From Ngaire’s journal, 24th July 1952
Today I thoroughly cleaned the kitchen and bathroom and Gerald painted the saucepan cupboard.”
I wish I had time to thoroughly clean the kitchen and bathroom. With that sort of time on my hands I could finish sewing the dress I cut out last winter, crochet some more squares for the afghan rug I’m making with a group of friends, trawl the streets for discarded wooden pallets to build boxes for the vegetable garden I’ve been planning forever or…go to bed and read my book in time for book club.
Dorrie Coe was Ngaire’s first cousin on her father’s side (and later, also her step-first cousin on her step-mother’s side, but that’s another, convoluted story). Dorrie and her sister Vera were both accomplished cooks, and their recipes appear throughout Ngaire’s book. Anyway, Dorrie’s marmalade recipe calls for four Poorman oranges which, outside of Ruth Park’s novel Poorman’s Orange, I’ve never heard of. As it turns out there’s a link.
The Poorman orange is also known as ‘New Zealand Grapefruit’, and although we claim Ruth Park as an Australian, she was born in Auckland, NZ. Poorman oranges (which are probably a pomelo hybrid) are thought to have been brought to Australia from Shanghai in the early 1800s, and then sent to New Zealand around 1855. Poormans ripen in much cooler climates than ‘real’ grapefruit (or oranges), so it makes sense that they became popular in the South Island of New Zealand, where citrus can be difficult to grow. (My mother recalls Ngaire buying jars of home-made marmalade from a man in Akaroa, where the family often holidayed. The warm valleys on the Bank’s Peninsula were one of the few places citrus could be grown in Canterbury.)
Poormans are supposed to have particularly good rind for marmalade making, so it’s a bit disappointing that I can’t put my hands on any. I’m sure that, given a little time, I’ll be able to track some down, but for this batch I settled on a substitute of one ‘real’ grapefruit, two mandarins and two Seville oranges.
The second interesting ingredient in Dorrie’s recipe is brewer’s crystals which, after much searching, I’ve decided simply means sugar. I found a gorgeous article about marmalade in the Sydney Mail from June 1922 which says ‘there are some women who like to use brewer’s crystals for all their jam making. Personally I have used it, and found the brand very good. Still, I have made great successes with what we usually term ‘soft’ or cooking sugar, and for everyday use this is nice enough for anything.’ An article titled ‘Jam and Jelly Making‘ in a 1935 edition of the New Zealand Railway Magazine also mentions crystals, saying ‘use pure white sugar — brewers’ crystals for preference.’ If anyone can tell me anything more about brewer’s crystals (or Poorman oranges) I’d love to hear from you.
Ingredients: 4 Poorman oranges (or substitute a mixture of grapefruit, oranges and mandarins), 2 sweet oranges, 2 lemons, water, white sugar.
- Wash and peel the fruit. Slice the peel into very thin matchsticks then put to one side. (Dorrie’s recipe simply says ‘cut fine’ but this is what I did.)
- Peel off and discard as much of the white pith as you can from the flesh. Also discard pips then put the fruit into a food processor and pulse until pulp.
- Collect the juice by pushing the pulp through a sieve. (You’ll need to weigh the juice so use a suitable bowl.) Put the pulp into a muslin bag, or tie in a clean tea towel that you’re not very attached to. (Dorrie’s recipe doesn’t mention separating the pulp, but doing this will give you a very clear jelly.)
- Add the peel to the juice and weigh. For each 1 kg add 500 mls of water. Write down the weight – you’ll need the figure again.
- Add the bag of pulp (you need this for the pectin) to the juice/peel and let stand for 24 hours.
- The next day, boil until the rind is tender (approximately 1 hour). Once cool, squueze all juice from the bag of pulp then discard. Let the mixture stand for another 24 hours.
- The following day, sterilize jam jars and lids (I put them through the dishwasher on hot).
- Bring mixture to the boil again. Add 1.25 kg of sugar for every 1 kg of juice/peel (i.e. the original weight) and stir until dissolved.
- Boil hard until the marmalade reaches setting point (test by spooning onto a cool saucer and putting in the fridge for 5 minutes). Allow to cool a little then pour into jars.
Delicious on toast for breakfast, in a steamed pudding, as a glaze on pork or slathered on fresh bread and eaten in bed while you finish your book club book.