vuvuzelas and flags to be seen and heard all over Cape Town today. With the excitement over the World Cup mounting, I’ve been mulling over the question of national identity in a mild way. As a transplant from England taking roots in sandy South African soil, my allegiance to a particular team is blurred. Any excitement I feel over the soccer World Cup is caught from the prevailing atmosphere, gees (spirit) and flag-waving around me, but I feel no need to get out a Union Jack to assert my original roots and cheer on ‘my’ team.
Instead I’ve realized that my national identity reveals itself through food. No surprises there! I love the variety of South African food, but still cling to my origins when it comes to a few basics. Threaten my stash of marmalade and you’re toast.
How the British developed a national taste for a preserve made from sour Seville oranges especially imported from Spain, oranges grown purely to feed the marmalade habit of a small (but perfectly formed) island on the edge of Europe, I don’t know. But the habit is as entrenched as PG Tips, fish and chips and Christmas pudding.
No-one else on our farm likes marmalade, thank goodness, so I can make a couple of batches every winter to last me through to the next orange season with a few extra for fellow devotees when they come my way. I haven’t yet discovered any Seville oranges here in South Africa; for some reason the oranges here are grown to be sweet enough to eat as they are! So to get enough tanginess to my marmalade I make a three fruit one, with grapefruit and lemons added to sweet oranges to balance out the taste. The first batch of marmalade I ever made here, with just sweet oranges, was revolting: sweet and cloying, it was orange jam, not marmalade at all.
So if your taste-buds reveal an element of English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh in your heritage and you are stranded in a country that doesn’t understand marmalade, then try this three fruit marmalade recipe; experiment with different citrus fruit combinations, (a couple of limes add a subtle and pleasing fragrance) and enjoy year round citrus tanginess on toast for breakfast, for the taste equivalent of a spirited blast on the vuvuzela!
Three Fruit Marmalade Recipe
4 pint/2 litres water
3 ½ lbs/1.6kg sugar (if you use sour Seville oranges you need more sugar - 5lbs)
Wash the fruit, scrubbing the skins gently to get rid of any chemical sprays or wax, but without losing all the aromatic oils from the zest.
Cut the fruit and rind into shreds, however thick you like your peel in the finished marmalade.
Remove any very pithy bits and pips. Usually one is told to tie these in muslin and cook with the fruit, to extract the most pectin available, then remove the whole package pips and all. I have never bothered to do this and the marmalade still seems to set.
Put the fruit and water into a large pan (preferably thick bottomed) and bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 1-2 hours until the rind is tender. Add the sugar, off the heat, and stir till it dissolves. Don’t let the marmalade boil again till the sugar has dissolved.
Boil briskly for about 30 minutes. Test for doneness by putting a drop on a cold plate. If it forms a light skin that wrinkles when you push your finger through, it is done. Keep testing every five minutes if not. The bubbles also change to be slower, larger rolling bubbles when it is ready. Ladle into hot sterilised jars and seal.
And if you love marmalade and have not a drop of British blood in your veins, I’d love to know how you came to acquire your marmalade habit, as my marmalade/national identity theory comes crashing down around my ears!