So, it’s that time of year when the Seville Orange crop brings a splash of colour to the fresh produce section. It’s marmalade season, especially for those of a competitive nature, because The World’s Original Marmalade Awards are accepting jars for their annual competition. Thousands of marmalade lovers participate in this popular contest, including myself last year, where a jar I made following an 1840 hand-written recipe won a gold award. Have a bash yourself – it’s worth it for the fabulous feedback you get from the judges (yes, they send comment cards for every single jar that is entered!). There’s even a section where it doesn’t matter what the marmalade tastes like, because the prize is for the label design!
I’m not suggesting any marmalade recipes here, rather some ideas for what to do when that initial enthusiasm wears off and the sacks of Seville Oranges you gleefully purchased at the start of the season are still sitting in the fruit bowl and Stuff™ has eaten up all of your spare time and got in the way of your marmalade plans. This happened to me a few years ago, and here is my suggestion for dealing with a mound of Seville Oranges and no enthusiasm/time/jars to make marmalade.
First of all, don’t throw the oranges away. Grate the zest, then cut them open and squeeze the juice. Mix all together and pour into large ice-cube trays and freeze. When frozen, seal them in a ziplock bag. Each frozen cube is roughly equivalent to one Seville Orange, so it’s easy for later use, for flavouring curds, cakes, icing, custards, tarts, ice-creams and savoury dishes. The strong, bitter-sharp flavour packs a real punch that sweet oranges just can’t match. And, of course, they make an amazing curd. Even on the years where I make marmalade, I make sure I stock up on Seville Orange ice cubes so that I can enjoy some Seville Orange curd throughout the year.
Before moving on to the recipe, let us pause a moment and talk butter. Specifically, clarified butter.
Clarified butter is butter that has had all the imperfections and unnecessary ingredients removed so that all you are left with is the very purest form of butter. Many of us might be familiar with the Indian cooking ghee sold in distinctive green tins in the UK. The ghee from these tins has a wonderful, perfumed aroma which immediately brings to mind the warms spices of India, and I do try and ensure I always have a tin in the cupboard for spur-of-the-moment curries. However, it isn’t necessary to buy all your clarified butter because t is simplicity itself to make your own.
In the context of this post, clarified butter is definitely the only choice when making fruit curds and will extend the shelf-life of your fruit curds drastically. You might think it a faff, but if you do make a batch of clarified butter, it will keep in the fridge for weeks and is therefore on hand, not just for curd, but also for lots of other cooking uses. Melted butter separates itself into three distinct layers: the top layer consists of little pieces of casein that float on the surface, the middle layer is the butter itself, and the bottom layer is composed of all the milk solids and salt that are present in regular butter. The middle layer is the only one we want, the rest can be discarded, and without the casein and milk solids, there’s nothing left in the clarified butter to spoil or go off.
500g unsalted butter
- Put the butter into a small saucepan and set it on the lowest possible heat.
- Leave it until completely melted and the milk solids have sunk to the bottom. Don’t stir.
- Turn off the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes.
- Skim the debris from the surface, the either pour or spoon the clarified butter into either a jar or a seal-able plastic box.
- Don’t let any of the milk solids become mixed with the clarified butter. Stop pouring when this looks like happening.
- Cover the clarified butter and allow to cool. Store in the fridge.
- Pour the remaining butter and milk solids into a glass and allow to solidify.
- Cut around the disc of butter and remove.
- Rinse the disc of butter in cold water, making sure all milk solids are removed.
- Add the disc of washed butter to the rest of the clarified butter.
Seville Orange Curd
zest and juice from 3 Seville Oranges
200g caster sugar
112g clarified butter
3 large eggs
- Whisk the eggs, pour into a jug and set aside.
- Put the remaining ingredients into a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.
- Whisk the ingredients together until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
- Gradually pour in the eggs, whisking the mixture vigorously so that the eggs don’t curdle on contact with the warm liquid.
- Keep whisking until the mixture heats up and begins to thicken. Remember, the curd will thicken as it cools, so if it coats the back of a wooden spoon when hot, that’s it.
- Pour into sterilised jars if you like, but I find a sturdy plastic box that I can keep in the fridge is simpler. And to be honest, despite its long shelf life, its demolished in days.
P.S The deliciously crunchy, wholemeal toast in the pic is cut from a Grant Loaf.