Home-made marmalade

On a hot, humid Durban Saturday, the last thing any normal person would want to do is spend a couple of sweaty hours in the kitchen, but when the purple grapefruit season arrives, that’s what you have to do.

Home-made marmalade
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To make seven or eight jars of grapefruit marmalade, you will need:

1 large lemon
1kg whole purple grapefuit
2kg sugar with pectin
2-3l water

If making this jam is such a schlep, why bother? The answer is in the eating. Never in a long life of marmalade spreading have I come across anything better than this tart and sharp stuff. It’s no secret that the early alchemists did most of their pseudoscience in the kitchen.

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Marmalade making is close to alchemy, thanks to the eternal mystery of pectin. This keeps marmalade and other jams in a spreadable, jelly-like state. No pectin and you’ve got a sticky fruit paste that runs off the toast. Pectin comes from pips. If your grapefruit are pip-less, collect and use pips from other fruit or, as the ingredient list suggests, buy sugar already mixed with pectin.

Assuming that your grapefuit are pipped and that you’ve decided against pectin-enhanced sugar, select a very large stainless steel saucepan with a fitted lid and pour in 2,5l of water. Weird as it may seem, this is the moment to place three saucers in the freezer. You will need them later to check if the marmalade has set.

Squeeze the grapefuit and lemon, adding the juice to the water. Cut the peel into matchsticks and add these to the contents of the pan. Carefully tie all pith and pips into a muslin bag and suspend within the liquid already in the saucepan. Bring to a rapid boil, then lower the heat to a simmer for two hours.

Remove the muslin bag, then add the sugar, taking care it dissolves completely. Squeeze the bag between your fingers, expressing the jelly-like substance within. Add this to the simmering liquid, bring the pan to the boil once again and stir with a wooden spoon for 20 minutes or so.

This is the kind of behaviour that merits a medal, such is the general unpleasantness of the experience. Just keep what’s left of your mind on the marmalade! Pour 5ml of the boiling liquid onto a chilled saucer. If it sets, the marmalade is done. If not, boil and stir for another 10 minutes, then repeat the chilled saucer test.

Remove and allow to cool before decanting into dry sterilised jars with sterilised lids. This is essential to prevent undesirable fermentation and other forms of spoilage. Spread some marmalade on lightly buttered toast and decide if it was worth all the sweat and trane. I think so. Don’t you?

Contact David Basckin at [email protected] Please state ‘Real cooking’ in the subject line of your email.