Month: January 2013

Marmalade Making

Seville Orange Marmalade

January is the time of year to make marmalade. As I look outside at the cold snowy landscape what better way to embrace the short cold days of January than to spend a few hours in the kitchen make pots of glistening gold marmalade?

I inherited my preserving pan from my mum. I have vivid memories of mum making jams, marmalade and jellies in this pan. It wasn’t until I got married in 2011 that I re-discovered the pleasure of jam making. It was my mum who encouraged me in all things creative. She enrolled me in an art class and encouraged me to make things as presents. At School the one subject she insisted I took was Home Economics as she felt if I could cook a meal I was set up for life.

For my wedding Bridal-Favours I made Crab-apple Jelly in mums’ old preserving pan.  I gathered the apples with my Uncle in the New Forest in the Autumn. It was my way of including mum in my wedding day.

Bridal Favours


It’s the slow process of marmalade-making which is pleasurable. It is much more economic to buy a jar from the local supermarket, but that’s not the point! The very process of marmalade making – juicing, cutting the skin into fine shreds, simmering the fruit slowly and then boiling fiercely while the whole house is filled with the rich bittersweet aroma of Seville oranges is just worth doing for the experience alone.

History of Marmalade

Marmalade is thought to have been invented in Scotland, in the port of Dundee in the late 18th century. A local victualler, James Keiller discovered a cargo of oranges being sold cheaply from a ship which was seeking harbour from a winter storm. The boat was on its way from Seville and due to the storm the oranges were already less fresh than they ought to have been. Seville OrangesThinking he could sell the oranges for profit in his shop, he bought the whole cargo, only to discover the oranges were bitter and therefore unsellable. His wife took the oranges home with the idea of making orange jam. The resulting “jam” was a success and became named Marmalade after Marmelos, a Portuguese word for a quince paste similar in texture to this new orange preserve. Marmalade is still produced today by the Keiller Company in Dundee.

Seville Orange Marmalade

Seville oranges have a much stronger and more sour taste than ordinary oranges and are therefore great for marmalade making as the sharp, bitter oranges conquer the sweetness of the sugar.  Unlike sweet oranges, the pith of Seville oranges becomes transparent and glistening when cooked with sugar, resulting in a bright, sparkling preserve if you are lucky or skilled in the art of preserve making! The season for Seville oranges is short – they are only normally around for a few weeks in January.

 Ingredients                                Seville Oranges in Morrocan Blue Bowl

1kg Seville oranges

1 unwaxed lemon

2kg Preserving Sugar


Wash the oranges and lemon thoroughly, then dry them in a clean tea towel. Pour 2 litres cold water into a large, wide pan or preserving pan. Juicing SevillesSqueeze the oranges and lemon and add the juice to the water. Reserve the pips and orange rind, but discard the squeezed lemon.

Cut the oranges in half again and, using a metal spoon, scrape the pith and pips into the centre of a large square of muslin. Tie the muslin with kitchen string to form a bag. Add to the pan and tie the ends of the string to the pan handle to make it easier to remove later.Scrape the Pith and Pips

Seville oranges have thick, rough skin so are not as beautiful as regular oranges. The flesh is tart and they are packed with seeds. Most of the pectin that sets marmalade is found in the pips and pith which is why the pips and pith are placed in a muslin bag and boiled with the marmalade. In this way as much pectin as possible is extracted which ensures a good set.

Cut the orange peel into strips – chunky for coarse cut and thinner for a fine shred. It is easier and quicker if you place 2 pieces on top of each other and slice with a sharp knife. Softening the PeelAdd to the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours, until the peel is very soft and the liquid reduced by about half. Cooking the peel until soft is important to release the pectin which helps the marmalade to set. Remove and discard the bag with the pips and pith, squeezing as much juice as possible back into the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. This was quite fun as it was all gooey. I ended getting my hands on the bag and squeezing it as much as I could. I then created quite a sticky mess all round the kitchen! Mr Smiles loved me!

Add the Preserving Sugar and stir over a low heat until it has dissolved. Preserving sugar has larger crystals which dissolve slowly. This minimises scum and hopefully results in a bright, clear marmalade.

Dissolving Sugar

Increase the heat and boil rapidly until it reaches setting point. This usually takes about 15 minutes but can take longer.

Rolling BoilRolling Boil

To test, remove the pan from the heat and spoon a little marmalade onto a chilled saucer. Allow to cool for a few seconds, then push with a finger. If the surface wrinkles it is ready. If not, boil for a further 5 minutes and test again. To be honest I forgot to chill a saucer so relied on guess work!

Leave the marmalade to settle for 20 minutes, then skim off any scum from the surface with a  spoon. Apparently this part is quite important. Leaving the marmalade to stand for 20 minutes stops the peel from sinking in the finished product.

For an extra special marmalade I decided to be a bit inventive and added a good measure of Grand Marnier just before potting.  Grand Marnier is made from a blend of Cognac brandy, distilled essence of bitter orange, and sugar so seemed an appropriate addition! Grand Marnier

Stir the mixture and pour into warm, clean jars, using a jug. Place a waxed disk on top immediately. Cover when cold, then label and date.

I made two batches. The first batch is rather soft and syrupy. However I love the glistening bright translucent orange colour. It has fine peel suspended in the soft jelly. My second batch is more like darker Oxford-Style marmalade. Although this is firmer I think I over-bolied it. This one is a darker, opaque marmalade with thicker tougher chunks of peel. If you over-boil marmalade it looses the lovely tangy flavour.

So here it is my first ever marmalade ready for breakfast tomorrow:-

Home-made Marmalade


New Beginnings in our Garden

Place of Relaxation


I spent a lovely day in our garden on New Years Day. Getting out in the garden and pottering is truly my `Place of Relaxation.’ I’m so excited about the new gardening year. My website is full of images of flowers that I’ve planted and cared for over the last couple of years. I am passionate about flowers! I love growing them and I love photographing them as well as painting them in watercolours.

George Spice gardening
George Spice (1851-1942)

Where did my green fingers come from? My Grandma’s Grandfather, George Spice, was a gardener professionally for most of his life. I never met him but his passion and skill for  growing things was handed down the generations. George Spice grew up in Bapchild, Kent, where he worked as a gardener for a country house called Hempstead House in the 1890s. George and his family moved to Clapton, London in the 1900s. George was able to find work with a large market gardening business owned by Owen Charles Greenwood in Upper Clapton Road. We have some lovely pictures of George hard at work.

Owen C Greenwood



My Grandma remembered the Greenwood’s florist shop where she used to visit her Grandad George at work. It was a large shop with an enormous fountain in the middle which she thought was amazing. George Spice always took pride in his appearance and even when retired wore a flower in his buttonhole.


My husband doesn’t have my passion for gardening. In some ways I’m quite pleased about that! Before I moved in I was aware that the dandelions were taking over and would need to be shown who’s boss. There were no flower borders only a narrow strip which was full of rhubarb and swiss chard.








When I moved in I couldn’t wait to start a transformation and grow flowers. I am trying to create an informal cottage garden. However my words when I took over the garden were `It looks like a concentration camp with that big high fence!’ Well the fence still remains as Mr Smiles is quite a private person.  However I am slowly putting in plants which will hopefully climb and ramble. Don’t tell Mr Smiles!

Looking back over the photos I took of `my’ garden last year has been so exciting. It was the first year I saw the fruits of my labour. I am trying to create a bird friendly garden and in the last week have seen a blackbird, robin, blue tit, great tits, a nuthatch, great spotted woodpecker and a wren.  DSC_4185DSC_4211











It is great when a plant emerges out of the soil which I have completely forgotten about, like greeting an old faithful friend. I hope George Spice would approve of my labours!









I  am particularly proud of my roses.








So a New Year in the garden begins…Shoots are beginning to emerge.

DSC_7771I’m not sure if this is a good thing to have daffodil and crocus shoots peeping up through the ground in January but it still makes me happy thinking about the year ahead.

Mr Smiles was very generous this Christmas as he bought me a fabulous new set of gardening tools which I will enjoy using over the years ahead.


They are so beautifully made it seems a shame to get them dirty!



Last Autumn I collected my own seed for the first time. Up to now I have bought plants and seeds from the garden centre. This year I want to have the joy of growing my own plants from seed I have collected for free. I’m not sure if I will be successful but growing things is in my genes and it will be fun having a go! I am particularly excited about the Agapanthus seeds I collected.


These are amazing plants which I love.



Agapanthus, or African Lily, are summer-flowering perennial plants, grown for their showy flowers, commonly in shades of blue and purple, but also white and pink.


I have also been very inspired by Sarah Raven’s Seed Collections.  So much so that my Uncle gave me a fabulous seed collection of hers called `Really Good Cut Flowers’ for Christmas.


The collection includes 20 packets of seeds in a stylish, reusable tin, detailed sowing instructions, a month by month sowing and harvesting chart and a planting plan designed by Sarah so you know exactly what to plant where. SarahRavensSeedCollection Apparently I will be able to `fill our house with vases of cut flowers for most of the year with these seeds – the very best, most beautiful and productive cut and come again flowers – for a small cutting patch, with the right balance of flowers and foliage.’ I can’t wait!

I look forward to sharing the photographs I take of these fantastic flowers as they come into bloom throughout the year ahead.


I’m also looking forward to being able to relax in our beautiful garden surrounded by pretty flowers….

Dec 2013 I’ve just received this fabulous image of the florist shop where George Spice worked. Wow I can see why the shop formed a lasting impression in my gran’s mind!

Owen C. Greenwood