After taking part in numerous judging events for national food and drink industry awards, and offering seasonal marmalade classes, we are now hosting our own local marmalade competition at the cookery school.
Lisa has outlined how she assesses a jar of marmalade when asked to judge at county shows and for industry awards. This same criteria will be used by the judges during our annual marmalade competition. Each bench mark can achieve a total of five points and the final score will be awarded from a total of twenty marks.
The marmalade must be true to its type or recipe, for example traditional bitter orange marmalade will be bright and translucent, and of course a distinct orange colour. As its name suggests ‘Dark and Chunky’ marmalade will have a deeper colour of molasses but still indicate a good ratio of peel or shreds to gel with a glossy shine.
Lisa suggests, ‘if you are hosting a competition to promote and encourage preserving at home, each entry should include the exact ingredients and ideally offer individual classes for added flavours and variety of peel for example, thin, medium and thick cut’.
Clean, fresh citrus notes will be evident as soon as the screw top lid is popped open. The judges will be looking for a good seal to the jar, with the use of a brand new lid to ensure the marmalade is stored correctly and spoilage bacteria is unable to enter the jar.
Lisa comments, ‘ when organising a competition for homemade marmalade at a county show or community event, we urge the committee to set clear guidelines for the size and quality of jars, ensuring each entry is presented in a brand new jar with a screw top lid that creates a tight seal’.
In the case of Seville orange marmalade, the judges require an even balance of neatly sliced and well-cooked peel or sheds that are suspended throughout a glossy and translucent gel. The thickness of the peel will depend on the category and when judging Seville orange marmalade, the jar should include both zest and pith. We would not anticipate membrane, pips or signs of burnt sugar present in the finished marmalade. The marmalade should be set so that it holds it shape but is easily spread on toast or bread.
Lisa advises, ‘ to achieve the optimum texture in a home kitchen we advise that the cook selects a recipe with manageable quantities and is not tempted to ‘double up’ to save time. Most domestic stoves cannot provide adequate heat to achieve the rolling boil that is required to achieve a true set. In any kitchen, whether commercial or at home, a well balanced recipe is key to success’.
A good balance of fresh citrus acidity from oranges and lemon, coupled with sweetness from the sugar which is used to preserve the marmalade. However, it must not be cloying and in the case of traditional Seville marmalade, the taste should finish with a classic bitter note that is typical of sour oranges.
Lisa comments, ‘when judging a homemade class, it really is heart breaking to select a jar that shows every sign of being well made with skill and effort in time as well as ingredients and the preserve has been stored in a recycled jar that has a taint and aroma of original contents’.
Awards and comments.
After meticulously creating a batch of traditional, homemade marmalade, we should rightly be proud of the effort in time and ingredients that we have invested. It can sometimes be hard to swallow, well meaning advice when we feel we have tried so hard and our homemade preserve tastes GREAT. Believe us, we have sat on both sides of the fence!
Lisa says, just like our online and ‘in person‘ classes we want everyone to feel inspired and included. It is really important to us that our guests have a positive experience and comments or suggestions for improvement are given to encourage not criticise. If you have any questions with regards to feedback, please feel welcome to email and we will do all we can to help and support you.