It's that time of the year for making marmalade while the cumquats, Seville oranges and lemons are drooping from the trees. Cutting up the fruit does take a bit of time but can be very satisfying if you sit outside on one of these sunny winter days with a couple of bowls, a cutting board and sharp knife. You won't regret the time spent as the flavour of homemade marmalade is so superior. This recipe is from one of my books, "The Cook's Garden" (New Holland 2012).
To prepare the fruit: wash and scrub the cumquats (preferably the oval 'Nagami' variety which have a tart pungent flavour) . Halve or quarter them, depending on their size. Remove the seeds and put them in a cup covered with water. Place the cumquats in a large bowl and just cover with water. Cover with plastic wrap and leave them to sit overnight. Next day, measure the cumquat/water mixture into a large pot or preserving pan. For every cup (250ml), allow 185g (3/4 cup) caster sugar. Strain the seeds, adding the liquid to the cumquats. Tie seeds up in a muslin bag and add it to the cumquats (best if tied to the sides of the pan). Bring cumquats and water to the boil, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off any scum that forms on top with a mesh ladle. While cumquats simmer, heat the sugar in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes. Pour warm sugar into cumquat mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon. Bring back to boiling point, and simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes or until it reaches setting point. A simmer pad is useful to prevent burning or sticking. From time to time, skim off any scum that forms on top. Turn off the heat and ladle into warm sterile jars Cover with a tight screw-top lid.
Tip 1: To test for setting point, place a saucer in the freezer for five minutes. Remove and drop a small amount of the marmalade, onto the saucer, let cool for about 30 seconds. If it wrinkles when you run a finger through it, it is ready.
Tip 2: A splash of malt whisky or brandy added after you spoon the marmalade into the jars will add an extra dimension of flavour and help to seal the marmalade.
Tip 3: Try using the marmalade in marinades for pork or duck dishes to add extra flavour.