Thursday, June 10, 2010

Marmalade and Vuvuzelas

Golden tangy marmalade at first seems to have nothing to do with the 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
2 grapefruit
2 lemons
3 oranges
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!


  1. My parents always have marmalade at home, (South Africa), however they are both 4th generation British - looks like it runs deep!

  2. Okay, I'll bite: What in hell is a vuvuzela? Sounds a bit like a pet name for an unmentionable body part.

  3. Marmalade is defitely in the blodd, Natalian!
    Marcheline, the vuvuzela is the very noisy plastic stadium horn that you can hear at every soccer match here, and echoing around the city and countryside in between times as soccer fever is at a height. I've put a link to a site that explains them in the post if you want to see pictures.

  4. That sounds like a great recipe. Marmalade isn't particularly popular in my area of the US, and the only stuff available in stores is too processed or too sweet. I'd love to give making this version a try.

  5. I love marmalade, unfortunately I have a family that love it too - so it doesn't last that long. Need to whip up a batch real soon, finished the last lot on Sunday night.
    Great recipe, I will try it soon.

  6. I'm crazy about marmalade and my family is too. I'd love to make it, but with temperatures already blazing higher and higher, I'm not going to be cooking anything on the stove! Sadly, there are oranges all over here. Citrus fruit ripens, falls from the trees, and is ignored. It breaks my heart that I can't use it...

  7. Well, imagine my surprise at arriving to work after reading this post and finding everyone yapping about vuvuzelas... even on the news!

    Now I know what they are - bbbbzzzzbbbbzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!!

  8. What about Lemon Curd? Think it's also a favourite in UK. Part of yr soul food too.

  9. I made marmelade once but we didn't cook the peels for one or two hours and they were these chewy chunky glops in the marmelade. This must be the secret.


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!