The most classic of all marmalades is the orange marmalade made from bitter Seville oranges. Seville oranges can be a little hard to come by, since they are sour to the taste and most people want to eat sweet oranges. You won't usually find them at the supermarket.
You can order them online, or when in season (in Winter), find them at a farmer's market in areas that grow them. Here in California, once in a while you'll find one in a neighbor's yard. Citrus trees were often grafted onto Seville orange rootstock, and sometimes in a hard freeze, the bitter orange rootstock takes over the tree.
When I first started making seville orange marmalade, it was with the oranges from a neighbor's tree that had done just that. The rootstock took over the tree and my neighbor had a gorgeous orange tree with oranges that no body in her family wanted to eat! So, she happily gave me some whenever I wanted to make a batch of marmalade.
These days I buy the oranges from our local farmer's market in Sacramento. They're a bit bigger than the oranges from my neighbor's old tree, but they are still packed with seeds and juice.
Most of the recipes for seville orange marmalade I've found online have a much higher water and sugar ratio to fruit than I am presenting here.
This recipe produces a rather intense marmalade, which is not overly sweet. You can add more sugar to it if you would like. I find most commercial marmalades rather cloying, so when I'm making my own, I dial back on the sugar.
The great thing about making citrus marmalades is that there is plenty of pectin in the peels, membranes and seeds of citrus, so you don't need to add commercial pectin to the jam. You do need to extract the pectin from the seeds and some of the membranes of the oranges, which I show how to do here using a muslin pectin bag.
Marmalade making is a skill that improves with practice! So, if this is your first time making marmalade, think of it as an experiment. It will get easier and you will get more comfortable making marmalade with experience.
Seville Orange Marmalade
- 3 pounds (1.36 kg) of seville or bitter oranges (6 to 12 oranges, depending on the size of the oranges)
- 6 to 8 cups water
- 2 lemons - 1 regular lemon and 1 Meyer lemon
- 5 to 6 cups white granulated sugar (or more to taste)
Preparing the Fruit
Scrub the oranges clean:
Discard any that are damaged or soft.
Cut the oranges in half and juice them:
As you juice the oranges, save the seeds. Put the seeds into a separate bowl and set them aside. You will use the seeds to make natural pectin for the marmalade
Cut the peels into narrow strips:
Taking a clean juiced orange half rind, use a spoon to dig out segment membranes still attached to the inside. Put a few of these in with the seeds (segment membranes will also provide pectin).
Use a sharp chef's knife to thinly julienne the peel. Once you julienne all of the oranges put the cut peels and the juice in a large (8-cup Pyrex works great) measuring cup.
Juice the regular lemon and add this juice to the orange peels and juice:
Save the seeds for making pectin.
Prep the Meyer lemon:
Cut the Meyer lemon in eighths, lengthwise. Remove the seeds and as much of the inner membranes as you can easily remove. Cut the lemon segments crosswise into triangular pieces. (See the steps in the Meyer lemon marmalade recipe for photo descriptions.)
Add the cut Meyer lemon to the measuring cup with the oranges.
Add the Meyer lemon seeds to the Seville orange seeds and membranes.
You should have 5 to 6 cups combined, of citrus peels and juices.
Put seeds into cheesecloth or muslin bag:
Put the citrus seeds and membranes into 4 layers of cheesecloth, tied up tightly with string, or into a muslin jelly bag. (I made a "pectin bag" which I use for making marmalade, by sewing up piece of plain muslin cloth into a bag with a drawstring at the end.)
First Stage of Cooking
Put orange mixture into pot, add water:
Place the orange and lemon juices and cut peels into a large, wide (6 to 8-quart) thick-bottomed pot.
Add 6 cups of water. (At this point you can soak overnight if you want. It will help the peels cook faster.)
Secure pectin bag:
Place the cheesecloth or muslin bag containing the citrus seeds and pulp into the pot, submerging it in the liquid, and secure the string at the other end to the pot handle.
As the mixture cooks, the pectin from the seeds and membranes will be extracted into the mixture.
Boil until the peels are soft:
Bring mixture to a boil. Let boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes (or longer), or until the peels are completely soft and cooked through.
Depending on your particular fruit, it may take more time, and more water, to get to the point where the peels are soft. Once you add sugar to the mixture in the next step, the peels will firm up with the sugar, so it's very important that the peels in this first stage of cooking are completely soft.
Test the orange peels as you go. Take a bite, if the peel is at all firm to the bite, it needs more cooking.
If the water has boiled down and the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pot, add more water, a cup at a time.
When the peels are soft, remove from heat.
Remove the pectin bag:
and place it in a bowl to let cool until it is comfortable to touch.
Measure the Fruit and Add Sugar and Pectin
Measure the mixture:
Pour out the mixture from the pot into a large measuring cup. Measure how much of the mixture you have. Depending on how hard of a boil and how long the cooking time, you could have anywhere from 4 to 5 cups. Return the mixture back to the pan.
Add to the mixture 7/8 cup of sugar for every cup of mixture. So, if you measured 4 cups of mixture, add in 3 1/2 cups of sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved, taste the mixture. Add more sugar depending on how sweet you want your marmalade to be.
Note that the jelly mixture will reduce further, intensifying both the flavor and the sweetness of the jelly. I typically use 4 cups of sugar for every 4 cups of fruit mixture, which produces a rather tart marmalade. Feel free to use more!
Squeeze pectin from pectin bag:
Once your pectin bag has cooled to the point you can handle it, squeeze it like play-doh to extract extra pectin. Grasp a tangerine size portion of the bag and squeeze, pulling the bag away from you with one hand as you hold firmly with the other hand. Work your way around the bag.
"Milk" the pectin until you have released about a tablespoon of pectin. The pectin has the consistency of sour cream. Add it to the orange mixture.
Second Stage of Cooking
Boil and check temperature:
Heat the jelly mixture on medium high and bring it to a rapid boil, stirring occasionally, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Secure a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
The marmalade may take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes or so to set. After about 10 minutes, start checking it frequently.
Test to see if the marmalade is at setting point:
Once the mixture reaches a temperature of 218°F it is close to the set point. It should set between 218°F and 222°F (or 6 to 10°F above the boiling point at your altitude).
You can tell if the mixture has reached its set point by putting a small amount of the jelly liquid on a chilled plate, and looking for signs of it wrinkling when you push it with your finger tip.
While thermometers aren't always accurate, the wrinkle test works. If the jelly wrinkles on a cold plate, it's ready.
Put several small plates into the freezer to chill. As the marmalade temperature reaches 218°F, start testing it by placing a small amount of the hot jelly on a chilled plate. If the jelly spreads out and thins immediately, it isn't ready. If it holds its shape a bit, that's a good sign. Let it cool on the plate for a few seconds.
Push up against it with your finger tip. If the jelly sample wrinkles at all, it is time to take the jelly off the heat.
When you use a candy thermometer to test the temperature of your mixture, make sure the probe is NOT touching the bottom of the pan. Make sure the indentation on the probe (with modern candy thermometers this is about an inch and a half from the bottom of the probe) is actually surrounded by the mixture. You may have to tilt the pan to one side, to cover the probe sufficiently to get a good reading.
Overcooking a marmalade will result in a caramelized flavor or tough orange peels in your marmalade.
Canning the Marmalade
Sterilize the canning jars:
There are several ways to sterilize your jars for canning. You can run them through a short cycle on your dishwasher.
You can place them in a large pot (12 quart) of water on top of a steaming rack (so they don't touch the bottom of the pan), and bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes.
Or you can rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.
Sterilize the lids:
As the time approaches for the marmalade to be done, boil some water in a tea pot. Put the jar lids in a glass or ceramic bowl and pour the boiling water over them to sterilize.
Ladle jam into sterilized jars:
Once the jelly has reached its set point, remove the jelly pot from the heat. Let the jelly sit in the pot for a couple minutes (that will help keep the peels from floating in the jars).
Carefully pour or ladle the marmalade into the jars, one at a time, leaving 1/4 inch head space at the top of the jars for a vacuum seal.
Clean rims, secure with lids and jar ring:
Wipe the rim clean with a clean, wet paper towel. Place the lid on the jar, securing with a jar ring. Work quickly.
Process in water bath (optional):
If you want, you can process the jars in a hot water bath for 5 minutes to help get a better seal and to help prevent mold. If you used boiling water in an earlier step to sterilize the jars, you can just keep the same set-up for the water bath. You want to make sure there is a rack at the bottom of the pot so that the jars aren't actually resting on the bottom of the pot.
Allowing the jars to seal:
Once you have sealed the jars with a lid and ring, and have water bathed (or not) the jars, let them sit on your kitchen counter. As the marmalade cools, you'll hear a popping noise as a vacuum is created in the headspace of the jars, pulling the lids down.
Sometimes the marmalade orange peels float to the top of the jar, so to help keep that from happening, turn the jars upside down for half an hour at a time. Keep turning every 30 minutes or so until the marmalade seems stable and the peels are well distributed through the marmalade.
Sour oranges find sweet spot in California article by David Karp for the Los Angeles Times