Making marmalade was an annual event in our house when I was growing up- the scent of it cooking holds all sorts of memories as a result. My mum used to joke that it was in her marriage contract to make it and back then I think my dad was about the only one who ate it. As they’ve got older, some of my siblings have developed a taste for it and in some cases make their own. I still don’t ‘get’ marmalade but have married someone who does, so I thought this year I should give it a go.
Funny thing about Seville oranges- some family friends who have moved to Spain tell us that over there, where this sort of orange grows, and falls off, trees everywhere- in the streets, in town squares, in people’s gardens- you can’t actually buy them. They’re regarded more or less as a waste product so unless you have your own tree- no marmalade! I think they’ve found some friends with trees in their garden to supply them, although those friends think our friends are mad to want them.
Anyway, having got hold of the requisite oranges over here easily enough I was very happy to have use of what I’d previously regarded as superfluous technology in our kitchen, namely a citrus juicer bought by C’s Nana for extracting what she terms ‘liquid sunshine’. That which normally takes up too much space in a cupboard was an invaluable time and hand saver when it came to juicing all the fruits.
I like the way that with marmalade you use all the fruit- the juice and skins in the marmalade, the pith and pips in a muslin bag to provide pectin. It feels a bit like alchemy, especially when using the good old brass lined ‘cauldron’ that I still have on loan from the farm (it had been languishing in the cellar under a layer of grime and is yet to be missed). Also in the style of the alchemist, I did struggle slightly to get the end result- setting point and still have my doubts about how solid the final product will be. Still, I’m sure it will taste okay and it does look very pretty, especially lit up by some gorgeous afternoon sunlight- we had snow earlier, so it’s a day of weather surprises!
As to the housework…well, some of it was done this morning. Some I’m off to do in a minute. But I did get that last sewing job done- behold the ‘Old MacDonald Had A Farm’ bag! P was treated to a debut performance from both parents, with Daddy acting as animator to each animal as it emerged from the bag and Mummy joining the chorus from the kitchen as she stirred her cauldron. He seemed quite delighted- if a little bemused. Maybe the marmalade will make more sense to him.
I had a ‘hang the housework’ day today when I caught up on some napping and cracked on with the sewing. Even though I’m not going down to my Ma’s for a few weeks to do the next stage, I just felt the need to get the quilt top finished and go back to working on my Fairisle in the evenings. No doubt C will be pleased as knitting is a lot quieter than the sewing machine. I think I can add 7 hours onto the previous time total to get to a result that I’m really pleased with. I can hardly wait to do the next stage- need to decide on batting and backing first. I’m thinking of a wool/cotton mixture batting and brushed cotton backing so that in winter it can be an extra layer and in summer a cover on its own.
Just one more bit of stitching I’m planning before the machine gets put away for a while- with more time at home with the boy coming up, I thought I would do something with these old shirts, a collection of toy animals and a certain well known song about a farmer. Had it not been for a phone call from a friend tonight I’d have got it done, but maybe I can fit it in around that still-waiting housework tomorrow morning. A more pressing job tomorrow is to go shopping for Seville oranges though- for until I heard someone mention it on the radio today I hadn’t realised they were about and this year I’m going to make marmalade!
The Christmas season definitely does its job with me. Just as it did with our ancestors, the season of light and feasting in the middle of the dark winter days always leaves me feeling rejuvenated and re-energised, ready for that shiny, untouched new year. That said, much as I love the red and the gold and the sparkles and rich food, I’m always keen to return to the normal and simple once the last presents are unwrapped and the final Christmas visits completed. Then it’s just a rush to get ‘thank you’ cards sent before our January birthdays come around. As for New Year’s resolutions, well I find a whole year a big prospect, especially given what ours has in store. I have a few things in mind, but prefer to take it one day, at a push one month, at a time. At the moment uppermost in my mind is: getting back into practising the piano, making bread again instead of buying it and looking out for Seville oranges coming into the shops so that this year I can join the family tradition of marmalade making for the first time.