Over the years I’ve made a lot of marmalade batches, to just about call myself an expert. But, expert or not, I still get days, when batch of marmalade just doesn’t want to set or the flavour is not quite right.
I know that marmalade making can be really puzzling, so here is a list of frequently asked questions, that over the years my students (or me!) wanted to know the answers to:
- Seville Orange Marmalade >>
- Tangerine Marmalade >>
- Grapefruit Marmalade >>
- Marmalade Brownies Recipe >>
- Marmalade Fruit Cake >>
What fruit can I use for marmalade making?
Any citrus fruit can be used – Seville Oranges, Lemons, Limes, Sweet oranges, Tangerines or Satsumas or other suitable Seville Oranges substitutes, that you can buy locally.
When can I buy seville oranges?
Here in the UK, seville oranges is very short. You can only buy seville oranges in January/February, when they are available in large supermarkets or your local fruit stall. It’s worth buying few extra ones and freeze them or make several batches.
500g of seville oranges will make about 5 smaller jam jars, so if you buy a few kilos, you have supply for most of the year!
Can I freeze seville oranges for marmalade?
Yes, you can freeze whole seville oranges and use them at later stage. It’s safe to keep your frozen seville oranges for up 12 months.
Can you make orange marmalade without seville oranges?
Yes, you can make orange marmalade with ordinary – sweet oranges, which are available all year round. The marmalade taste is going to be slightly sweeter, than when you make the marmalade with seville orange, so I normally combined the fruit with lemons for sharper finish.
Buy orange concentrate to make orange marmalade any time of the year
There is another way to make simple seville oranges marmalade, if you are in a hurry.
These days you can buy seville orange concentrate in a tin in most large supermarkets and these are available all year round. You can usually find them on the bottom shelf with preserves, jams and ready made marmalade.
These are easy to use and a great substitute for fresh Seville Oranges if you don’t have any.
How do I fix runny marmalade?
The good news is that it is possible to fix runny marmalade – I’ve already written a whole article about how to achieve the perfect marmalade set and how to troubleshoot runny marmalade.
Do I need to add pectin to marmalade?
No, not normally. Citrus fruits have the most pectin content of any jam/marmalade making fruits, so there is no need to add extra pectin.
The only time you might need some, if your marmalade won’t set for the first time and you need to re-make your marmalade.
How long to boil marmalade?
If you’ve measured everything correctly, marmalade usually takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the setting point (about 105C).
This of course depends on how big batch of marmalade you are making. Most of my recipes start with 500g of fruit, which take about 10 minutes to reach the setting point.
What is the ratio of sugar to fruit when making marmalade
First of all always use the right amount of sugar (about 2x the amount of the original weight of your fruit) and use only cane or beet sugar (granulated sugar).
To make sure your marmalade sets well, you have to use the full amount of sugar and you can’t use any substitute like honey or chemically produced substitutes (sweeteners).
Does it mater what sugar I use?
Yes and no…
Let me explain…
Cane sugar will give you much clearer finish. The marmalade will have wonderful translucent colour.
Beet sugar is fine to use, but it will give you slightly misty appearance.
How do you know which one is which? That’s not always easy to find out, but if the sugar packet says ‘grown in UK’ it’s sugar beet as sugar cane doesn’t grow in the UK.
Should I use granulated or caster sugar?
Either of these will be fine, but granulated sugar is usually recommended as you need a fair amount and it can all add up cost wise.
A mixture of caster sugar and granulated sugar is fine too, just make sure you wait until the sugar fully dissolves before you start boiling your marmalade.
Do I need to use jam sugar for marmalade?
Citrus fruit has generally higher amount of pectin (than for example soft fruit), which means that you don’t really need a specialist jam sugar.
If you have a jam sugar, by all means use it. You’ll achieve a perfect set without any problems, but jams sugars can be a bit pricey and you might not always find it in your local shop.
I don’t usually bother with special jam sugars, but I do have liquid pectin, if I feel that the marmalade is not setting properly.
Can you use demerara sugar in marmalade?
Yes, you can. Your marmalade will have extra darker colour and flavour as a result. A few tablespoons of whisky will work with the orange flavours and caramelised sugar perfectly and the final marmalade makes a great gift.
If you would like to have a marmalade with a deeper flavour, you can substitute some of the sugar in recipe for brown, Demerara or mollases sugars.
Depending on which one you use you get deeper and darker flavour. Don’t be tempted to use only molasses or very dark sugar unless you want the final marmalade flavour to be closer to a treacle than to a breakfast preserve!
Can I reduce the amount of sugar in marmalade?
It’s very difficult to make seville orange marmalade without the full amount of sugar that the recipe suggest. Your marmalade simply won’t set very well and the taste will be very bitter.
If you’d like to reduce the amount of sugar in your marmalade I would suggest to make a jam instead, where you can get away with either reducing the amount of sugar or swapping it around for a different type of sugar altogether.
Can you overcook marmalade?
Yes, unfortunately it’s possible to overcook marmalade, so you need to be careful.
Ideally you want to make sure that your marmalade is thick enough to set, but not to get to the stage where the sugar starts to caramelise and the orange peel becomes crystalised.
Can you freeze marmalade?
I’m not entirely sure why you would want to freeze marmalade in the first place, but hey, whatever floats your boat!
The only reason, why this question might come up, is if you don’t have suitable jam jars that would keep your marmalade from spoiling. In that case, it’s actually a smart thing to freeze your marmalade and keep it for later.
Just make sure that you pour the marmalade first into a heat proof container first, leave it to cool down and then place it to a freezer save container.
Putting a glass jar of marmalade is not exactly a smart idea as the glass can contract and expland in the coldness of your freeze and could possibly break.
I’d also suggest to split the recipe amount into smaller containers unless you are a Paddington Bear and eat a lot of orange marmalade in one go!
How do you test your marmalade? How do I know that my marmalade is set?
To make sure that your marmalade will set once you pour it into your jam jars, it needs to set during the testing phase.
To test your marmalade, take the whole pot off the heat (so that it doesn’t carry on boiling), place a spoonful of your marmalade on a very cold plate and leave it in the fridge for 5 minutes.
Push it with a finger and if it resists and sort of wrinkles, then the whole batch is fine and you are ready to pot your marmalade. If the marmalade is too runny, return it back to boil and boill for another 5 minutes and then test again.
Why is my marmalade bitter?
First of all if you are making a seville orange marmalade, your marmalade will be on the bitter side, but that’s exactly how it ment to be!
But if you find that your marmalade is very bitter that’s probably because you’ve left to much white pith in the orange peel.
If you prefer a lighter marmalade, peel of as much as you can of the white rind as you are preparing your oranges.
Another suggestion for a sweater marmalade is to use normal oranges, tangerines or clementines, which has a very mild taste.
How long does marmalade last?
Homemade marmalade last up to 2 years in a sealed and sterilised jam jars. If you want to keep your marmalade in the fridge (open), it’s best to eat it within 6 months.
What’s the difference between jam and marmalade?
The main difference is the type of fruit you use. Any preserve made from citrus fruit is called marmalade and preserves made from all other fruits are called jams.
My marmalade is too sweet, what can I do?
That’s a tricky one! Ideally you need to know how much extra sugar you’ve added in to be able to tell how much extra fruit or sugar-less marmalade you need to make up to even out the mixture.
If you’ve added just a little too much sugar, you can add lemon juice to bring down the sweetness a bit.
If you’ve made a mistake and added say double the amount of sugar, it’s difficult to do anything else than to make another batch of marmalade (or just half if your marmalade is just a little bit sweet) without sugar and bring both marmalades together and re-boil them to achieve an even set and flavour.
If you don’t have any more citrus fruits to make more marmalade, I would probably leave the marmalade alone, pour it into a large container and use it for something else.
It would make a great baking ingredients, addition to sauces for game meat, adding to the festive mince pies or using it as a sweetener instead of sugar for lemon or fruit tea. You could also turn it into an orange ganache filling, bake orange marmalade brownies or use the sugary marmalade in breakfast pancakes.
This recipe was originally written on 4 January 2018 and last tested and updated on 18 November 2021