Last Monday, I returned to Vivien Lloyd’s Somerset home to participate in one of her seasonal workshops on how to make marmalade. Vivien is one of the UK’s leading preserves experts, and won the Best of the Best category for her Seville Orange Marmalade at the World’s Original Marmalade Festival in 2008, so I knew I’d be in good hands.
Viv’s legendary marmalade has featured on The One Show and Channel 4’s Four in a Bed recently, and is so widely regarded, I couldn’t wait to see what we managed to make for ourselves.
It is, of course, marmalade season at the moment, which runs from late December to the end of February, so if you’re ever going to make the traditional Seville orange marmalade, now is the time of year to try and get your hands on the exquisite Seville oranges, which are now making an appearance on the shelves of an ever-increasing number of supermarkets and farm shops nationwide.
As a novice marmalade maker, I was feeling a little daunted as I arrived at Vivien’s house. Preserving can feel rather intimidating, and I was a little apprehensive about my lack of knowledge about the process. I was warmly greeted as I arrived at Viv’s beautiful Somerset farmhouse with a cup of coffee and some delicious homemade chocolate brioche spread with some homemade Seville marmalade. This first taste of Viv’s legendary marmalade really blew me away. Sweet, sharp, bitter, tangy with meltingly soft pieces of peel, it was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before, and in a league of its own.
Viv instructed me to bring a plastic container with me on the day, as it turns out that making marmalade is a two-day process, following her recipe in First Preserves. So, firstly, we started to prepare our Seville oranges according to Viv’s exacting instructions for the best results. She carefully showed us how to prepare our oranges for the best results and then guided us through the process, showing us precisely what to do. We then set aside our prepared fruit to take home and complete the recipe the following day, and picked up the recipe at a later stage with fruit that Viv had prepared in advance.
This was the stage I was most apprehensive about, cooking the fruit and finding the setting point. I need not have worried, as at every stage of the recipe, we were shown what to look for, how the marmalade should look and feel.
We then potted up the marmalade and moved on to other preserves, including a delicious curd, some amazingly good marmalade muffins, and some scrumptious homemade ice cream.
With a stop for a delicious homemade lunch, and plenty of opportunities to ask questions, I left on a high, feeling excited to return home and eager to make my first batch of marmalade for myself.
So, the next day, I set about making the marmalade for myself at home. I made very few notes on the day, as I had everything fixed in my mind. I followed every step carefully and potted my marmalade, leaving it for a few hours to cool and set. It looked stunning sat on the side waiting to cool: a beautiful amber-like colour, with the transluscent strips of peel evenly distributed throughout the jar.
Then, the moment of truth: had it set? Well, yes it had done. Perfectly. I was so chuffed that my marmalade had worked. And I thought it was pretty much as good as they jar I had taken home from Viv’s the day before.
It was a genuinely exciting moment, and I have since gone on to make five subsequent batches from Viv’s book this week alone. The process has crystallised in my mind, and I feel as though I have the knowledge and skills to successfully make marmalade at home.
Of course, marmalade does not just have to be made from Seville oranges, but they do make the ultimate traditional marmalade. Vivien’s fantastic preserving book, First Preserves (Citrus Press, 2012) features a whole range or jam, marmalade and chutney recipes using a variety of fruits and vegetables. I have subsequently made a number of recipes from the book most successfully at home, including grapefruit and lemon, made using pink grapefruits, and lemon and lime.
This year’s Dalemain Marmalade Awards take place on 2nd and 3rd of March in Cumbria.
And if you are thinking of investing in a book to guide you through the process, I recommend First Preserves most highly, which is also available as an iBook. Complete with a wide range of excellent recipes, helpful guidance and plenty of photos of every stage of the process, it really is the only preserving book you’ll ever need.
For more information, please see: www.vivienlloydpreserves.com
With thanks to Vivien Lloyd for an exceptionally informative and fun day.