Nundle can be a bare, pared back landscape in winter and I thrill to see the brightness of oranges on trees with their lush, green foliage. When we travel by car in winter we play a game of spot the orange tree. Sometimes the orange trees are lovingly tended in gardens, while others are remnants of abandoned gardens, the houses and occupants long gone.
Cormac and I were spectators at a Peel Valley small schools athletics carnival recently, but the high jumpers, sprinters, and long jumpers didn’t hold my attention. I was distracted by half a dozen orange trees growing in the far north east corner of the recreation ground. One of the host teachers encouraged us to pick a basket full before we left. They were planted for the community to share.
I come from a family of enthusiastic jam makers. Mum and Dad have always made jam from their excess fruit and Duncan’s blackberry jam is legendary. After buying eight acres outside Nundle, Duncan’s “to-do” list doesn’t leave much room for making jam, so it’s over to me. I trawled our recipe books for a Marmalade recipe, settling on Choice book, Food Preserving at Home, by John Gross. Our youngest son Gryf is a keen helper in the kitchen, but he found the zester hard to handle in his four-year-old’s hands.
With such beautiful marmalade in the house we couldn’t spread it on a commercial, sliced loaf, so I whipped up a couple of country style rustic loaves. Breakfast became an event. Slicing the dense, homemade loaf of bread, and spreading toasted slices with the chunky, orange, syrup marmalade.
We had enough jars of marmalade to share so I made brown paper hats for the jars and tied them with twine from our shop. Orange of course. Apart from eating it ourselves, the biggest buzz comes from giving the marmalade away – great Father’s Day presents for my dad and father-in-law, and a gift for neighbour Judy for sharing her time and gardening knowledge.
Orange Marmalade (Source: Food Preserving at Home, John Gross)
Makes about 7 x 250mL jars (boil jars and lids for 5 minutes to sterilise)
Ingredients: 4 cups thinly sliced orange peel (about 6 large oranges), 4 cups chopped orange pulp (about 6 large oranges), 1 cup thinly sliced lemon (about 2 medium lemons), 6 cups water, 6 cups sugar. I use a zester on the orange and lemon peel for a finer peel consistency.
Add water to fruit in a saucepan. Heat to simmer and simmer for 5 minutes. Cover the mixture and let stand for 12-18 hours in a cool place. Cook over medium heat until peel is tender, about 1 hour. Measure fruit and liquid. Add 1 cup sugar for each cup of fruit mixture. Bring slowly to the boil stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cook rapidly to the jellying point, about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour hot marmalade into hot sterilised jars leaving 6mm head space. Wipe jar rims and tighten lids. Enjoy liberally on toast.