Top 10 tips for making marmalade

Clare Hargreaves helped judge the World's Original Marmalade Awards and asked her fellow judges to share their tips on what makes a world-class marmalade. Seville oranges came up trumps but they had plenty more tips to share...

What the experts say:

Source the best Sevilles

Marmalade in jar and on bread
Ivan Day, food historian: Sevilles suitable for marmalade come in from Spain and vary a lot in quality. A poor batch of oranges can mean a poor batch of marmalade. If you live in a city with lots of greengrocers, take the time to shop around and compare the produce. Make sure the oranges are free from blemishes and if possible buy organic which ensures their skins are free from chemicals too.

Get in the mood

Sarah Randell, food director Sainsbury's Magazine: Always make marmalade when you're in the mood. Don't rush the process and enjoy the ritual.

Keep it Simple

Phil Mumby, speciality consultant for Ringtons Tea and Fortnum & Mason: Don't try to 'improve' a marmalade by adding 'exotic' ingredients, like chilli or cardamom, that can distract you from the wonderful taste of Seville oranges.

Shredded not diced - and make them meaty

Jam in jars on tray
Jonathan Miller, preserves buyer for Fortnum & Mason: When someone dices rather than shreds you wonder what they're trying to hide, and you get a cloudy marmalade. Shreds look far nicer. But don't make the shreds too fine - cut them medium to chunky to give your marmalade texture when you bite into it. You're not after orange jelly, but something with character and body. When slicing your peel, use a sharp knife - you don't want the job to take longer than it needs to.

Soften your peel properly

Walter Scott, joint managing director of Wilkin & Sons (Tiptree): One of the most common mistakes people make is not to soften their peel properly which makes the marmalade hard work 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 further, so the best way to make sure it softens is to cook the oranges on their own first - we simmer them in water for at least four hours the day before, but at home you probably only need to simmer them for around two hours. The following day add the sugar and make up the marmalade.

Dissolve your sugar then leave it alone

Pam Corbin, preserving expert and former owner of Thursday Cottage, marmalade and jam makers: After adding sugar to the oranges, stir the mixture over a gentle heat to ensure it's completely dissolved before it starts to boil. Once it's reached a rolling boil, disturb it as little as possible.

Listen to your marmalade

Marmalade in jars
Jane Hasell-McCosh, World's Original Marmalade Awards founder: When the mass of foaming bubbles subsides to a slow relaxed boil, that's when your marmalade should have reached setting point.

Don't overcook your marmalade

Lady Claire Macdonald, food writer: While you're testing your marmalade to see if it's set, take it off the boil. Otherwise you risk boiling away the water content, and ending up with a dark, over-thick marmalade that's dry and rubbery.

Cool before potting - but not too much

Pam Corbin: Allow your marmalade to cool and relax before potting. This allows the mixture to thicken slightly so that the peel, when potted, remains evenly distributed throughout the jar. However the marmalade should still be above 85ºC to kill any mould spores. Once potted put the lids on as quickly as possible to create a vacuum.

Freeze your Sevilles, but not too ripe

Walter Scott: By all means freeze Seville oranges to make marmalade later in the year. But make sure they're not overripe - if you freeze overripe ones you'll get black oranges when you cook them.

Cook up your own delicious batch with Good Food's recipe for Seville marmalade.
Then use it in these delicious recipes.

Let us know your marmalade-making tips below...

Comments, questions and tips

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6th May, 2016
Hello and good morning, I'm making a 5 citrus marmalade, which is delicious BTW, I followed the recipe to a tee, but of course I've doubled it as well, it is runny, so i need to boil the marmalade a little longer to set? does it set on its own after time, or do i need to put back in the pot and boil it again with more pectin? thank you and have a good day
5th Feb, 2016
I added 3/4 of my sugar and dissolved it, then left it overnight. In the morning it looked as if it had reached setting point without being brought to boiling point but I added the rest of the sugar and more lemon juice, brought it to the boil and unfortunately within minutes when I had been called away, it boiled over. I turned it off and it still passed the setting point tests. It has a lovely colour and the fruit is distributed properly but it is runny. What should I do? I am worried if I re-boil it, it will go over setting point. Advice would be very welcome.
15th Jan, 2018
Marmalade making question. If I am cooking 5 times the amount of Seville oranges therefore 5 times the amount of all ingredients, will it take longer to set and rise up?
goodfoodteam's picture
22nd Jan, 2018
Thanks for your question. The ingredients will take longer to reach the setting point due to volume but the method remains the same.
6th May, 2016
Can you boil pass the setting point as well ? i hope not , please tell me you can't , wishfully thinking ,
8th Jan, 2017
Yes, I think you can boil past the setting point, most probably if you are making too large a quantity in too small a diameter pan. This happened to me when I first started, but soon realised that an essential part of the 'boil' is to bring about evaporation, so a large surface area is necessary. You should not have more than a couple of inches (5cm) depth of ingredients In the pan, so either make a smaller batch or get a larger, or better still a 'maslin' type jam pan. My other tip would be to boil briskly in order to reach the setting point quickly, but don't go OTT and leave it to evaporate too much as it can catch/burn on the bottom and be too thick to spread well. A good guide is to check when the boil changes from a mass of small bubbles to a more seldom resounding plop and/or use a jam thermometer to check the temperature. I use a Thermopen and find that 105/106'C gives a good set, but I always follow up with a manual set test.
Katie Lambe
16th Jan, 2016
Just made this seville orange marmalade for the first time and its delicious - my only problem is the peel has settled mainly in the top half of the jars. I let it cool in the pan for approx 6 minutes before filling the jars.
Sibylle Hoevels's picture
Sibylle Hoevels
19th Jan, 2018
Dear Katie, my answer may come a bit late... While the marmalade is settling, turn the glasses upside down. I actually start with the glasses upside down and turn them back to normal before they have cooled and rhus got stiff. For me, that is when they are (very) warm but not hot (painful to touch) any more, and I seem quite inert to heat.
goodfoodteam's picture
21st Mar, 2016
You really can't beat homemade marmalade, the flavour is so much fresher. If the marmalade is set in the jar, it simply sounds as though it was still too warm when it was potted. Next time leave it to settle for longer then stir gently to redistribute the peel before potting. If the marmalade is still a little runny this could be another reason why it rose in the jar. Next time boil it for longer before you pot it. Hope this helps.
15th Jan, 2015
marmalade too runny, thin; do not want to add more sugar (unless I really have to)...add extra pectin ? with reduced sugar amount ? by the way it is a mixture of blood orange juice and traditional Seville orange marmalade; ratio 1 blood orange / 2 Seville. Total amount 3.7 litres ????
goodfoodteam's picture
21st Jan, 2015
Hi foodiesusanna, thanks for your question. Sorry to hear you've not had success with your marmalade. Can you tell us which recipe you were following? It could be that it needs cooking for a little longer. 
26th Jan, 2020
Warm the sugar in the oven before adding it to the pan of fruit - it comes to the boil quicker.
Nanski Schaeffeler
2nd Feb, 2019
This may shock purists, but when I make my marmalade (either lemon marmalade or a mixed seville orange/bergamot orange marmalade) I mince the fruit after cooking whole to soften (and removing the pips) and before I add the sugar. The result is wonderfully spreadable and my friends and family love it. And it’s much less work...