It’s January – it’s Seville orange time and it’s time to make the marmalade. It is one of those annual rituals that I love, almost the reverse of cooking for Christmas, cooking for the New Year.
Seville oranges are really only around for a month or so and we have to make the most of them. So this year while the Seville oranges are in season, as well as making the normal shelf load of marmalade, I am going to prepare some for next Christmas. Yes I know that sounds a bit crazy but one of the recipes that I have included my book, Recipes From an Unknown Kitchen calls for dried Seville oranges, if I leave it until I need them it will be too late.
What is this magic recipe? Well it is Curaçao, that lovely orange flavoured liqueur. I found the recipe in a hand written recipes dating back to the 1800s.
Curaçao is a liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the lahara citrus fruit, grown on the island of Curaçao. A non-native plant similar to an orange, the laraha developed from the sweet Valencia orange transplanted by Spanish explorers. Although the bitter flesh of the lahara is all but inedible, the peels are aromatic and flavourful, maintaining much of the essence of the Valencia orange.
Curaçao liqueur was first developed and marketed by the Senior family in the 19th century. To create the liqueur the laraha peel is dried, bringing out the sweetly fragranced oils. After soaking in a still with alcohol and water for several days, the peel is removed and other spices are added.
This recipe uses Seville and blood oranges to give the flavour and is obviously not as strong as the original as syrup is added. I have also halved the amounts in the original but feel free to revert. You can use ordinary sweet oranges in place of blood oranges which can be hard to find.
To make Curaçao (William Sayer 1831)
1 bottle of pale brandy,
2 seville oranges
1 blood orange
350g of sugar
2 inch stick of cinnamon
Place the oranges where they will dry very gradually until thoroughly dry when they will be ‘not larger than a pigeon’s egg’, so says the recipe but in fact they are much bigger. I put mine in the airing cupboard but it takes some time. If you put them in a low oven be careful that they don’t burn.
When thoroughly dried, add them with the brandy and cinnamon to a large sealed jar, in a warm place for a week or two. When you are ready to make the Curaçao, remove the oranges and strain the liquid through muslin to remove the cinnamon. Make a very clear syrup of the sugar and water, but not strong enough to crystalise. Cool, add the brandy then mix it all together and store it in sealed bottles (the brandy bottle is good).
The dried oranges keep for well over a year in a dry place. I’m not sure what to do with the used oranges it seems a shame to throw them away, perhaps they would make good Christmas decorations. All suggestions welcome.