Recipes | Best ever seville orange marmalade


Best ever seville orange marmalade

I’m not a great one for ‘the perfect this’ or ‘the perfect that’ in recipes but if you’re a marmalade aficionado I promise you this is as good as it gets. Intensely fruity, thick and sharply flavoured.

OK, I’m biased. It was my mum’s recipe so it carries a bit of emotional baggage. I can remember the kitchen filling up with a warm, comforting marmaladey fug and sitting alongside her as a child slicing the oranges. She wasn’t a wonderful cook but this was her pièce de resistance. I still have the original written neatly in blue ink on a piece of Basildon Bond notepaper.

I’d got out of the habit of making it but after she died a few years ago I started again in memory of those companionable times. Besides seville oranges are in season so now’s the moment.

(You can of course buy marmalade much, much more cheaply than it will cost you to make it. But it won’t taste anything like as good.

First a few practicalities:

* Assuming you don’t have a preserving pan you need a large saucepan. A large stainless steel pasta pan is perfect. The bottom of a pressure cooker will do.

* You need jars. You can buy them online from sites like Wares of Knutsford - or from Wilko - but that does add to the cost so beg or borrow some from neighbours. Not pickle or chutney jars in which the smell of the previous contents tends to linger. The jars need to be as clean as possible. Old recipes suggest sterilising them by putting them in a hot oven but I find a recent run through the dishwasher will do the trick. (You may need to soak them first to remove previous labels).

* I used to put waxed discs on the top of the marmalade to help it keep better but tend not to these days - usually, as in the case of this year because I found I hadn't got them at the critical moment. Again you can get them - and new labels - from a specialist like Lakeland or Wares of Knutsford.

* You need a couple of saucers in the fridge to test the set and a small jug and a wide necked funnel for potting (see method)

* and finally, and most importantly, you need seville oranges, unwaxed lemons and sugar in the following quantities. The original recipe stated preserving sugar but this is now so hard to get and twice as expensive as granulated so I use that these days.

1.35 kg (3lb) Seville oranges, preferably organic
1 large or 2 small lemons, preferably unwaxed
1.7-1.8kg (3 3/4-4lb) granulated sugar (I use 1.7kg)

This makes about eight 400g jars but your jars will probably be all shapes and sizes and the quantity always turns out different depending how long you boil the marmalade so make sure you have slightly more than you need.

Wash and scrub the oranges and lemons with a vegetable brush and put them whole into a large pan with 1.3 litres (2 1/4 pints) of cold water.

Cover the pan with a lid or a large sheet of foil and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, turning them occasionally until they are soft enough for you to pierce the skins with the end of a teaspoon. (You can probably remove the lemons after an hour and the oranges progressively after that). The kitchen will smell heavenly.

Remove the fruit and set aside until cool enough to handle. Measure out the remaining liquid. If there is less than 1.1 litres (just under 2 pints) add enough fresh water to bring it up to that level

Cut the fruit into quarters, scoop out the pulp and separate out the pips. (Hang onto them, don't chuck them away) Cut the skins into small thick slices and add them back to the pan along with the pulp.

Heat up the reserved cooking liquid slightly. Put the reserved pips into a sieve, hold it over the pan of fruit and pass the warm liquid through stirring to loosen the pulp that's still attached to pips, scraping it off the bottom of the sieve with a spatula. (This is much easier and less messy than the traditional method of putting them in a muslin bag.)

Give the fruit and liquid a stir and leave it to rest for an hour or so. (This also helps improve the set)

Bring the fruit up to just below boiling point, add the sugar and leave over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.

Bring back to the boil and cook the marmalade quite fast for 25-30 minutes, this time without stirring.

Test a little on a chilled saucer after 25 minutes to see if it’s set. As it cools it should crinkle when you push it with your finger. If it doesn’t boil it for another 5 minutes and repeat the saucer test. As the marmalade reaches setting point it will darken and grow thicker but don't overcook it. I like mine light, fresh and as tart as possible given the shedload of sugar in it.

Once the marmalade has reached setting point, remove from the heat, skim off any foam that has accumulated on the surface and allow to cool for about half an hour.

Warm your jars if they’re not already sitting in the dishwasher and ladle or pour the marmalade into them (I find using a small jug and a wide-necked funnel makes this easier. Cover with a disc of waxed paper, if using, and seal with screw top lids or clear covers. Wipe any splashes off the side of the jars while they’re still warm.

Leave until cold before labelling otherwise the labels won’t stick.

Feel smug and happy.


You can of course cut the amount of work involved by chopping the peel in a food processor but I like proper looking chunks in my marmalade. Just get someone to sit alongside you as you slice and scoop away. It’s a nice thing to do with your kids, or other half preferably to a good blast of music.

Oh, and a final tip. You can freeze seville oranges successfully if you haven’t time to make all your marmalade in one go or run out of jars. Just wash and dry them before you freeze them, use them from frozen and increase the boiling time until they’re cooked through.

It is of course perfect for toast - preferably Aga toast - but you can also use it to make this awesome marmalade cocktail.

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