No, this old Irish recipe wasn’t handed down from Our Nan during the State of Emergency in the 1940s. It’s just a handy standby if you’ve run out of marmalade – or simply want to get the most out of your orange peel.
Emergency Marmalade costs next to nothing, and is simple and easy to make. It’s chunky and rough and looks scruffy – nothing like “proper” shop-bought. But for all that it has an unforgettably intense flavour. And who needs proper anyway? Think of Emergency Marmalade as, er, the Ramones or Hüsker Dü of the world of citrus conserves and orange preserves.
The following measurements and timings are quite rough, because so is life. Everybody’s cooker is different, the size of the oranges will vary too, and the thickness of their peel and its flavour, and how much peel you have to hand, and so on. But who cares? Rough measurements are fine because this is a very forgiving recipe.
You can start cooking it in the morning in a small slow-cooker, then leave it to bubble away for the rest of the day with only a couple of minor adjustments along the way.
You will need:
- The peel of 3-4 oranges
- A lemon (unwaxed)
- About the same weight again of sugar
- Some boiling water
The process starts by squirreling away your orange peel in a container in the fridge for two or three days. The oranges should be preferably organic. The peel from mandarins, clementines or lemons is also excellent.
Once you have hoarded away enough peel, you are ready to start the jam production proper.
1. Give the peel and the lemon a quick rinse in cold water, and weigh them both together. Later on you’ll need about the same weight again of sugar.
2. Squeeze the lemon’s juice into the slow cooker’s crock. Save the lemon’s peel for the next step.
3. Slice the lemon and orange peel roughly into quarters. Chop these into thin slithers or shards, then put them all in the crock. So far it doesn’t look that promising, but trust me…
4. Optional: if you have any orange seeds or lemon seeds to hand, you could tie them in a little muslin bag and throw them in too. Their pectin helps jam to set. Once the bag’s job is done it can be taken out (step 6 below) and its contents composted.
5. Put about three cups of boiling water into the crock, set the slow cooker to high, put the lid on and leave to bubble away for an hour or two.
So far it might not look that promising. But beautiful citrus aromas are already beginning to swirl around the kitchen.
6. You can now chuck away the muslin bag of seeds if you have been using it.
7. Weigh the sugar, add it to the crock. White granulated is fine, so is a fifty-fifty mix of white and brown.
8. Turn the cooker down to its low setting, put the lid back on, simmer for another two or three hours.
9. Now it’s time to get everything to reduce . Take the lid off. Continue to simmer until the mixture becomes thick and gloopy. This can take anything from half an hour to an hour or more.
* * *
In standard marmalade making, there would be lots of skimming of surfaces, and at some point you would check that the mix has reached its setting point by using either the “cold plate test” or the more exact food thermometer test (it will need to reach 105 C).
But for Emergency Marmalade, none of that matters. It doesn’t need to be precise, it doesn’t even need to have a perfectly firm set. Once it has reduced and concentrated enough to your liking, you are done.
If you are still put off by its mushiness, by all means let the mixture cool down then blitz it in a blender and call it “orange butter”, or some such tag that won’t start unfair comparisons with what “proper marmalade looks like that you get in the Tesco or the Termonfeckin ICA”.
* * *
When the finished jam has cooled for a couple of minutes but is still warm, pot it up into sterilised glass jars of assorted sizes.
Once these are fully cooled, you can store them in the fridge for a month or so. But once you get your first taste of Emergency Marmalade I doubt it’ll last that long anyway.