Lachlan’s Lockdown Marmalade Toffee
This recipe was sent to us by Lachlan (Dr L. Shackleton-Fergus) who operates his tiny gourmet marmalade and confectionery business (J.B. Shackleton’s) from his family home near Melbourne, Australia.
Lachlan has won six Golds at Dalemain culminating in the Double Gold for his Luxury Grapefruit and Honey Marmalade that topped the Traditional Marmalade Class in 2017.
Lachlan, at 73, is the 5th generation of his family to be Marmaladiers! The connection dates back to the late 1700s when the Shackletons were sugar boilers in Bradford before moving to Glasgow, then London and finally emigrating to Australia in 1881. It was a small and logical addition to sugar boiling to also make marmalade and confectionery.
In 1881 his Great Grandfather J.B. Shackleton made the big move to the colonies in search of enhanced opportunities as so many did at that time corresponding to the Gold Rush in Australia.
He opened a range of shops in Melbourne – this is a picture of a paper bag used back in about 1889, alongside a photo of his first shop in Melbourne:
And now, in Lachlan’s own words, the story of his deliciously more-ish lockdown marmalade toffee:
Being somewhat at a loose end a few days ago, I decided to make some lemon and grapefruit marmalade using the big pithy grapefruit and knobbly lemons from our tiny orchard that usually work so well for that confection!
I carefully sliced the peel according to the best advice from the experts at Dalemain and let it simmer and then steep for a couple of days. In anticipation of a lovely brew, in went the sugar and up went the temperature to setting point and into the heated jars. It looked just fine!
However – on going back to the commercial kitchen an hour or so later – horror – it had not set and even 24 hours later was just a runny mess! Now we have all had it happen and sometimes there is a good reason and sometimes not. This time I have no idea why except I may have got the pH wrong.
Anyway I was stuck with a dozen jars of semi liquid. Luckily my wife is very partial to marmalade pudding so lots went into one of those and a second for the freezer, but I was still left with three 150 gm jars – tried it on the cats but they said “no thanks”. We even tried that East European, I think Hungarian, luxury tea where you mix a teaspoonful of marmalade into black tea – it’s great – give it a go!
Still, I had those three jars left over.
I had a look in the old family confectionery recipes and I thought – well, how about trying to make marmalade toffee? I agree it would probably not be recommended as the most healthy snack in the world but it should be yummy and what is more, it would cheer us up – if we don’t end up losing too many fillings! So suck, don’t chew!!
The first try was sort of OK but too sticky – sugar temp not high enough. However, today I made the batch that worked. So here it is for any of you who want to give it a go:
Lachlan’s “Lockdown Marmalade Toffee” in the spirit of his ancestor J.B. Shackleton.
- A medium sized heavy bottom pan – cast iron works well. (Thin pans tend to let the sugar burn and then there is a black mess to remove – I know, I did it yesterday!) Try not to fill the pan more than half way as the mix foams up.
- A wooden stirring spoon: preferably one from Jane at Dalemain!
- An accurate candy thermometer. This really helps as sugar is a bit unforgiving but you can do the test other ways and at the end I include a suggestion from that bible for candy – “The Good Cook” Confectionery. (Time Life Books 1983.)
- A pan or tray to pour the mix into.
- Three runny jars of marmalade (any type is fine). Net weight 450 gms. You can use set marmalade too, but that might be a waste!
- 900g white sugar.
To “cast” the toffee, I use a set of well oiled confectioners’ iron slabs to retain the mix but if you grease a pan well with butter or spray with vegetable oil – it works fine. Line with parchment paper to be doubly sure.
Note: amounts are not vital – you can increase or decrease but try to keep the ratios the same.
When you want to go for variations you can add a little unsalted butter or treacle – those things are in all the books. Also you can sprinkle some chopped nuts over the hot mix on the slab or even dust it with cocoa. It helps to push the nuts down into the toffee with the back of a wet spoon but you need to wait until the mix is a little set or they just pop out again!
- Dump the runny marmalade into the pan and gently heat to a slow bubble – about ten minutes.
- Add the sugar and mix gently and then let it slowly heat to 310 degrees F or 154 C. Watch the temperature rise. It will take about half an hour but as soon as it reaches 310 take it off the stove or you will have dark set glue! It will foam up and look like this as it gets near to 300 Degrees…
3. Using heavy gloves (careful as boiling sugar is very dangerous so keep all pets and children well away), pour the mix gently into the setting pan or onto the marble slab and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes.
(Just to give you an idea, my toffee cast size within the steel bars is about 30cm x 30cm and in addition what is left over can be used to form a pool about 25cm diameter.)
4. After about ten to fifteen minutes, using a heavy knife – make indentations into the mix about the size of a single tablet of chocolate . (For those of a literary bent with Cumbrian thoughts – I mean the sort of size of chocolate squares that Mate Susan doled out to Ship’s Boy Roger in the Ransome stories.) If the indentations fill up – wait a few more minutes and do it again.
5. Sugar cools very slowly so give it a good couple of hours and then remove the mix from the pan using a spatula or similar – put it on a wooden or strong table surface and break the mix up into units. If it does not work well – take a hammer and give it a gentle bash – then remove all the chips and bits from the floor! If even that does not work – put the whole set mass in the ‘frig for an hour – then break it up. Finally – sugar absorbs water so it can start to get a bit sticky if you leave it in a warm room. If that happens – don’t fret. Just pop it into the ‘frig for about an hour.
6. When you have it in bits – best lay them in into a plastic shallow container and put that into ‘frig to keep it hard. When the need comes over you – just take out the container and either carefully suck the toffee or wait till the bits soften a bit first.
To keep them from sticking together – try dusting with some icing sugar.
Now that quote from “Confectionery” as to how to check you are at 310 degrees known as “Hard Crack”:
“..drop some syrup into cold (they say “iced” but cold works as well) – water . Remove the solidified syrup from the water and bend it. If it snaps easily…it has reached the hard-crack stage. It will no longer feel at all sticky”.
Well, good luck! If it works, you will have a wonderful golden coloured toffee chock full of marmalade bits.
I would love to hear how you get on with the recipe so please if you can send a picture and some comments to Florence at Dalemain and I am sure she will forward them on to me – firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck and keep safe.