I am a big fan of marmalade on toast for my breakfast in the morning, and nothing can beat the homemade variety! Ideally on a slice of homemade bread with homemade butter…yum! Whilst many places online suggest that making marmalade is super easy, I actually found it pretty difficult at first. I tried a multitude of recipes and always ended up with marmalade that either refused to set or tasted like burnt toffee. Not one to give up easily, I did a lot of reading to work out where I was going wrong and picked up a few tricks, which are incorporated below. Although I tested a lot of ‘best ever’ marmalade recipes, the one I like best is from Delia Smith and the instructions in this blog are based on her recipe. As I grow oranges and lemons in the garden, a 350ml jar of marmalade costs me only $0.86 (the cost of the sugar and a replacement lid), compared to $4-$5 dollars for decent quality shop bought stuff.
What you will need to make 6 x 350 ml jars of Orange Marmalade
If this is your first time making marmalade and you have none of the kit to hand, you will probably find that shop bought works out way cheaper (although nowhere near as tasty!). If you make a lot of preserves and grow your own fruit however, it is worth investing in preserving equipment and an assortment of jars as they quickly pay for themselves. I managed to get all of my jars, a water-bath canner, preserving pan and preserving tools from Mad Millie, for half price in their current preserves sale.
– 900g Oranges (preferably Seville or Chinotto)
– 1 Lemon (good source of pectin)
– 1.8kg sugar
– Measuring jug
– Sharp knife and cutting board
– Muslin square
– Preserving Pan (or large pan with thick bottom)
– Canning funnel
– Preserving Jars
– Jar lifter
– Magnetic lid wand
– Small saucepan
– Large pan + stand for boiling jars
Step 1. Measure 2.25 litres of water and pour into a preserving pan or large heavy bottomed pot.
Step 2. Select oranges and a lemon that are not over ripe (pectin levels decrease over time) and scrub them clean. Cut the fruit in half, then juice.
Sieve the juice into a pan. Do not discard any pips or pith collected in the sieve.
Step 4. Scoop out the remaining pith from the orange and lemon skins over the sieve to allow any juice to drain out. Any large pieces of pith can be roughly chopped.
Transfer all the pith and pips onto the muslin square. The pith contains a lot of pectin so retain as much as you possibly can. You need all the help you can get to make the marmalade set!
Step 5. Cut the orange peel into shreds using a sharp knife. The thickness of the shreds will depend on your personal preference. I like mine quite thick as you can see.
Add the shreds to the diluted juice. Any pith that remains on the shreds will dissolve during the boiling process.
Step 6. Tie the muslin up to form a bag and attach to the side of the pan so that it’s hanging in the juice. Gently simmer the juice uncovered, for 2-3 hours until the peel is completely soft (test periodically by pressing a piece between your finger and thumb).
NOTE: It is very important to soften the peel completely if you don’t the marmalade will be difficult to eat. Cooking the peel is also important to release pectin, which helps your marmalade set. Once sugar is added the peel won’t soften any further!
Step 7. Place at least 2 saucers in the freezer to cool, so that during testing there is one that is always cold.
Step 8. Remove the muslin bag and leave it to cool on a saucer then add the sugar to the pan.
Step 9. Stir over a low heat until all of the sugar has completely dissolved.
Step 10. Wash the jars and load them into a water bath canner. Boil for ten minutes then maintain at 90°C until ready for use. The water should be about 2.5 cm above the tops of the jars. If you do not have a water bath canner, you can find dishwasher, oven and microwave methods here.
Step 11. Crank up the heat on the oven to maximum then squeeze the muslin bag over the pan. The more cream coloured goo you can force out of the bag, the better as this contains the pectin . Give the mixture a stir then bring to a ‘rolling boil’. A rolling boil is reached when the liquid is boiling very vigorously with lots of bubbles/foam and does not slow in any way when stirred.
NOTE: Once it’s reached a rolling boil, only stir very occasionally to ensure it is not sticking to the bottom other than that leave it alone!
Step 12. Once you have achieved a rolling boil (no easy feat on wood burning Rayburn!), start timing. After 15 minutes place a blob of marmalade on one of the cold saucers from the freezer and leave for about a minute. Push the edge of the marmalade with your finger. If it has reached ‘setting point’ it will wrinkle , if your finger slides straight through it keep boiling, if you take it off the heat at this stage you will end up with marmalade syrup! Continue to boil the marmalade, checking at 5 minute intervals until it’s finally ready. Look out for a point where the mass of foaming bubbles on the marmalade turns into a slow relaxed boil, this tends to occur at setting point. Given the unpredictable heat from my Rayburn it can take me up to 1 hour to finally achieve setting point.
When testing the marmalade always remove the pan from the heat to ensure the rest of the marmalade doesn’t burn in the meantime. Overcooking occurs when the water content is boiled away and you are left with a super thick dark marmalade that nobody wants to eat. The best way to find the balance between not set and overcooked is to use a thermometer. If the temperature fails to reach 105°C the batch will likely not set, much more than this and you have orange toffee spread.
Step 13. Remove the pan from the heat and skim the scum from the top with a large spoon. If you can’t remove all of the scum with a spoon, add a knob of butter to help clear the preserve. Leave the marmalade to thicken for about ten minutes before canning to ensure even distribution of peel in the jars (if the mixture is too runny the peel will sink to the bottom). Can before the marmalade temperature drops below 85°C to ensure that no mould spores are introduced.
Step 14. Sterilise lids by dropping in a pan of hot water.
Step 13. Remove jar from water bath canner using tongs.
Gently stir the marmalade to distribute the peel and then pour the marmalade, with the aid of a canning funnel, into the jars.
Once potted, put the lids on as quickly as possible to create a negative pressure seal. Remove the lid from the pan of hot water using wand and secure with a ring lid.
Step 14. Leave to set for at least 12 hours before moving. Label and store in a dry, cool, dark place until ready to eat and enjoy!