There’s nothing like learning a new skill. Over the past couple of years I’ve made chutneys of all sorts using up the glut of vegetables from our garden.
We’ve had red tomato, green tomato, marrow and even beetroot – all of which were lovely.
Something I’ve never done before however, and decided this would be the year to change that, was jam and marmalade.
Emma at Abel and Cole heard my plea and sent me one of their ‘Seville orange marmalade kits‘ to try.
It arrived very quickly and I was delighted to see a cardboard box with my goodies inside.
Inside the box were 1 kg seville oranges, a couple of lemons, sugar and full instructions for making my own marmalade. The kit contains enough ingredients for six 1lb jars.
The Good points
- The packaging and delivery time were great. My box arrived in perfect condition a couple of days after ordering and there was no excess packaging inside. The fruit was happily rolling around inside without the need for polythene pillows or polystyrene beds.
- The instructions were excellent. They were straight forward, kinda fun in the style of writing and you really felt that a total novice could proudly make 6 jars of the finest home made marmalade by the end of it.
- Quality of the fruit was the usual outstanding type I’ve grown to expect from Abel and Cole. Our home smelled delicious for a couple of days with the aroma of freshly squeezed orange juice…
- The finished product was (eventually) a resounding success and I felt really proud of my achievement. Despite being a novice, I felt like a marmalade making expert.
The not so good
- Unfortunately, I hadn’t read the full description on the Abel and Cole site and found that I needed to provide muslin and string for the pith, flesh and pips. This wasn’t an issue for me, but out of all the required equipment I think there might be a lot of people who don’t have muslin lying around at home, so it’s not really a ‘kit in a box’ as you have to provide something yourself.
- My 1 kg of seville oranges in fact weighed 880gms! As I had already done my weekly shopping I had to adjust the rest of the ingredients accordingly. It wasn’t a big issue, but if I had paid for the box I would have been feeling a bit short changed.
- The instructions weren’t actually for a novice at all. They were a bit too ambiguous and I had to be really determined to make this work for me. The first time I made it, it was a complete flop. I didn’t end up with marmalade, I ended up with marmalade sauce. No bad thing, but a little difficult to spread on toast. It was only after reading around the internet I realised I should have had the marmalade at a rolling boil until it started to thicken, change colour and pass the ‘wrinkle test’. So the following morning I spent 3/4 hour testing, re-testing and re-boiling my vat of marmalade sauce to get the desired consistency.
- The sugar, by Billingtons came in unmarked plastic bags! I would NEVER buy this myself. I know Abel and Cole need to use organic ingredients for their boxes, but I feel they could source a company who take the disposal of their packaging responsibly. I have since written to Billingtons twice and received no response to my mails. According to their site, Billingtons have a strong commitment to fairtrade and organic, yet they fail to look at the effects of disposal of their packaging. They (Billingtons) will be getting this packaging returned to them in the post with a covering letter and copy of my two emails.
Suggestions for improvement
- The biggie for me was the sugar packaging. I think this marmalade kit could be drastically improved by sourcing a different brand of sugar. Give us organic sugar in a paper bag, a cardboard box or even polythene, but not in unmarked plastic bags! Zero waste might not be Abel and Cole’s particular policy, but when you’re sending something to a zero waste family, it’s a big issue.
- I’m not sure how you would go about this because you don’t want to send out something people don’t need, but perhaps a tick box for people to select if they need some muslin would be good.
- The instructions need to be re-written and checked by a complete novice so that they are fool proof. I know how difficult it is to remember what it was like when you first tried something, but I felt these should have been given to someone to try and feedback was needed before they were set loose on the public. (or maybe they were and it’s just that I’m crap at making marmalade!)
Points have been scored for great delivery time and quality of produce, good Abel and Cole packaging and the idea of creating a kit in the first place – it’s a lovely idea and if improved would make a lovely Christmas gift for a foodie. I’ve taken points off for the sugar packaging, the poor instructions and the lightweight oranges.
Now just in case you think I’m totally heartless, you can go and read a review I did of Abel and Cole’s mixed organic fruit and vegetable box last year – I couldn’t give it enough praise!
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