Making marmalade

Marmalade lovers, if you have only ever eaten shop-bought marmalade, you MUST try making homemade marmalade at least once in your life.

Last Sunday at 7.30pm, I committed myself to an evening of marmalade making so I could enjoy real marmalade on toast (above).

Ingredients and cost

4lbs (1.80kg) Seville oranges

I bought 1.975g  of organic Seville oranges for £5.89 at Better Food organic supermarket

4lbs (1.80kg) granulated sugar

I bought the non-organic kind at Scoopaway – 1.990g white sugar @ 1.29kg = £2.57


Sugar is cheap compared to the fruit because it is so heavily subsidised. As a commodity, its future gets gambled on and prices look set to rise.

Would much prefer organic vegetables to be subsidised, rather than sugar.

I weighed out 4 lbs (1.8kg) granulated sugar into a pan, now warming in a low oven.

Warming the sugar makes it easier to melt into the fruit.

Softening oranges

I scrubbed the oranges and removed the stalks on each one.

They are now in a preserving pan with 4 pints of boiling water.

I have found a baking tray to cover the pan. The pan hisses.

Katie Stewart says it takes 1.5 hours to soften the oranges.

Katie (whom I once met when she won a Guild of Food Writers Lifetime Achievement Award) says 3lbs of fruit, 6lbs of sugar and 5 pints of water. In my bid for less sugar, I have experimented over the years and now use equal sugar to fruit.

Christabel who works at Better Food suggested adding orange blossom water for extra orange zing.


Very aware of Haiti. Grateful for my life where I can calmly make marmalade. A fellow food blogger, Sabrina Ghayour is organising a Food Lovers fundraiser for Haiti. Please support this event with donations and helping promote it.


9.30pm. I have cut the softened oranges in half and scooped out pith and pips with a teaspoon. Pith and pips (repeat-very-fast) are boiling for 10 minutes in 1 extra pint of water to extract the pectin. Pectin is crucial for helping the jam to set.

After 10 minutes of vigorous boiling, I strain the pith and pips. This takes ages as I can only get a small amount in my small strainer. The pectin-filled water goes into the preserving pan with the cut-up peel and the warmed sugar. I add the juice of two lemons.  And its flesh for good luck.

If you don’t have a preserving pan, use your biggest pan or divide amounts into two pans. You need to boil sugar-fruit-water super-vigorously for 15-30 minutes without worrying about it boiling over the sides.

Making up for lost water

The lid on the softening oranges was makeshift and inadequate, and I am paying the price: I lost precious pints in steam. I ended up (after adding strained pith-and-pips water) with 1.5pts in total. I have boldly added an extra 2pts making it up water total to 3.5 pints.

PS A few days later: And it worked! Marmalade as delicious ever.

Boiling fast to set

10.30pm. I have added the sugar to the cut-up peel and water

For some reason Jeanette Winterson is in my head. I am thinking about her organic shop in East London and wondering if she is as driven to write now she has her shop. But perhaps she arrived in my mind because Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit.

11.20pm. The marmalade has been fast-boiling for 20 minutes.

I draw it off the heat to test for a set because if you over-boil, it can lose its setting point. Who says cooking is boring? It is full of drama.

Earlier I put two plates in the freezer. I will now drip some hot jam on its cold surface and wait a few minutes. If the cooling jam crinkles when I push it with my finger – then success, it has set.

Then finally – after the second lot of 15 mins of fast boiling, that tell-tale crinkling. Joy.

The marmalade cooled while I set up a Facebook page for Foodlovers Fundraiser for Haiti, a small thing that I could do to help this cause.

12.45am. And here are my 8 pots of marmalade.

It was a palaver but it was worth it.

What do you think?

14 responses to “Making marmalade

  1. I’m planning to make marmalade next weekend, so I loved your blow-by-blow, or bubble-by-bubble, account Elizabeth. Thank you, too, for letting me know about Sabrina’s event. One feels so helpless. I have given a donation to Action Against Hunger’s appeal, but it feels like so little in the face so so much tragedy.


    • Hi Debora, thanks for your comment. Delightful to read this morning after my late night travails!

      Yes, I feel so helpless about Haiti, I want to turn away. But doing something, however small, has helped me connect.


  2. Hi Elisabeth
    My mum used to make marmalade form oranges when I was a boy and then she went over to buying tins of concentrate to which you added sugar and water. Take it from me, making it from scratch is very much better and so much more satisfying. Well done you. I made some damson and some greengage jams last year and I have to ration myself with them because DIY is so much better than the supermarket stuff. Keep up the good work!


    • Hi Paul
      I know that stuff! I used to make marmalade that way until Katie Stewart put me bang to rights. I am glad you mentioned it as I had overlooked it.

      Thanks also for saying how DIY jam/marmalade is so good to eat. Indeed! It’s this that makes it worth the faff.

      Makes great gifts too although hurts to give a pot away.


  3. i should have a taste on this mouth-watering cuisine…may I need this organic food delivered to our house, maybe one of these days.


  4. What to use for a lid on a preserving pan when poaching Seville Oranges??
    I have the solution……. try a micro-wave glass turntable!
    When I gave up my micro-wave many years ago (ghastly machine) I saved the glass turntable as it seemed too loose and hey presto it covers my preserving-pan perfectly and I alays use it for marmalade making.
    Must dash and get my Sevilles for my marmalade


    • I like your ingenious idea! A very big frying pan might work well, too, as a lid.

      Hope your marmalade worked out well.

      Did you use this recipe and if so, how was it?

      Yes, January…Seville oranges in the shops…THAT time of year again!


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  6. Hi Elisabeth – I’ve just put my first batch of Sevilles on to cook. I’ve been following Katie Stewart’s recipe since it appeared in the Guardian some time in the 80s. I also met her 2 years ago when she came to talk to Transition Chichester about bottling fruit – great to meet one of my food heroes! I’m using the pressure cooker with lid on top but not under pressure as I need a new gasket. @DMinTransition


  7. Thanks Elisabeth. I’ve only just found your reply – yes it was good to have her support even though she lives in another part of Sussex. I tweet as @DMinTransition and have just set up a @TransitionChi twitter feed as well. The webiste is about to be revamped.
    I’ve just started blogging too – two posts so far! – dmorgan68 in WordPress.


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  9. Colorful and delicious! This homemade recipe is worthy trying. It has a rich flavor.


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