Our marmalade supply was running low. In fact one jar remained like a beacon of January days when I slogged over the peel and pith and pips and came up with a triumph of beauty. I knew that the marmalade oranges were no longer available and also knew that in my collection of recipe books that I had a recipe for a lemon marmalade passed onto me by my mother. I thumbed the pages and found it written quite neatly in the back of an obscure book that I never use apart from the recipe for mint sauce that she had also dictated to me, on the same page. Maybe that explains why the print was faded and not too discernible but I had a fair idea of what the recipe suggested.
I set about the process. An electric juicer comes in handy and of course, plenty of time. Time to kill. I planned it really. I went to the store. The lemons were on sale and all the way from Spain. Yellow sunshine filled the shopping basket. The sugar was expensive but meant especially for jam making and so I did not mind splurging. The recipe guaranteed a reward of ten pounds of marmalade.
Making marmalade can be a curse in a sense. Because once you taste what you make you can never go to a store and buy a pot of jam. It spoils you and causes a snobbery of sorts to occur in the brain. You look with disdain at whats on offer and snort at the extraordinary price expected for mere water. You launch into deep discussions (with those who will tolerate your lecture, few though they may be) how much more sophisticated and real your own marmalade is. You would rather go without than go with the crude, slip shod display of 'supermarket marmalade'.
Okay. You get it. I am a marmalade snob. Lets get to the nitty gritty. I always wash my lemons and dry them. Juice them. De-membrane them, de-pith them. Slice them into slivers. Warm the sugar. Boil the lemons for two hours with a bag of muslin containing the pith and the membrane. Stir when I feel like it. The house smells like a refreshing bowl of .....lemons. People walk into the kitchen and inhale, sigh, relax. Wonderful. Eventually the sugar is added, stirred, wonderful again. So good to be alive and wanting to make marmalade. I cannot tell you if you have not done it that you should! The sugar blends. You stir. You cool saucers in the freezer and now and then throw small spoonfuls to see if the marmalade is set. Eventually it does. It crinkles. You swell with joy. Jars come warm from the oven and the jam is poured in. Labels smoothed on that say Homemade Lemon Marmalade. Tiny circles of parchment paper seal the elixir. Lids turned to finality. Windowsills are great for jars of fruit. Especially at six o clock in the evening when the sun throws itself in and I wanted to shout when I saw how it lit up the lemon marmalade. Honestly, ten jars of light filled the window and all I could think of was my mother as she sat across from me in her kitchen too many years ago and patiently dictated her Lemon Marmalade recipe to me because she knew that someday I would find it, make it and think of her on this day when nothing only marmalade mattered.