Szechuan Pepper is surprisingly easy to grow in the UK. Published in 2010, Mark Diacono’s “A Taste of the Unexpected ” is a fascinating compendium of unusual fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs, spices and flowers. It challenges gardeners to venture outside their comfort zones and expand their gardening repertoire.
Szechuan Pepper is just one addition to our garden from Mark’s book. After the first harvest last year, noticing the hot and fruity flavour of the pepper I was prompted to experiment with marmalade. With their bitter flavour, Seville oranges are a perfect foil for the Pepper.
Seville Orange and Szechuan Pepper Marmalade
675g Seville oranges
1 large lemon
25g Szechuan Pepper
1.4kg granulated, cane sugar
1.75 litres water.
1. Juice the oranges and pour the juice with the water into a large, lidded pan with a capacity of 6-8 litres. Remove the inner membranes and pips from the oranges. Do not remove the pith from the oranges.
2. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the pan. Put the orange membranes into a food processor or mini-chopper and chop finely. Put the chopped membranes, any pips and 20g of Szechuan Pepper into a 36 x 36cm piece of thin cotton muslin. Tie this up with string and add to the pan.
3. Shred the oranges finely and add the peel to the pan. If possible, leave the pan overnight to allow the fruit to soak.
4. Next day, bring the lidded pan to boil, turn down the heat and simmer very gently for two – two and a half hours. Remove the lid from the pan and set aside.The peel should be very tender and the contents of the pan reduced by a third. Warm the sugar in a low oven, 140°C /275°F/ Gas 1
5. Remove the muslin bag and squeeze the liquid from the bag back into the pan through a sieve, using a large spoon. Add the sugar and the remaining 5g of finely crushed Szechuan Pepper to the pan. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
6. Place the jars in the oven to warm through.
7. Gradually bring the pan to a rolling boil and test for a set after 7 minutes, using the flake test. Dip a large spoon into the pan and scoop out a spoonful. Lift the spoon above the pan and turn it horizontally. If the marmalade has reached setting point of 104.5°C ( 220°F) it will drip then hang on the side of the spoon. Remove the jars from the oven
8. Leave the marmalade to cool for 8 minutes, a skin should have formed on the surface. Remove any scum from the surface with a large metal spoon. Gently stir the marmalade to distribute the peel.
9. Pour the marmalade into clean, warm sterilised jars and cover with new twist top lids. Leave the jars upright and undisturbed to set.
First Preserves, please let me know by email if you would like it signed by me as the author.
For jars, Bottle Company South
Mark Diacono’s A Taste of the Unexpected