I have been making jam since I was 12 years old. I would pick loquats off the tree in the garden and boil them up with sugar and hope for the best. This was long before the internet or before I even thought to read one of my moms recipes. I just knew that wonderful chemistry happened when you combined fresh fruit, lots of sugar and heat. The first recipe I ever made for my blog was apricot jam. It was back in December 2009 and it was an important one to start this amazing journey with. It conjured up (and still does) one of my first childhood memories around food. I was in my paternal grandparent’s house eating my grans homemade apricot jam on toast and I was enamoured at finding whole apricots in the jar. The notion of being able to see a whole piece of fruit vs just a mush that is standard with commercial products filled me with an incredible amount of joy. I loved the strong connection with where the jam came from and of course, I absolutely loved the taste. Jump forward a hell of a lot of years, and here I am still lovingly making jam. This easy whiskey marmalade takes so much of the painful legwork out of the process and I reckon it’s a world first. Keep reading.
I never liked marmalade until about 7 years ago. It was too bitter for my taste. If I scraped the jam away from the thick peel I would find the delicious parts but that always seemed like too much work. The process of making marmalade is also an incredibly laborious one and I simply do not have the patience. I wanted to create a version that took out some of the hand cutting and multiple cooking stages and in general lower the bitter quotient while still keeping the orangey flavour. I used a food processor to slice the oranges so that made it so much easier. I think this is it and I hope you enjoy it too.
I have never used pectin in my jam making because it’s near impossible to find here. It is not entirely necessary although I still want to get my hands on some as I’m sure it makes it all much easier. I rely on sugar, temperature and the length of cooking to firm up my jam and love to make small-batch quick jams that can literally turn around in 8 minutes with the right equipment (aka a very wide pan).
What I love the most about making your own jam is you can control the sugar content and make the recipe so much more about the fruit. I love to add aromatics to give a more complex flavour profile. Star anise and cinnamon are wonderful in kumquat marmalade, orange and black pepper make my 8-minute strawberry jam pop (I also add a splash of orange liqueur), as does Pimms, ginger and balsamic. I also loved adding muscadel to my peach jam, so you can really play around.
In case you were wondering what the difference was between jam, marmalade and jelly is?
Jams and marmalades are similar to each other in that they are both fruit preserves and the processes used to produce them is basically the same.
Jam – the whole fruit and fruit juice is used
Marmalade – the fruit, the pulp and the juice is used, but pertains only to citrus fruit
Jelly (USA) – is a jam made from the juice of a particular fruit
Thus a marmalade can be a jam, but a jam cant be a marmalade and a jelly can be neither.
Here is the recipe form my book Sweet – published by Penguin Random House
How to make my easy whisky marmalade
When I refer to this recipe as ‘easy’, I don’t mean quick, although it does dispense with some of the very labour-intensive steps usually required. I fell in love with marmalade relatively late in life and after tasting the homemade variety. As with most food things, once you develop a taste for homemade preserves, it’s difficult to revert to highly processed versions. The initial boil stage removes some of the harsh bitterness of the pith. The lengthy cooking time ensures that the orange flavour is retained while the peel becomes beautifully soft. It’s also better to use seedless oranges such as navels. The splash of whisky at the end is quite subtle and can be left out, but it’s a nod to my Scottish grandmother and I love it.
Recipe – makes ± 750 ml
- 6 oranges (seedless), thinly sliced and ends trimmed (use a food processor)
- juice of 1 lemon
- 700 g granulated white sugar
- 45 ml whisky
Sterilise jars with a total capacity of 750 ml.
Using your hands, squeeze all the juice out of the orange slices. This should yield approximately 500 ml. Combine the orange and lemon juice and set aside.
Place the squeezed orange slices into a medium, heavy-based saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and boil for 30 minutes. Drain and leave the slices until cool enough to handle.
Finely chop the slices with a large knife. If you are using oranges with pips, remove them now. Return the chopped oranges to the saucepan, along with the sugar and reserved juice. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a very low simmer for 3–3 1?2 hours. Check it every now and again and give it a stir. The marmalade is ready when it reaches 104 °C on a sugar thermometer. It should also start turning a darker caramel colour. Another way to check its readiness is to freeze a small side plate and dollop some marmalade onto the cold plate. Run your finger down the middle – if the jam remains separated in the line, it is ready.
Stir in the whisky and leave the marmalade to cool before transferring to the sterilised jars.
Served on hot, buttered toast, this is surely from food heaven.
Or, make these delicious whiskey marmalade & shortbread crumble bars
A few of my other favourite jams:
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