Belinda Jeffery

Orange, Mandarin & Lemon Marmalade

This recipe may seem a little long-winded, however that’s mainly because I want to explain the process of marmalade-making in some detail, rather than because there’s any hardship about making it. In fact, once you get the hang of it, you’ll find you really don’t need the recipe and can make it off the top of your head.


Ideally, as all the old jam-making manuals say, you should use freshly-picked, early-season fruit for marmalade as it contains more pectin, however I realise this is not always possible. However, if you can get your hands on citrus from your local farmers’ or growers’ market, do, as the finished marmalade will certainly benefit from it.


Just a note on preserving pans. These large, wide, heavy-based pans are designed to allow excess water in the fruit mixture to evaporate as quickly as possible. Traditionally they were made from thick beaten copper and these beautiful pans are still available, although hideously costly. There are also some very good stainless steel ones with off-set handles and lips for easy pouring, which are somewhat cheaper, and if you are going to make jam and/or marmalade regularly then it’s probably worth looking into investing in one. I’ve had mine for years and I love it as it’s burnished with age and so wonderfully functional.


Makes 5 – 6 medium-sized jars

Clean piece of muslin, for the pips

3 large oranges, not navels

4 mandarins (or tangelos)

2 large lemons

Approx 2.25 litres cold water (or, better still, use equal quantities of freshly squeezed orange or mandarin juice and water)

About 1.8kg white sugar

Line a small bowl with a double thickness of muslin.


Give the fruit a good scrub before you start – it’s surprising just how dirty it can be, and sometimes, depending on where you buy it, the skins may be waxed. Quarter the oranges and slice them as finely as you can. As you come to the pips, scrape them away and put them into the muslin-lined bowl. Put the orange slices into a very large ceramic or stainless steel bowl. Repeat this with the mandarins and lemons.


Pour the cool water over the sliced fruit. As I mentioned above, if you are fortunate enough to have heaps of oranges and mandarins, squeeze some and use the resulting juice to replace part of the water that you need – it makes for a much more intensely flavoured marmalade. If you do this, add any pips to the others in the bowl as it’s a case of ‘the more the merrier’ to help set the marmalade.


Bundle up the pips in the muslin to form a little swag, then tie it tightly with a double thickness of cooking twine to prevent the pips escaping. Nestle it into the bowl of fruit and water, making sure it sits under the surface. Now cover the bowl tightly and leave it overnight in a cool spot.


The next day, pour the fruit and liquid (including the bag of pips) into a very large, wide saucepan – if you are lucky enough to have one, a preserving pan is ideal. Bring the mixture to the boil over high heat, then reduce the temperature to very low and leave it to simmer, uncovered, for 1/1/2 to 2 hours until the skins are tender.


After this time, remove the pan from the heat. Now the next bit is a little messy, but essential. First, remove the bag of pips to a small bowl. Press down on the bag with a spoon to extract as much of the liquid as possible, and return this to the pan. (You may well notice that the last of this liquid is quite ‘gelled’ looking from the pectin in the pips and pith. This is like liquid gold to marmalade-makers as it helps give the marmalade a good set.) Now you need to measure the amount of liquid and fruit you have. To do this, have a large heatproof measuring jug at hand and ladle the liquid and fruit from the pan into this. Once it is full, empty it into a large bowl and continue to measure the rest. You should have somewhere around 9 cups but don’t worry if it is more or less…it will all work out!


Return the fruit and liquid to the pan, and for every cup (250ml) of this mixture add 200g of sugar i.e. if you have 9 cups (2.25 litres) of liquid and fruit you will need 1.8kg of sugar, 10 cups (2.5 litres) and you will need 2kg, and so on.


Put the pan over high heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar has dissolved, then stop stirring and bring the mixture to the boil. You now need to boil it rapidly until it is at setting point. I’m afraid it’s hard to be accurate about how long this will take as it depends on a number of factors, such as the pan you use, the amount of pectin in the fruit etc. It could take anywhere from 25-40 minutes.


As the marmalade gets closer to its setting point, it will start to bubble up in the pan (which is why you need a big pan to start with.) It does this alarmingly quickly so it’s important to stay close by and adjust the heat to stop it bubbling over. I tend to hover about at this stage, adjusting the heat up or down to keep it at a fairly even, steady boil.


It’s around about now that you need to start checking the marmalade to see if it’s set. There are a few ways to check this, but the two I like best, and use in combination, are the classic, ‘spoon’ and ‘saucer’ tests.


For the spoon test, all you do is dip a large wooden spoon into the boiling marmalade then lift it up high above the pan and let the marmalade on it drip back in. What you’re hoping to see is those last few drops looking quite thick and syrupy, and ideally, running together and joining up then falling as more of a ‘sheet’ than individual drops, (however long fine tails on them will do nicely!)


For the saucer test, sit two or three saucers in your freezer while the marmalade is cooking. When you think the marmalade is nearly ready, spoon a little of it onto one of the ice-cold saucers and return it to the freezer for 2 minutes, then push your finger through it. If it feels set and the surface wrinkles up a little, it’s ready. You may find this doesn’t happen first time around, if this is the case just leave the marmalade to continue boiling and check it again after another couple of minutes. Keep testing it until it’s right.


As soon as it’s ready, take the pan off the heat and let the marmalade settle for at least 20 minutes. Skim any frothy scum off the top then give it a good stir so the fruit is suspended in it (initially the fruit floats to the top, but as the marmalade cools and thickens, stirring will distribute it evenly through the marmalade.) Ladle it into hot, sterilised glass jars. Cover them loosely with a sheet of baking paper to protect them, and leave them to cool completely (this may take 6 hours or more). Remove the paper and seal them tightly. Label and date them, then store them in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 8 months.


Sterilising jars…


This marmalade recipe begs the question of how to sterilise the jars. But just before I go into that, it’s important to remember that the jars must be hot when you fill them with the hot marmalade, otherwise they may crack, so you need to get your timing somewhat in sync with the stage the marmalade is at when you sterilise them. There are a few ways to do this, but the two I mainly use are these.


  • Wash the jars in warm soapy water, rinse them thoroughly then sit them and their lids (as long as the lids aren’t plastic or won’t melt) on an oven tray. Put the tray with the jars into a cold oven then turn the heat to 130C. Leave the jars for 30 minutes, then carefully take them out and cover them with a sheet of greaseproof paper until you’re ready to use them. (Or if the marmalade isn’t quite ready, just switch off the oven and leave them in so they stay hot.)


  • The other way, if you have a dishwasher, is to put the jars and their lids through the hottest cycle, and leave them in once the cycle has finished, so they stay hot until you fill them. Make sure they are quite dry before you do so.