18 January: Seville oranges and a cake for Lucia's birthday.

Well the ploughboys are out ploughing and it’s a busy time in the kitchen too. Seville oranges have appeared in my local greengrocers. Go to Seville one Easter if you can – the Easter processions are spectacular and the streets are filled with the heady scent of orange blossom.

Seville oranges are of the few fruits that are still truly seasonal; miss the two or three weeks in January and early February when they are available and you’ll have to wait until next year. I usually bung a few in the freezer whole, for duck and sharp fruity dressings later in the year. Quince marmalade has been around for a very long time indeed – certainly since 1524 when Henry VIII received a gift of ‘marmelo’, but orange marmalade as we know it was invented in 1797 by Janet Keiller in Dundee. Legend has it that a ship docked in Dundee with a cargo of Seville oranges and Janet’s husband bought them. Can you imagine your other half coming in and saying ‘Here’s a ton of oranges dear. What are you going to do with them?’

There's now a marmalade festival in Cumbria every spring. It's at:

My Mum is the marmalade maker in our family. She makes about 60lb every January and it keeps all the family going for the whole year, so I hardly ever need to make it. However today is a day for a special cake, it’s Lucia’s birthday. The night she was born we stayed up all night and made marmalade to take our minds off my sister’s labour – a new memory to add to the family memory bank.

Two recipes then – firstly for the family marmalade.

Dorothy’s Marmalade
3lb Seville oranges
3 lemons
5 pints water
Sugar – see method.

Wash then halve the oranges and the lemons and put into a large pan with the water. Boil gently until soft. Cool, then fish out the halves and with a spoon take out the middles and drop that (not the peel) back into the liquid. Shred or mince the peel and set aside. Leave overnight, then strain the juice and measure it. Add 1lb of sugar for every pint and put the peel back in. Set to a rolling boil for about 15 minutes until the setting point is reached. Bottle and label as normal. My Mum seals the jars by pouring a thin layer of paraffin wax onto the top of the set marmalade in each jar – works a treat.

And a special birthday cake made with marmalade.

Orange marmalade cake

6oz butter
6oz sugar - I used granulated.
3 large eggs
6oz self-raising flour
3oz orange marmalade
1 medium orange - zest and juice
1 tablespoon orange flower water

For the topping:
About 15 kumquats and a couple more tablespoons of marmalade

Set the oven to 180C. I used an 8 inch spring form tin well lined and buttered. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Grate the orange. Beat the eggs separately and pour the beaten egg into the butter and sugar a little at a time beating all the while. It helps to have everything at room temperature before you start to avoid the mixture splitting. Add a little flour if it does.
Beat in the marmalade and the grated orange zest. Fold in the flour with a large metal spoon. Add about a tablespoonful of the orange juice and the orange flower water. Spoon the mixture into the lined tin and bake for forty minutes, checking it after thirty-five with a metal skewer. Turn out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.
To make the topping I melted a couple of tablespoons of marmalade in a small pan and then sieved it and returned it to the pan. I halved the kumquats and put them into the sieved marmalade adding the remainder of the orange juice and a little water to cover them. I then poached them until they were soft and then took them out with a slotted spoon. I boiled the syrup a bit more until it was syruppy then arranged the kumquats on the cake and poured the syrup over. Put a plate under the rack to recycle the drips. It’s meant to be squidgy! Eat warm with a dollop of crème fraiche.

Happy Birthday Lucia, little marmalade girl.


kate said...

I went to the Boqueria in Barcelona last week - one of the biggest markets - and couldn't see any oranges from Seville - all from Valancia. It seems maybe they are just exported to the UK and the States for marmalade! I've been told it makes no difference what you use but surely that can't be right? K x

Liz said...

Sweet oranges make cloudy marmalade - my Mum says...

pebbledash said...

Thanks for changing the comment form Liz! I adore Seville Orange Marmalade and must make another large batch for this year....what I love reading about are the many different recipes for making it. Ref Kate's comment - the sevilles are bitter oranges, and that's what makes the difference with the flavour.
Diana x

Mary Cahill said...

Loved the cake - the Kumquats (not tomatoes then!) were exquisite.

Helen said...

I thought those were tomatoes at first too! The cake sounds delicious, Liz.