set to Oxfam). Some of them are honestly less effort than rosehip syrup or marmalade, although I do like doing that kind of lengthy kitchen work at this time of year. Something about pottering around with the central heating on and laying in stores of things in jars is immensely satisfying.

Orange, grapefruit and lemon marmalade

Makes about 4.5kg (around 12 jars)

2 oranges and 2 grapefruit, weighing 1.3kg (I used 2 1/2 grapefruit to make up the amount)
4 unwaxed lemons
3.6 litres water
2.2 kg sugar

You will also need a huge saucepan, or to be prepared to split the ingredients between two big pans.

Wash the fruit (remember you’ll be eating the peel!) and cut in half. Squeeze out all the juice. Remove the membrane – a bit of determined scraping with a teaspoon should do the job. Cut the peel into quarters and slice the rind widthways into thin slivers. Put the rind in a bowl with the juice and water.

Put the membrane, including pips, in a muslin bag/clean tights/other thin porous material and add to the bowl. Leave this overnight.

The next day, simmer the fruits, with the bag of membrane, in your huge saucepan for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the peel is edibly soft (it must be really soft before the sugar is added, otherwise it will become irredeemably hardened). Make a note of the volume when you start – marking it on a wooden spoon is handy – so you know how much it has reduced by later. Cover the pan for the first half an hour, then uncover and allow the liquid to reduce, eventually to between a third and a half of its original volume.

While the liquid is reducing, warm the sugar in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes and sterilise your jars.

Remove and discard the muslin bag from the pan. Add the warmed sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook until it reaches setting point, which should take around 10 minutes*. Pour the marmalade into the sterilised jars and cover while still hot.

*To check setting point, put a saucer in the fridge until cold. Put a teaspoonful of marmalade onto the cold saucer and put it back in the fridge for a couple of minutes (turn off the marmalade while you do this to prevent it setting too hard). If the marmalade forms a wrinkle when you push it with your finger then it’s ready.
 
Adapted from Darina Allen’s ‘Ballymaloe Cookery Course’
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