There is some concern within the family that I am more closely related to Paddington Bear than I am to my sister Jean. Given our joint obsessions with marmalade, they may well be right!
Now that we are down to just nine jars left from last January’s boilings (and there are none hidden for emergencies), there is a touch of panic setting in with the occasional night sweats. Liz calms me down and assures me that “all will be well” because the citrus fruits are now ripening and picking has already begun here in our corner of sunny Essex.
(pictured above: citrus tree with uneven ripening)
One of the delights of growing citrus is that the tree is always doing something. Flowering, developing fruitlets, ripening fruits and fully ripe fruits and this is often happening all at the same time. This irregularity of the tree’s development means that fruits on any one tree can range significantly in their ripeness.
For a marmalade obsessive like myself, that could pose a problem. Will there be enough ripe fruits ready for when that wonderful end of January day arrives and the huge copper pan is lifted down from the shelf? The moment the whole house is filled with the scent of boiling, bubbling, bursting with flavour citrus is indeed a very wonderful one!
Citrus picked in early November will not keep until late January and quite honestly, making anything less that five gallons of marmalade at any one time seems ridiculous to me!
Help is at hand however. Liz picks our fruits as they ripen, cuts off the rind and then trims into rough strips. She squeezes the juice from the fruits, and the whole lot gets put into those very handy containers which the Chinese Take-Away send us. These are then popped into the freezer, ready to bring out two days to thaw before the great Marmalade Making dawns.
I bet Aunt Lucy didn’t tell you about that little trick, hey Paddington?!