Making Marmalade

Reader Contribution by Cathie Ackroyd
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Is marmalade eating a global phenomenon? I’m not sure but I have a hunch that marmalade is really a very British thing which is strange as it is a jam/jelly preserve made from oranges which do not grow here in the UK’s cool climate.

The Seville orange is the favoured fruit for making delicious marmalade from primarily to enjoy at breakfast time with some thickly sliced buttered toast and a hot cup of tea. The oranges are at their best at this time of year and come from our European neighbor Spain.

The British have many different types of marmalade for sale on supermarket shelves – lemon and lime, shredless, grapefruit but the continuing favourite is that made from Seville oranges which have a bitter taste. The traditional marmalades come in thick cut or thin cut varieties depending on whether you prefer the strips of orange peel to be chewable or swallowable.

The Seville orange is a lumpy bumpy thing compared to its well-bred modern cousins who have been genetically selected over the years for looks, taste and the ability to travel well. When a Seville orange is sliced open it seems to be all pith and pips and very little orange flesh as we have come to recognize. It is perfect for marmalade making as carries a huge amount of flavor but also within its pith and seeds are good quantities of pectin the natural setting agent required for fruit preserves to set.

The Seville orange apparently originated in India over 3000 years ago but was brought to Europe by Arab traders who prized the fruit for their strong fragrance and their flavor and small plantations of them were established in Southern Spain in the Province of Seville.

The story goes that a ship carrying a huge cargo of the fruit was forced to take shelter from a storm at Dundee, Scotland here in the UK in the 1700s. A sweetshop owner bought the lot for a low price and used his sugar supplies from his own stores to preserve the fruit using jamming techniques. The result was a hit and soon the family opened a factory to make Dundee marmalade in large quantities. The firm is still making lovely marmalade today.

I made marmalade for the first time this week and the results are absolutely delicious. My dad’s a big marmalade fan but lives in France so I will send him a big jar for his birthday this month. The house smelled really special while the oranges were boiling and the children are now having a big toast renaissance in the morning for breakfast instead of porridge.

Sadly I forgot to take pictures while I was making it but followed a recipe and really great short how-to video clip made by the founder of Riverford Organics, our organic fruit and vegetable suppliers (being used while we create our own food growing gardens at our new house).

When I was putting the results into the jars I realized there was too much shredded candied orange peel for my family’s taste so I scooped out a couple of spoonfuls with a slotted spoon and today added them to a sponge cake mixture so now we have a great tasting orange marmalade cake to enjoy.


1. With a sharp knife, peel the skin from the oranges and lemons, leaving as much white pith on the fruit as possible. Chop the peel into 3mm strips and put in a large pan.

2. Line a large bowl with a piece of muslin, leaving plenty to overhang the sides of the bowl. Cut the oranges and lemons in half. With your hands, squeeze the juice from the fruit over the bowl, dropping the leftover squeezed fruit (pith, pips and flesh) into the muslin. Lift the muslin out of the bowl, gather the sides and squeeze any remaining juice into the bowl. Tie the muslin together with string to keep the fruit in and form a bag.

3. Place the muslin bag in the saucepan with the peel. Add the squeezed fruit juice and 2.5 litres cold water to the pan. Heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours, until the peel is tender. Put a few saucers in the fridge to chill.

4. Remove the muslin bag and squeeze all the sticky juice from the bag into the pan. (An easy way to do this is to put the bag in a colander and use a spoon to press it out). Measure the contents of the pan in a jug (include the shreds and liquid). Return to the pan and add 450g sugar for every 500ml liquid. Gently heat for 15 mins, until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 15 mins.

5. Test that the marmalade has reached setting point by putting a teaspoon of the liquid on a cold saucer and gently pushing with the back of the spoon. If the liquid starts to wrinkle, setting point has been reached. If no wrinkling happens, keep boiling and re-test every 10 mins. Turn off the heat as soon as you reach setting point.

6. Skim any scum from the surface. Leave the mixture to stand for 15 mins. Stir gently, then carefully spoon into warmed sterilised jars (use a jam funnnel if you have one). If using screw top lids, put the lids on while the marmalade is still hot and turn upside down for 5 mins to sterilise the lids (or boil the lids for a few mins and leave to dry before use). If using cellophane, put a wax disc on the marmalade while warm, then seal with cellophane and an elastic band.

Handy tips:

• To sterilise jars, place in a dishwasher cycle, boil in water or heat in the oven – put the jars on a baking tray and place in a cold oven. Heat to 140°C for at least 10 mins (jars can be left warm in the oven until needed).

• Make sure you have a large enough pan to hold all the liquid and peel with plenty of extra space.

• When peeling the skins, keep the pieces as large as possible to make chopping easier.

• Don’t over-boil the marmalade once set or the marmalade will be too solid.

• If you are not confident peeling the skin from the whole fruit with a knife, cut the fruit into quarters, squeeze out the juice (reserve the juice for the pan and add any pips that come out into the muslin bag). Scrape the inner flesh, pips, and white pith away from the skin with a knife or teaspoon and put in the muslin bag. Chop the peel for the pan as above.