Seville Orange Marmalade – the basics

“Chore” of the month? Trips to Leeds Market to find Seville Oranges, irregularly on sale. The short season runs from very late post-Christmas December through to late January. An immutable marker of the year’s turn and rhythm.

[As well as oranges, this market trip also netted me two mackerel in peak condition. Damn it. Those beauties did not just wink at me from the fishmonger’s slab, but they were still cheekily winking on the plate after being roasted!]

Anyway – back to marmalade.

Based as ever on the WI recipe, what else. I’ve just dared add a couple of tweaks. Being so professional, WI marmaladiers never let their pots boil over, and never have problems with their marmalade setting. That’s not me – hence the life-saving tweaks.

Ingredients – basic ratio, to fit the pans I have

  • 1.5 kg Seville oranges
  • 3 litres water
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 kg sugar


  • Scrub the fruit.
  • Cut off a top slice and a bottom slice – chop thinly, and pop into your pot.
  • Quarter the fruit. Cut out the seedy, pithy centre and pop into a muslin cloth.
  • Slice the peels thinly, and add to the pot.
  • Tie up the muslin collection of seeds and gubbins into a bag, and pop into the pot.
  • Add water, bring to the boil, and simmer gently until the peel is very soft, and the liquid reduced by about a third. It will take about 2 hours.
  • Remove from the heat.
    • Tweak #1 – Take the string of the “gubbins bag” and suspend it over the pan to drip. I leave it for at least 12 hours – to collect maximum pectin for the set.
  • Next day, squeeze as much liquid as you can from the “gubbins bag” into the pan.
  • Put 8 clean 1lb jam jars into the oven to sterilise (at 120°C/250°F, Gas Mark ½ for 10 minutes or more). Pop two or three saucers into the freezer.
  • Add the sugar to the pan; heat gently until it is fully dissolved.
    • Tweak #2 – pour the marmalade into a large bowl. Pour enough of the mixture for 3 jars back into the pan; use an empty jar or a measuring jug. On my cooker, it is MUCH easier to bring a small quantity to setting point, than a large pot-full.
    • Tweak #3 – add a wee knob of butter (or equivalent in vegetable oil). Some marmalades foam furiously, and you risk them boiling over. Trust me – cleaning the cooker after such an accident is … “hard”. Don’t risk it.
  • Bring the pan to a rolling boil, and boil for 10-12 minutes on the highest heat possible, without stirring.
  • After about 10-12 minutes (on my cooker), the roiling bubbles noticeably change texture – they become bigger and “gloopier”. Pop a wee drop of the marmalade on to the saucer from the freezer, and leave in the fridge for a minute or two. Push the drop with your finger tip. If it wrinkles, quite firm and jelly-like, then your marmalade is ready.
  • Leave the pot to cool for 5-10 minutes, and stir gently to distribute the peel. Pour the marmalade into the warmed jars and cover with lids, or waxed discs followed by a cellophane top and a rubber band.
    • Tweak #4 follows on from Tweak #2. An added advantage to doing the final boil in small 3-jar batches – you can add extra flavours. Some ideas (each enough for a 3-jar batch)
      • Ginger – add about 150g stem ginger in syrup; about half a jar, chopped into chunks, with the syrup, before the final boil.
      • Whisky – a waste of good whisky? Add 50ml/3 tablespoons Irish whiskey, or some such – after the final boil. Or brandy. Or rum.
      • Chilli – a quite sublimely gutsy combination. Add some dried red chilli flakes, or a finely sliced green chilli (with seeds), or a couple of finely sliced chillis (de-seeded) before the final boil. Apart from being just good on toast, I’d guess this would serve well as a glaze for a roast meat?
      • … and that last (tried and tasted) leads to thoughts of other spicy flavours. Cinnamon? Coriander seed? No surprises – Well, that’s next years experiments sorted!

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