I have just spent the past two hours or so making marmalade, but not just any old marmalade. I had discovered a recipe for Aperol Spritz Marmalade in a magazine which sounded so good I just had to give it a try. I had never made marmalade before and to be honest I’m not a huge fan of it but it was that special ingredient of Aperol that did it for me. The illustration in the magazine showed jars of the finished product all tied up with candy-cane coloured twine with the suggestion that it would make an ideal Christmas gift for the ‘foodie’ in your life.
Aperol is generally enjoyed in Italy as Aperol Spritz an aperitif drink made with Aperol, prosecco and soda water. Aperol is a classic Italian bitter with a vibrant orange colour due to ‘a perfect infusion of bitter and sweet oranges’. Like many Italian liqueurs and bitters the taste is one that people from the UK may take a little time to appreciate. Personally I love such tastes. Having said all of this, in recent years Aperol Spritz has become quite trendy in the UK and in 2020 it apparently ranked number 5 in the list of the nation’s favourite cocktails.
Back to marmalade making; I prepared the red grapefruit and oranges as instructed and put them into a large pan, splashed in some Aperol with what seemed like a mountain of sugar together with some water. Soon a fresh citrusy aroma pervaded my kitchen. There is nothing like the scent of citrus to brighten up your day. In my mind I was instantly transported to Tuscany and I thought of the great masterpiece La Primavera by the Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli. now in the Uffizi, Florence. The Primavera (or Allegory of Spring) was originally painted for Lorenzo Pierfrancesco de’Medici a cousin of Lorenzo the magnificent and placed in the Villa di Castello near Florence. This large mythological painting depicts a group of figures set in an orange grove. Oranges were a symbol of the Medici family of Florence. Indeed, the Medici family were crazy about citrus fruit. Anyone interested in gardening and/or the history of citrus plants will be more than rewarded when they visit the villas owned by this family. I have really fond memories of visiting the Villa Medici at Fiesole and can still remember the scent of citrus blossom that filled the air.
Returning to my marmalade, after blitzing the cooled mixture with a hand blender and spooning it into jars. I stood back and admired my handiwork. I was pleased with my little jars of Tuscan sunshine. I just needed to sample the final product. Actually it tasted pretty good, ok perhaps I was only able to detect just a little bit of the Aperol taste but my Aperol Spritz marmalade had taken me on a journey to Tuscany albeit in my mind and in my senses.