Preservers insist that it’s better, when making jams and marmalades, to go by weight rather than amount. Limes come in many different sizes, and with my crop some are no bigger than a pellet, so getting the scale out here makes sense. In scientific terms, sugar concentration of about 60-80% in a fruit product ensures its preservation; having to get out a calculator in order to cook something properly makes my palms sweat, so for now I’m simply following a recipe by National Trust treasure Sara Paston-Williams. Tasting what you’re preserving will also give you an idea of the percentage of sugar you will need, bearing in mind that a certain amount of bitterness is a good thing.
The steps I take are the same as for the bergamot and orange marmalade recipe, except I use 1½ lb of limes to 1.5 kg (3 lb 5oz) organic cane sugar. It doesn’t soak overnight as I don’t want the taste to intensify and I add 3½ pints (6 heaped cupfuls) of water to the juice, though you may feel it needs more diluting.
It’s clear from the start that when it comes to limes, I’m dealing with a very different beast. The skin is difficult to shred, being much tougher than lemon rind and the membrane refuses to part from the skin, so that in the end I’m chucking the flesh into the pot as well. The taste, before adding the sugar, is nothing short of harrowing. However, all potted up it looks very respectable, and the dark green shred gives it a touch of the tropics. It tastes and looks absolutely nothing like Rose’s soft and zesty jelly. This is dark, sultry stuff and I’d suggest moderating the lime with ½ lb of lemons to make it less punishing. Thinned to a sharp sauce, it would be perfect dripped over banana dumplings (bananas in any form work well), a steamed ginger pudding, or as a glaze for pork chops, shrimp or salmon. At the risk of sounding very 70s, men love this preserve; if I was into marketing, I’d call it Marmalade for Men.