Making marmalade can seem daunting at first and whether you’re looking at a recipe in your favourite cookbook, taking tips from google or are working with a traditional family recipe, the available literature often varies hugely.
As the Seville orange season comes to an end we thought we’d weigh in with our top 5 tips for the best ways to make marmalade, based on our almost 30 years’ experience of making and selling this tasty citrus treat.
1: There’s always a bigger pan…
You’ll need a large pan – several times larger than the initial volume of the ingredients. You absolutely don’t want to be messing around trying to stop your marmalade boiling over. You’ll be surprised how high the bubbles will reach in the pan when you’ve got it at a full rolling boil. Also, make sure it’s got a heavy bottom for good heat dissipation – this will help to avoid burnt spots.
2: Don’t take the pith
You can use any citrus fruit you want in a batch of marmalade but opinions are very different as to what parts of the fruit to use and how to prepare it. Many recipes will claim that you should peel the fruits with a vegetable peeler in order to avoid using the bitter white pith that lies underneath the skin. Our opinion is that the pith is what will give you the balance of bitter and sweet flavours that are the hallmark of a good marmalade – make sure you include it. It’s also the part of the fruit that is high in Pectin which is what will give a nice firm consistency to your marmalade.
3: Perfect Peel
There are a couple of methods of ensuring that you get the ideal consistency of rind in you marmalade, with just the right ‘bite’. Try soaking your peel for 24 hours at room temperature once it’s sliced and ready for adding to the pan. You’ll also need to simmer the peel until it’s soft. Do this before adding sugar. This process can take a good 45 minutes depending on your fruit quality and variety, (limes will take longer, lemons will take less time, grapefruits and oranges are somewhere in the middle) but you can test the readiness of the peel by fishing out a piece onto a plate. It should cut very easily with the back of a knife. If it’s still tough then keep on cooking! When properly cooked the white pith should also turn translucent.
4: Boiling Point
You’ll find plenty of recipes online that call for you to simmer marmalade slowly once the sugar has been added. Do this only if you like your marmalade dark, caramelised, runny and bitter with chewy peel. We think the best way to do it is to bring the mixture to a really high rolling boil once the sugar has dissolved. Set the heat as high as possible and keep stirring regularly. You should end up with a nice bright, clear marmalade that has a lovely thick consistency.
5: Ready? Set. Jar!
How to know when your Marmalade is ready? The traditional test is to dribble a little onto a plate and allow it to cool. Once cooled, push it gently with your finger. If ready the marmalade should have set slightly and formed a skin which will wrinkle. It’s worth keeping a small plate in the fridge when making marmalade for this purpose. If you’re really serious about jam and marmalade making it could be worth investing in a refractometer. This device allows you to measure the concentration of sugar in a solution. A good benchmark for marmalade is 65% sugar which seems high but in a hot sterilised jar this should keep for at least 2 years. Make sure you jar and lid whilst the marmalade is hot help avoid mould growth in storage.
We hope you find these tips useful in avoiding some of the common pitfalls when making marmalade.
Failing that, you could always let us do it for you!