Toast and marmalade wouldn't be my normal breakfast of choice - a bacon sandwich has that accolade - but finding a good bittersweet marmalade to spread on my toast could challenge my bacon buttie for the honours.
I find most shop bought marmalades far too sweet for my tastes and the only ones I like are incredibly expensive.
So at this time of year I have taken to hunting out the elusive Seville orange and making a batch of my own. The Seville has an unmistakable bitter flavour which when balanced with just enough sweetness, provides the perfect marmalade.
Despite having a short season in January and February, when they are imported from Spain to our shores, they are worth seeking out since home made marmalade is far superior to the bought stuff, and, as they say, you will never go back once you have tried it. And if you make enough, it keeps really well and will last you through the year.
I've left it a bit late to enter the World Marmalade Awards, which take place at Dalemain Mansion in Cumbria each year (last entry 10th February), but to be honest I probably miss the deadline on purpose. I'm proud of my preserve but there are some serious marmalades heading for Cumbria.
So every February I head out to visit my local - and not so local - farm shops, grocers and supermarkets in search of the elusive Seville. Sometimes it's a bit of a trek, but my goodness, it's worth it.
Give the oranges a wash and take off the little grey bit of stalk at the top.
Cut in half around their circumference and squeeze out all their juice. Save the juice for later.
Slice the half oranges into quarters and remove any thick bits of white pith attached. Keep the pith as it has the most pectin, the naturally occurring substance in some fruits and berries that acts as a gelling agent in jams and marmalades. Also retain any pips for later use.
You can now slice the orange peel into whatever size strips you want depending on whether you like marmalade with thick or thin bits in it. I like the finer cut type.
Any remnants of pith or marked skin you have left after slicing, add to the reserved pith and pips.
In a large square of muslin, place all the off-cuts, pith and pips you have and tie tightly at the top.
Place the orange juice and cut peel in a large bowl along with the muslin bag and cover with 2 litres of cold water. Cover and leave overnight or up to 24 hours to allow the peel to soften and the pectin to be released.
After this period put everything in a large preserving pan or heavy based stainless steel pan, cover and bring to the boil. Then simmer for approximately 2 hours or until the peel is nice and soft and will break when gently pulled.
You should have about 2 thirds of the original volume left in the pan.
Take out the muslin bag (careful it isn't too hot), put it on a plate, let it cool a bit, and squeeze well to bring out all the 'gummy' residue which will ooze out the base of the bag. Now scrape this sticky substance back into the pan of juice until incorporated.
Now add the lemon juice and sugar, bring to the boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Boil rapidly for about 15 minutes or so until setting point has been reached.
All the bubbles on the surface should have disappeared and the liquid will look thick and glossy.
Take off the heat and test by dropping a blob of marmalade on a chilled saucer (put back in fridge for 2 minutes to cool) and if it wrinkles when you push it with your finger it is ready. If it doesn't wrinkle, boil a few minutes longer and try again. Or you could boil until the setting point of 105°C shows on a sugar thermometer.
Let your marmalade cool a little to let the peel disperse properly while you prepare your sterilised jars. Using a sterilised funnel and ladle, pour the marmalade into the jars and seal immediately.
Now sit back, write out the labels and raise some toast to your perfect preserves.