Regency Food

by Ann Lethbridge

What can we serve for breakfast?

Toast and marmalade of course.

Last week I handed in two books, which left me at a bit of a loose end. So, since my husband sneakily bought home some Seville oranges, I decided to celebrate meeting the deadlines by making marmalade. I thought it particularly fitting, because marmalade was indeed Regency food since it was first produced in Dundee in 1797 and can therefore show up on our Regency heroine's breakfast toast.

This is something any Regency cook would be able to make in her kitchen, since it requires nothing but Seville oranges, which are sour and bitter and lots and lots of sugar. Along with a fair bit of elbow grease. I was lucky, my daughter was home and took an interest so I had my scullery maid to help out.

Here we have the squeezed skins already for chopping. These particular oranges turned out to be very juicy, full of lovely pips and the rind was almost perfect.

I added a couple of lemons for extra zip, but it could have been all oranges.

I like to use an old-fashioned glass squeezer, as you can see in the picture. The glass edges really make a good job of crushing the pulp out of the juice and it catches the pips. In making marmalade pips are very important.

Here you can see the juice in the pan along with a muslin bag full of... yes pips.

The sticky juices that come out of the pips is natural pectin, it requires 2 to 3 hours of simmering in the juice from the oranges and 15 cups of water, and all those peels we chopped. Pectin is what makes the preserve set, you know so it looks like jelly rather than juice.

That's a lot of simmering, my friends, steamy windows, cups of tea, and gossip. And of course you need to be sterilizing the jars and writing the labels during that time too.

And when you are done all the simmering there's this icky sticky job of squeezing the warm muslin bag. Such fun. And just to prove it here I am. Not looking my best, but by this time I'd been working for hours. Still, I am smiling. You can see the simmered peel in the pan. by this time it is soft.

Then 15 cups of sugar gets added, and there's a lot of stirring and putting drops onto chilled plates to see if it's set yet. Very nerve wracking trying to see if thick juicy stuff is actually wrinkling when you push it with a fork or not.

I must say I was a bit shocked at the amount of sugar that went in there. Almost appalled. But even with all that sugar the end result was not all that sweet. The other thing to remember is to only spoon a small amount on your toast, because it has a wonderful flavor and it is quite strong.

We made the final marmalade in three batches. And to one of them I added chunks of crystallized ginger. Yummy. the first picture at the top is the finished result of a whole day of hard work. I'm glad I don't have to make everything from scratch, I'd never get any writing done.

I'm going to try to keep some of it for hostess gifts, but we've already polished off one whole jar. It even ended up on ice cream as dessert the first evening - it was still warm too.

I wish I could share it with you. Nothing quite like home made, especially when it is authentic regency food. So if you ever pop by for breakfast don't forget to try the marmalade.

Until next time, which will be next week, happy rambles.