This is getting beyond a joke. For a week now, with the exception of last Tuesday, it’s rained. Sometimes it’s just drizzled. Sometimes it’s rained good and proper. Sometimes it’s poured. Walks are cancelled, and the market’s a dismal affair with few stallholders and even fewer customers.
But I had to go yesterday, whatever the weather. I’d been promised Seville oranges. ‘Will you have any more next week?’ I asked anxiously. ‘Oh yes, I’m bound to.’ ‘For we English types, I guess?’ ‘No. Not at all. I adore Sevilles. I make tons of marmalade. So do my neighbours.’
Well, that did surprise me. Listen to this recipe from a French neighbour, a lovely woman whom I know to be a keen cook. (Sorry, Sharon, you’ve heard this tale. Bear with me).
‘Take ordinary oranges. Squeeze the juice, and then take the peel and boil it in plenty of water. Throw away the water. Repeat three times until you’ve got rid of the bitterness. Chop the peel finely…..’ By then she’d lost me. I didn’t really listen to the end of the recipe. I felt that on the subject of good gutsy marmalade, this woman and I had nothing to say to one another.
Anyway, tired of downsizing for the time being, we’ve applied ourselves to the business of our marmalade factory. We have our own needs to satisfy, and those of all our French friends, who profess themselves rather keen on our bright and bitter conserve. This year, I’ve chosen Dan Leppard’s recipe. I’ve got a variation on the go, as well as one version where I follow him to the letter. Instead of using the whole peel in the finished product, I’m using only the thinly peeled zesty part, though of course all the pith will be boiled up with the pips before being discarded.
We’ve been scrubbing, squeezing and chopping half the morning, and now the two varieties are sitting waiting for tomorrow , when we can boil each of them to setting point, get out a crusty loaf, butter, and apply ourselves to the serious business of a taste-test.