How to Make Marmalade

A Step-by-Step Guide to Making this Citrus Preserve

Molly Watson
  • 01 of 14

    Homemade Marmalade

    Marmalade is a fruit preserve made from citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. This delicious candied, jellied citrus juice and peel does require a bit of work when made at home, but the results are worth it. Marmalade is popular in Britain and is typically spread on toast and eaten at breakfast time, but there are plenty of delicious ways to use marmalade, including spreading it on homemade buttermilk scones.

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  • 02 of 14

    Gather Your Supplies

    Citrus for marmalade
    Molly Watson

    If you've never made marmalade before, you might want to scroll through the steps to familiarize yourself with the process. If you've never canned, you may also want to check out 10 steps to easy home canning.

    In addition to canning supplies, like 3-pint jars with lids, a canning kettle, and a jar rack (which is not necessary, but helpful), you will need a paring knife, 2 large bowls, a large pot, cheesecloth, a candy thermometer (not necessary, but helpful), and a ladle. 

    You only need two ingredients to make marmalade: citrus fruits and sugar. For this recipe, you'll need 5 pounds of citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit (choose fruit that feels heavy for its size) and 6 cups sugar. Traditionally bitter, or Seville, oranges are used for marmalade, but other types work fine. If you're lucky enough to have blood oranges on hand, they make beautiful marmalade.

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  • 03 of 14

    Remove the Zest

    Zested citrus
    Molly Watson

    Many marmalade recipes will have you remove the peel, boil it once, twice, or three times, and then separate the tasty and colorful zest from the bitter white pith. However, you can also remove the pith at the start.

    Use a sharp peeler or paring knife to carefully cut off the zest from each piece of fruit. Leave as much of the bitter pith—the spongy white stuff between the bright zest and the fruit—behind as possible. If you cut a piece of zest off with a lot of pith attached to it, take the time to lay the piece of zest flat on the cutting surface and scrape off the pith.

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  • 04 of 14

    Chop the Zest

    Chopped citrus zest
    Molly Watson

    Gather the strips of zest into manageable piles of 5 to 10 pieces and use a sharp knife to chop the zest. If you like a chunky marmalade, cut the pieces bite-size. For a more spreadable consistency, cut the zest into ribbon-like strips.

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  • 05 of 14

    Trim the Fruit

    Sectioning citrus: remove all peel & pith
    Molly Watson

    Some marmalade recipes call for just the juice of the fruit, but you can also include whole fruit pieces. To do this, you need to cut off the ends from the fruits, being sure to cut away enough of each end to expose the fruit underneath the white pith.

    Working with one piece at a time, set fruit on its cut end and use a sharp knife to remove the white pith from the outside. Be as precise as possible—you really don't want any of the pith left on the fruit, as it is terribly bitter.

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  • 06 of 14

    Cut the Fruit Into Sections

    Sectioning citrus: cut sections
    Molly Watson

    Working over a large bowl to catch the juices, hold the peeled fruit in one hand and use a sharp paring knife to cut out the sections, letting the sections drop into the bowl below. These peel- and membrane-free sections are also called "supremes."

    When you come across seeds, pick them out and set them aside. You'll actually use them later.

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  • 07 of 14

    Squeeze out Any Juice From the Membranes

    Juicing citrus for marmalade
    Molly Watson

    Once you've cut the sections out of the fruit, you'll be left with a handful of the membrane that separates the citrus sections. You will be using these, so don't throw them away. Before you set them aside, though, squeeze out as much of the juice as you can into the bowl with the sections.

    At this point, you should have a pile of chopped zest, a bunch of orange and/or grapefruit sections that are fully peeled, a group of squeezed-out membranes and seeds, and a pile of pith (this can be thrown away).

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  • 08 of 14

    Cook the Zest and Fruit

    Citrus ready to cook into marmalade
    Molly Watson

    Put the zest, fruit, and accumulated juices, along with 4 cups of water and 6 cups of sugar into a large, heavy pot. Stir to dissolve the sugar a bit and bring everything to a boil.

    If you plan to hot-water process the jars of marmalade, fill a canning kettle with water and bring it to a boil. Processing will allow you to store the jars in a cupboard instead of the fridge; if you are fine storing the marmalade in the refrigerator, you don't have to process the jars. 

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  • 09 of 14

    Prepare the Membranes and Seeds

    Citrus extras for marmalade
    Molly Watson

    The membranes and bitter seeds are used because they contain pectin, which is a natural thickener and is what will "set" the marmalade. So you will use these parts of the fruit to make a "pectin bag." You can use a pre-made "jelly bag" of muslin or simply put the membranes and seeds in a double-layer of cheesecloth. Lay a large double-layer of cheesecloth in a medium bowl and add the membranes and seeds on top. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together so the membranes and seeds are held inside.

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  • 10 of 14

    Add Pectin Bag to Cooking Marmalade

    Cooking marmalade
    Molly Watson

    Add the "pectin bag" to the zest, fruit, juice, and sugar already cooking.

    This is a good time to put a few plates in the freezer as you'll use them to test the marmalade later.

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  • 11 of 14

    Bring Marmalade to Temperature

    Bringing marmalade to temperature
    Molly Watson

    For the final marmalade to set, it needs to be brought up to 220 F and held at that temperature for at least 5 minutes. A candy thermometer is very helpful with this, but if you don't have one, you will need to do several "set tests."

    If you plan to hot-water process the marmalade at the end, use this time to sterilize the jars and lids by submerging them in the boiling water in the canning kettle for 10 minutes.

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  • 12 of 14

    Test the Set of the Marmalade

    Marmalade set test
    Molly Watson

    After the marmalade has reached 220 F and stayed there for 5 minutes, do a "set test" by dropping a dollop of the mixture on one of the chilled plates you set in the freezer earlier. Let it sit for a minute, swirl the plate to spread the marmalade, then drag your finger through the mixture—set marmalade will leave a clean track behind it.

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  • 13 of 14

    Remove Pectin Bag and Let Marmalade Sit

    Marmalade ocoking
    Molly Watson

    Remove the pectin bag from the marmalade. Use a large spoon to press the bag against the side of the pot to get as much of the marmalade out of the bag as possible. Discard the bag and its contents.

    Remove the pot from the heat and let the marmalade mixture sit for about 5 minutes before transferring it to the jars.

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  • 14 of 14

    Transfer Marmalade to Jars (and Process)

    Citrus marmalade
    Molly Watson

    Give the marmalade a good stir to distribute the pieces of zest throughout the mixture. Use a clean ladle to transfer the marmalade to jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. This recipe makes almost exactly 3 pints. (Put any extra in a small jar or bowl, cover, and keep in the fridge as it isn't safe to process jars that aren't fairly full).

    Put lids on the jars. If canning, use a jar rack, if you have one, to lower the filled jars into the boiling water in the canning kettle. Make sure there is at least an inch of water over the jars. Boil for 10 minutes, lift the jars out of the water, and let cool.

    Marmalade will keep in a cool but dry, dark place for up to a year. Once opened, keep jars in the refrigerator.

    If not canning, let jars cool to room temperature before putting them in the fridge.