I took a train from London Euston to the beautiful and quirky city of Stratford-Upon-Avon to meet Peter and Bill who have run Moss Cottage for the past seven years, to see if this novice (me) could learn how to make marmalade. And I’ll be honest, I hadn’t actually ever tried marmalade until a couple of days before Moss Cottage agreed to let me loose in their kitchen… thankfully it’s delicious.
So I arrived to an incredible welcome of tea and fruit cake before a very patient Peter talked me through the simple procedure of making Lime and lime shred marmalade. I learnt the importance of the wrinkle test, and most importantly… do not touch the hot sterilized marmalade jars (lesson learnt!) And I must say it was incredibly easy and rewarding making it myself and knowing exactly what ingredients are in it. You can find the recipe to make yourself at the bottom of this page.
Whilst we waited for our our marmalade to set, I was then treated to some freshly home-baked bread and an array of marmalade to sample, including the boozy tequila marmalade and the award winning pumpkin spiced marmalade (my favourite!)
Here is what peter had to say about his award-winning marmalade:
What’s your favourite marmalade?
My favourite is the lime one because it’s tasty and it’s nice and sharp, and it looks pretty in the jar.
How did you get into marmalade making?
When I was in my late 20’s, I made jam, jelly, marmalade and chutney and we ended up selling it in Covent Garden Craft Market on the Saturday. And it got to the point where we were quite successful, in that we got an order for 400 pounds of strawberry jam. We were living in a little flat, with a tiny kitchen, and there was no way we could make it. So we decided to stop rather than expand. I stopped for a while, but then I started again, in order to make it for the B&B.
What marmalade did you enter this year?
I entered a lovely quince and lemon, quince and Seville orange, and the most daring of all- a plain Seville marmalade. Which is risky as it’s classic straight forward marmalade, so we shall see.
So we’ve been making marmalade today, how did I do?
You did great! And you wouldn’t say it was difficult, would you? (I agreed.) Well, I boiled the fruit yesterday, so you didn’t have to sit and watch fruit boil in a pan for two hours. But apart from that, we made 7 pounds of marmalade in an hour and a half… two different sorts. So, that’s not difficult. And if you’re making it for home consumption, that will last you a long time. So yes, I thought you did great and I can quite see you making it at home in your big pan.
If people are shop buying marmalade, you could actually be saving money by making your own?
They shouldn’t be shop buying their marmalade, they have all kinds of additives in, whereas what we made, well there was just two ingredients…. limes and sugar. Plus you’ll actually be saving money by making it yourself.
Here’s what Bill, who takes care of the B&B front of house side of business had to say:
You’ve been running the B&B for 7 years now, how did it all start?
Well, I always worked in engineering. I was a sheet metal worker and then milling machines, and basically engineering is kind of dying out- because it’s all going abroad. So I was getting frustrated. It was just the chance to do something self-employed. It was Peter’s idea, he said ‘have you ever thought about running a B&B?’ I said ‘no, but I’ll give it a go.’ And it has been fantastic. You meet so many people from all over the world.
What’s the best part of the job?
Definitely meeting new people, and hopefully helping them discover Stratford-Upon-Avon.
What made you choose a property in Stratford-Upon-Avon?
I’d never been to Stratford-Upon-Avon before. But I came and I saw the history of it, and since coming I’ve found it fascinating. Every month and every year, I learn something new about Shakespeare and the plays… and even about English history, because it’s all linked up. It’s just such a nice place to be. When we bought the property, the woman who owned it before us had been taking bookings and she’d booked guests in for that same night. We didn’t even have furniture delivered until the next day. It was all quite mad.
What advice would you give someone who was thinking of entering the B&B industry?
I’d definitely say go for it. It’s a wonderful thing to do, but just know that you’ll never get a quiet Sunday again. You’ll always be busy on Saturdays, so you’ll always spend Sundays cleaning. A lot of people think they’ll do it as a retirement job, but you’ve got to realise how time-consuming it really is going to be. It also helps to be computer literate because so much comes through the internet these days. And most importantly, you’ve got to like people! But I find that everybody has got something in common, so you’ve got to find that, because everybody has at least one thing in common with everybody else.
Thank you so much for welcoming me into your home and kitchen, and if you want to try this marmalade for yourself, get booked in at Moss Cottage.
And you can make this marmalade yourself – it’s so simple!
Recipe from Peter at Moss Cottage
2 lbs limes
4 pints water
4 lbs sugar.
This amount makes about 5lbs of marmalade. It will keep for at least a year.
There are several ways of making this delicious marmalade but I am going to describe what I do.
- Put the limes and water in a pan and simmer for about 2 hours. You want the amount of liquid to reduce a bit. The lid of my pan has holes in it. If yours doesn’t, take the lid off for half the time.
- Take the limes out and let them cool. They should be nice and soft. It doesn’t matter if some of them have begun to split.
- Cut each one in four. Scrape the pulp off the skin. Discard any pips or tough bits of pith (there sometimes aren’t any of either).
- Cut the peel by hand into shreds the size and thickness you want. I like mine nice and thin.
- Put everything back into the water and bring to the boil.
- Add the sugar, stirring so that it dissolves.
- Boil rapidly making sure it doesn’t boil over. If it looks as if it’s going to, you should have used a bigger pan or made a smaller amount. You can always divide it into two pans.
- Sterilise the jars you are going to use by filling them with boiling water and then putting them in the oven for about 15 minutes.
- Use a jam thermometer to tell when setting point is reached. Use the wrinkle test to check that it’s going to set. Turn the heat off and let it stand for 15 minutes
- Take the sterilised jars out of the oven and leave them to stand for 5 minutes before filling them with the marmalade.
- Wipe the rims of the jars if you’ve got any marmalade on them and secure the lids.
To read more of our customers stories click here.