Posted by: iainduncani | February 26, 2011

Making Marmalade

My homemade marmalade on toast
My Granddad has always made fabulous marmalade and a few years ago he taught me the tricks of the trade, I’m now in my third year of making it and finally have got the hang of it! To make it you need to keep an eye out in the supermarket for Seville oranges which are only around in the middle of January although I always freeze them as it softens the skin making it easier to work with and allows you to make it when you have time.

You also need to get hold of some muslin to put the pips in, I got some from ala cook as well as some of the wax discs for putting on top of the marmalade once it was jarred up. Putting the pips and pith in with the marmalade whilst it is cooking is key to getting it to set as they contain pectin which is what makes it set, I tried a muslin-free approach of boiling the pips and pith in a separate pan in my first year but that just lead to very sloppy marmalade!

One thing I didn’t write down at my Granddad’s was the quantities we used so I had to start from scratch which I didn’t think would be too tricky thanks to Google, however, I found all the recipes online varied massively for the amount of water and sugar to use. Instead of sticking to a particular recipe I took an average of the first few I came across so the quantities I used were:

  • 8 Seville oranges (1kg)
  • 2 lemons
  • 1.8kg sugar (either preserving or granulated)
  • 2.4L water
  • 1 tablspoon treacle
  • knob of butter

Juicing the oranges and cutting the skin in a food processor
The first step in making marmalade is to juice all of the oranges and lemons. I cheated for this and used a food processor which made it really quick and easy to do. Once they are juiced you need to scrape out the pith on the skin and put this in the muslin bag along with the pips, I tend to use two bags as it gets a bit big otherwise.

You then cut the skin into chunks, the size of the chunks is purely down to taste. I do some in the food processor for speed and some by hand to get bigger chunks. The lemon skin is a bit tougher and more bitter than the orange so I do that very small.

Once you’ve done this put the juice, skin, muslin bag full of pips and pith and water into a large pan, the mixture should only fill the pan half full as it will boil up a lot later on. You need to bring it all to a gentle boil with the lid off until all of the skin is soft, which takes about an hour and a half.

Marmalade boiling with sugar in it
At this point you need to add the sugar and treacle and bring it up to a rolling boil, this will take a lot of heat! I’m lucky as I’ve got gas hobs so I had it on full power on the biggest one and it still took a long time to reach setting point. Its at this point that you will realize why you need such a big pan, mine was only a third full to start with and it still nearly boils over (keep an eye on it at this stage as if it does boil over it will catch into a sticky fire, set the fire alarm off and take an absolute age to clean up, a bitter experience if you’ll excuse the pun).

At this point I put some plates in the fridge and sterilized the jam jars. To do this I put them upside down in a big pan and then poured in boiling water and boiled it for about 10 minutes, after they were done I put them in the oven on a low heat to dry them out, this also meant that they were warm when I added the marmalade to them which is important to stop them cracking.

After the marmalade mixture had been boiling for about 25 minutes I started testing it for setting point. I have a sweet thermometer and when it reaches 105°C it is supposed to set, however, I found that it didn’t so I had to do it the old fashioned way. This involves putting a spoonful of the mixture onto a plate that has been stored in the fridge, if it starts setting and forming a skin on the top of it after being put in the fridge for a couple of minutes then the marmalade is ready to be jarred up. I kept testing the mixture every 5 to 10 minutes but I found it took about an hour to reach setting point. Once it is at setting point add a knob of butter and stir it around, this will help clear the scum that forms on the top whilst it is boiling.

Adding wax lids to the marmalade
Finally I put it into jars, the quantities above will make about 7-8 jars. Then put a wax lid on top of it and it is ready for eating!



  1. I will have to give this to my mother.

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