Around this time of year there's always a worried exchange of telephone calls between my husband and my father about the appearance of seville oranges in the supermarket aisles:
'Have you seen them yet?'
'No, but I'm on the lookout. Sorry, stakeout.'
Seville oranges, you see, can only be found for a week or so sometime in January or February. (This uncertainty in timing only serves to heighten already raised levels of anxiety.) Since the window of opportunity for marmelade making is short, one should not plan holidays around this time of year. If you marry someone who likes marmelade, you had better not enjoy the ski season.
I have numerous childhood memories of being forced to chop boiled oranges for the purposes of marmelade-making. As a result of this traumatic experience I now refuse to have anything to do with the process other than observe, record and make the occasional helpful comment such as 'You missed a pip' and 'Should the pan be boiling over like that?'
Nonetheless, there is something special about seeing the whole thing taking shape. There is a general buzz of excitement as oranges are boiled, chopped and re-boiled. (As long as you are not the one chopping of course).
The jars are heated and filled. An animated discussion ensues about the ideal size vessel for a pot of marmelade.
Slowly but surely the table is covered with warm jars of gleaming orange goo that will keep the breakfast tables happy for another year.