So here are my top tips from what I have learned so far...along with some photos taken from the day I spent with like minded preserving fiends Vivien Lloyd, Karen Burns Booth and Charlotte Pike in February this year. Making preserves with like minded people is a great way to spend a day and you learn so much too.
1. If you are entering a competition, check the rules with the organisers and if you are not clear then do ask them for more information. Check out who is judging, if its the WI (Women's Institute) they will follow WI rules, join or make friends with someone who is a WI member and look at the rule book they have for entering preserves in shows. This will guide you. Be clear what categories you are entering, only experiment with flavours once you have mastered the basics.
3. Buy the best produce you can find, organic Seville oranges produce the best results, for Seville orange marmalade, same with other citrus fruits such as lemons (don't use waxed fruit or if you do scrub it first), limes etc. When its Seville orange season in the UK its worth making friends with your local greengrocer and sourcing the best fruit.
4. Use cane sugar for marmalade, DO NOT use jam or preserving sugar.
5. Getting marmalade to setting point is tricky, this requires practice and skill and confidence, but once you crack this its a great achievement!
6. Make small batches, that you can control better. If you are making several batches (because you are entering a competition) keep some notes after each batch on what went well and worked and what didn't this will help you to improve.
7. When making batches make up a small jar you can try yourself, then you will be able to test the seal, the aroma, the flavour, and the set yourself and be able judge how good it is.
8. Don't worry about batches that might not have set well or where they haven't settled in the jars properly, these might not be good enough for a competition but are still edible, will usually taste fine and can be used in lots of delicious recipes (like these muffins below). Family and friends will still be happy to take jars of homemade marmalade off your hands.
9. Always use PLAIN UNBRANDED clean sterilised jars and ALWAYS use NEW lids, these are available quite cheaply on websites and E Bay. If you are entering a competition I would only ever use new plain round jars and new plain lids. You don't want this to happen in a competition! (not my entry by the way...I won GOLD and two SILVER for mine)10. Make sure your jars are sterilised, warm (not red hot) and filled to the top, take off any scum or air bubbles with a teaspoon before sealing tightly. Make sure your filled jars are clean and not sticky, you can wipe them with a damp clean cloth and with a clean cloth with a little methylated spirit to make them shine.
11. DO NOT turn your filled jars upside down in an attempt to distribute the fruit, if your marmalade has been made properly you should not need to.
There are lots of websites with ideas and free labels you can download. I created mine after looking around other blogs and sites.
Here is a link to a blog that has some lovely vintage style labels you can print off yourself at home to label jars (and anything else you might want to label). There are some very simple labels here suitable for a range of preserves. Here are some pretty heart shaped labels that are very appealing. Finally, this graphics fairy site has great old prints you can incorporate into labels as a background.
This is my last 'making marmalade' post for now...I hope these posts will encourage you to carry on or to even try making marmalade at home for the first time...and to make you think about entering either a local, national or international competition with your marmalade...thanks for reading all my posts.