The future’s orange: Dilemma Emma gets cooking…

Dear Readers,

Thank you for your emails, really glad so many of you found help with the tips on tackling thank you letters; rather touched that you said thank you, the irony is not lost on me.

So, now we can trot on into the year, let’s start with some fun. It’s gloomy, rainy and particularly grey as I write this to you and as far as I can see the only thing to lift the spirits is a little cooking; kitchens need children and children love cooking, yet to encounter one that doesn’t… Stand by your pans, marmalade is what you are about to make.

This is the only time of the year that you can make proper full on, homemade marmalade, as it is dictated by getting your paws on Seville marmalade oranges.  Within a matter of a couple of weeks the season is over, so grab them whilst you can!

Cook this together, teach them the value of seasonal produce and of putting time and effort into something that you will be eating all year. So, here’s my “never failed me yet” recipe, happy to pass it onto you, dear readers….

Ingredients:

  • 1kg Seville oranges
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 2kg preserving sugar

Method:

  • 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. Squeeze 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.
  • Cut the orange peel into strips (I bung them into a food processor). Add 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. 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.
  • Add the sugar and stir over a low heat until it has dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly until it reaches setting point. This usually takes about 15 minutes. 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. Leave the marmalade to settle for 15 minutes, then skim off any scum from the surface with a slotted spoon. 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. Ta Dah!

Please, please be aware that this is molten hot sugar, bubbling away. Please, please keep those little ones away from it all, whilst the bubbling pan is a bubbling pan.

In whatever role you find yourself cooking, be it super auntie or coolest granny,  your fundamental duty is to keep your charges safe and hot sticky substances and children do not mix!  Now is not the time to be the granny sitting in A and E, now is the time to be the most sensible of sensible grannys with sensible shoes on… I have finished now…have fun but please display caution. 

So, you sort out the whole boiling point, dissolving sugar fandango and then bottle it up!  Whilst you are battling with the bubbling sticky mess, you can set the little ones to making labels. Labels need the date and obviously the maker’s name, possibly the ingredients….there’s a whole hidden literacy lesson in this! Nothing more enchanting than a handwritten “homemade” label. I doubt there will be spare but if there is you have the most perfect of presents for your little one to give to special deserving people…

Now…you do have to snuggle down and read a Paddington book together, he is the adorable bear who loves marmalade or at the very least spend a rainy afternoon watching Paddington on DVD!  If that doesn’t entice any child to at least try some hot buttered toast with their freshly made marmalade on I will be amazed and would ask you, kind reader, to refrain from telling me…

Happy days,

Dilemma Emma

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