Updated August 20, 2017 08:55:22
Marmalade used to be that weird jar you found at the back of grandma's pantry, but a new breed of cooks are giving it back its zest.
Jane Hasell-McCosh, an international judge for the Australian Marmalade Awards, said modern mixtures for marmalades spanned from 17th-century recipes to modern blends containing more than just oranges.
While traditionalists believe the only true marmalade is made from Seville oranges, others experiment by adding different fruits and flavours like grapefruit, ginger and even whisky.
Homemade marmalade is making a comeback
In a fast-moving world, Ms Hasell-McCosh believed the intricate method to making marmalade had become almost a meditative experience.
"[Making] marmalade is quite a complicated process; you can't just shove it in a pan and hope for the best."
She said the time spent chopping, sorting and cooking the fruit was all worth the magic aromas that were released.
"There is research that has said the scent of citrus is almost like an antidepressant."
Modern makers are also experimenting with new tastes and fruits, with last year's double gold winner a grapefruit and honey mixture.
"The marmalades that we got in the first few years [of the competitions] is nothing like the complex and sophisticated marmalades we are getting now."
Do you leave the rind behind?
"There are many different definitions for marmalade," Ms Cossell-McCosh said, "but for this particular competition, what we are defining is a preserve which is dominantly citrus.
"The world is divided between shred lovers and non-shred lovers."
She said with the variety of gels and rind-filled blends being produced, it really came down to personal preference.
Australia keeps preserves fresh
There were notable differences in the tastes of Australian marmalades, Ms Hasell-McCosh said, compared to her native Britain.
In the UK oranges are imported to conserve whereas in Australia they are easily picked fresh.
"[The taste] is really strong because the marmalade being made is immensely fresh," she said.
From a judge's point of view, Ms Hasell-McCosh said the winning marmalade must have great smell, look, texture and taste.
"It's surprising how you can tell if the citrus fruit is fresh [just by] the smell."
Although the mixtures contain basically fruit, water and sugar or another sweetener, the cooking process is where the magic happens.
Ms Hasell-McCosh said the key to good marmalade was soft rind and firm jelly.
"The toast test is the most important thing, where you see if it can sit on a piece of toast and not fall off."
The balance of flavours is the key
The other important part of a good marmalade was being able to taste all of the fruits, Ms Hasell-McCosh said.
"When you can taste all of the ingredients and they are beautifully balanced, you know you have a winner."
She said the combinations of fruits used were only limited by the maker's skills and imagination.
"What I have noticed, because I have been doing these awards for 12 years, is how much marmalade has improved."
Entries for the Australian Marmalade Awards close on August 28 and winners will be announced in September.
Topics: food-and-cooking, fruit, vegetable-fruit-nuts, human-interest, adelaide-5000
First posted August 20, 2017 08:30:00
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