After a few days in Tofino and a lovely afternoon stop at the gorgeous countryside home of old friends in the north of the Island, we headed south-east towards the wine and gastronomy capital of Cowichan Valley. We decided to make Cowichan Bay our base to explore the region, and stayed at the very lovely Seasons Above the Bay B&B, located just a 5-minute walk from the centre of town (a charming street along the water).
The highlight of our stay at Seasons was, without a doubt, the magnificent breakfasts that Bev and Jim prepared for us every morning – and which we enjoyed outside surrounded by the luscious blossoms of their gorgeous garden. A feast for both the stomach and the eyes!
Have you noticed them, in the markets? Perfect, fragrant oranges, a little firmer, perhaps, than the usual. When sign says, ‘Seville’, that’s when you make your move, because these oranges won’t be here for long. They’re a January thing, and the truth is that there is little more satisfying, on a gloomy January day, than turning these amazing gorgeous guys into delicious, chunky marmalade.
This is what I discovered: there are really 3 key steps to getting there.
List of Ingredients
10 Seville Oranges
4 C of water
1 C of sugar for each cup of jam
Pkg of cheesecloth, and string or ribbon
Are these not unusually pretty? Save every seed.
First, you have to juice about 10 of these oranges. Just cut them in half and use an old fashioned juicer to squeeze them. (Hang on to all of the seeds.) Put the juice into a measuring cup.
Second, you take each of your juiced half-oranges in hand, and one by one, using the tip of a teaspoon, you kind of gouge the contents to remove ALL of the white pith, which you put with the seeds.
I know this sounds like a hassle, but what you’re going to do is to take all of these ‘guts’ and seeds and put them into a ‘bag’ made out of cheesecloth. (Cheesecloth is sold in little packages and when you unfold it, you have 4 layers.)
Cut yourself a decently sized ‘chunk’ which is 4 layers thick, and place all pith and seeds in the centre.
Fold up the 4 corners, and use string or sturdy ribbon to tie the ‘bag’ shut. (You will be tying this lovely object to the handle of your cooking pot, so leave the string long.)
Put your juice, along with 4 cups of water, and the juice of one lemon into a large, thick-bottomed cooking pot. Tie your cheesecloth bag to the handle so that the bag is dangling into the pot. Add all of your julienned orange and lemon strips, and begin cooking over medium high heat, stirring fairly frequently. Your goal is to bring this mixture to a boil, and cook it for a good long while to soften the orange peel and intensify the flavor before you add your sugar.
Third,take each of your ’empty’ orange halves, one at a time, and julienne the skin into very thin little strips. You’ll then cut these long, thin strips, a bunch at a time, into thirds. If desired, to add a little complexity to the flavor, juice, and julienne one lemon, also. Now, all that’s left to do is to cook the stuff up!
This first cooking stage takes about 30 minutes. (Your cheesecloth sack is busy adding a ton of flavor, but also, this is where the pectin (thickening agent) will come from.) So once the peel is tender, take the jam off of the heat. Carefully remove the cheesecloth sack and place it into a bowl to cool thoroughly.
Now, for each cup of cooked jam, you will be measuring in a scant cup of sugar. To be accurate, measure out the jam, put it back in your pot, and add the correct amount of sugar. Put the whole thing back onto the heat. Now this is the point where the pectin gets added.
Here’s the deal: you have to actually ‘milk’ the pectin out of your cooled cheesecloth bag. You do this by squeezing the bag, a ‘handful’ at a time, pressing and kneading. This takes a few minutes and should yield a few tablespoons of pectin. (I have to tell the truth here: I wound up adding a packet of Certo, just to be sure, as I found I wasn’t getting a large amount out of the ‘bag’.)
Add this to your pot, and place over medium high heat. You’re going to bring the jam to a boil, and then continue cooking it to the point where it will ‘set’, before placing it into sterilized jars.
So, how do you know (I mean, for sure) that your marmalade will set? Well, if you have a candy thermometer, place it onto the side of the pot, bulb in but not touching the bottom) while you cook your jam. If not, you are going to use the wrinkle method. I put several little bowls into my freezer. Once I thought the jam might be ready, I pulled out a bowl and put a drop of liquid jam onto it.
Here’s what you look for: give the jam a little nudge with your finger tip. If it buckles, or wrinkles a little, you are done! This actually takes a wee while, and you will probably ‘test’ 4 or 5 times. That’s OK: you want to be sure.
And when you are sure, ladle your marmalade into sterilized 8 ounce jars, and top with sterilized snap lids. You can process in a hot water bath, if you wish .
With 10 large oranges, we yielded 10 jars of marmalade.
Delicious, chunky; it really is the best marmalade ever!