My friend invited me over to pick some cumquats and limes from her garden this week. Each time I picked some fruit I was showered with large drops of icy water from the morning’s rain storm. Along with the heady scent of the citrus it made for quite an ‘invigorating’ experience (new spa treatment anybody?).
I’m using the fruit to make a cumquat and lime marmalade, which I’m basing on a recipe from my regular jam-bible, Rachel Saunders, The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. I like that this recipe is made over several days because I generally find the whole chopping and cooking process a tad overwhelming in one day – not to mention getting all my teaspoons into the freezer for testing!
I prepared the juice by cutting and boiling some of the fruit and leaving it to drip into a basin overnight. Today I’ve been slicing the remaining fruit, very thinly so it will hang suspended (I hope) in the finished marmalade, having a sharp knife helped things along. While I was very patiently slicing my fruit I thought of Shirley Conran’s famous quote from her 1975 book Superwoman, “life is too short to stuff a mushroom.” All I can say is she clearly hadn’t sliced cumquats!
Sad to say that at the next step I did make a big mistake. I overestimated the amount of sugar I needed for the jam and of course added it in without considering the evidence of my own eyes. I had a sweet gluey mess that wasn’t going to be to anyone’s taste. Thankfully TB seconded my thought that the way to deal with this was to add more water. Sounds weird but if you add enough water to properly dissovle the sugar (that’s the critical bit) you can then just keep boiling the mix back down until it reaches setting point. Not to mention de-scumming the mix along the way.
In the end it all turned out OK and I made 18 jars of marmalade. And yes, the pieces floated nicely throughout the mix.
I don’t think there is a collective noun for the sad collection of limes that I found at the bottom of our fridge this week. You see when I was looking at Annette Macfarlane’s new book last week, I found her recipe for Native Citrus marmalade. It was then that I remembered the native finger limes we’d bought at the farmer’s market about a month ago. Of course they had by now been reduced to the desiccated dark pink things in the photo. There were clearly not enough for the recipe so I went looking for something else to add, which is when I found the Tahitian Limes that were of a similar vintage, that were grown in my friend’s sheltered courtyard garden. I also decided to chuck in a lemon to make up the weight. Not a promising start.
Because, in my usual fashion, I had not read Annette’s recipe correctly, I’d asked TB to buy me some orange juice, when what she’d actually asked for was the juice of four oranges. Who to turn to for advice? The blessed Sally Wise of course! So here is my conjoined Annette and Sally recipe for my ‘Left Behind Lime Marmalade’.
500 grams of sharp flavoured citrus – finger limes, limes, lemons (finger limes are superb if you can get them and really add a fantastic flavour to this marmalade)
6 cups of orange juice (preferably with no added sugar)
1.5 kilograms of sugar
Slice your citrus thinly removing the seeds as you go (finger limes have stacks of seeds so be thorough), if using lemons you may want to cut them into quarters to get slices similar in size to the limes
Using 6 cups of orange juice cook the sliced citrus in a large saucepan, for about 20 minutes or until the fruit is soft (the pith will look transparent)
Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve and boil briskly for 20 minutes (at this stage test to see if it is starting to set by placing some of the marmalade on a saucer that has been placed in the fridge, put it back in the fridge for 2 minutes. Push your finger through the marmalade and if the surface wrinkles then it is at the setting point). If your marmalade isn’t quite there keep boiling for a few more minutes, but don’t let it go too dark.
Turn off the heat and let the mix stand for 10 minutes before bottling into sterilised glass jars.
You can eat this marmalade as soon as it has cooled.
I won’t beat about the bush; this is the best marmalade that I have made so far. I think that the finger limes (the small circles of fruit in the picture) really ‘make’ the taste of this marmalade so do try them.