In Season

How to make incredible orange marmalade (it's easier than you think!)

SA's unique citrus, the Rex Union orange, is now in season. So, make like Paddington Bear and have a marmalade day

09 June 2019 - 00:00 By Ann le May
Rex Union Orange Marmalade.
Rex Union Orange Marmalade.
Image: Supplied

The Rex Union may be an orange, but it's no ordinary orange.

Named after George Wellington Rex, who came to SA at the beginning of the 20th century, the Rex Union variety was created on his farm in Rustenburg, which was a gift from Paul Kruger.

Rex so missed his favourite English breakfast spread, marmalade, that he went about creating his own version of a Seville orange — using a cross between a sweet orange and a pomelo. This produced a fruit with thick white pith, rich in pectin, and a bitter fruit taste. It made a superb substitute.

The original orchard of around 250 trees on Dunedin Farm (now known as Lemoenfontein)  was the only place where Rex Unions were and are still grown on a large scale.

In 2014, the Slow Food network in Johannesburg mobilised to save the Rex Union as the farm had changed hands and the orchard was under threat of removal.

A project was launched to reinvigorate production, with informal events like “picking ’n picnic” at the height of the season, plus a campaign to publicise the fruit. This has heightened awareness around the Rex Union orange and  resulted in a surge of marmalade-making with this unique citrus species.

The result? The Rex Union is in safe hands, and the 2019 season has produced a bumper crop. In conjunction with the farmer and Slow Food, the aim is to rescue the variety and promote agro-ecological cultivation techniques.

Long live the Rex Union orange!

HOW TO MAKE REX UNION MARMALADE

Ann le May, one-time owner of Dunedin Farm, says the Rex Union orange is a champion fruit for making marmalade.

Ann le May.
Ann le May.
Image: Supplied

Here's her famous, yet simple recipe — more of a method — for making delicious marmalade: 

FIRST DAY:

Shred whole oranges (I start with about 6-8 oranges for a large pot of marmalade) including rind and pith.

To one cup of cut orange, add two cups of water and soak overnight.

SECOND DAY:

Place 3 saucers in the freezer for testing the marmalade's setting point.

Prepare your jam jars for bottling. Wash them well and place in a preheated oven of 100º C for 30 minutes. Place the lids in a pot of water and bring to a rolling boil, then remove. 

To make the marmalade, transfer the mixture of oranges and water you prepared on day one to a pot. Boil the mixture until the skin of the fruit is tender, the pith almost translucent.

Remove from the stove and add one cup of sugar to one cup of pulp.

Return to the heat and cook over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil and continue stirring from time to time to prevent it sticking to the pot, but not too often, until golden brown in colour and setting point is reached.

To test the setting point, remove a saucer from the freezer and drop a spoonful of marmalade on it. Cool slightly, then run your finger through the marmalade. If it leaves a sticky trail it's ready. Bottle immediately. If not, keep boiling and test again.

WHERE TO GET THE FRUIT

The Rex Union trees on Lemoenfontein, Rustenburg, are dripping with lots of succulent fruit and you can arrange to pick your own by contacting farm manager JC van den Berg on 082-941-6876. The oranges are sold at R50 a bag.

Or contact Cheese Gourmet in Linden on 011-888-5384. They are carrying a limited stock of the fruit - it's best to pre-order.


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