Learn how to make orange marmalade from whole citrus fruit with this easy recipe! All you need are oranges, sugar, and lemon juice to make it.
The easiest way to make it at home
I like to use whole fruit to make marmalade, which makes it so easy and pretty foolproof, dare I say! There are a few basic steps to making orange marmalade using the whole fruit method:
- The citrus fruit are boiled in a large pot of water, whole, until they are very tender and soft.
- The soft-boiled fruit are then sliced thinly, and combined with sugar and lemon juice. The pits are discarded.
- The orange marmalade is boiled to 219–220 ºF (104–105 ºC). This is the ideal setting temperature for marmalade based on my tests.
- The marmalade is transferred to jars to seal them using the water bath method.
Types of oranges
You can make marmalade from any citrus fruit, really. For orange marmalade, Seville oranges are especially popular because of their bitter notes that are a good balance for all the sugar.
Truly though, if you are following a recipe like this one that uses whole fruit, you can use most oranges. I made this batch with simple navel oranges from the grocery store. You can also try to use smaller fruits, like clementines for a different flavour.
Marmalade is really easy to make and actually, you don't need any special ingredients. For this recipe, all you need are oranges, sugar, and a little lemon juice.
The sugar I use is "special fine," which is very similar to granulated sugar. Some may favour superfine sugar or fruit sugar. Both of these sugars have smaller crystals and are faster to dissolve, reducing the likelihood of it crystallizing down the road.
Honestly, marmalade takes a long time to boil, and given the acidity of the mixture, it's unlikely that sugar crystallization would be an issue. Just make sure that your sugar is properly dissolved before you boil the mixture to set it. Start it on low and let the mixture slowly heat up to properly dissolve the sugar before cranking it up to boil it.
Don't use jam sugar in this recipe. It contains pectin and citric acid, both of which are unnecessary here.
This recipe and most marmalade recipes do not require that you add extra pectin. Citrus fruits have a lot of pectin in them, and much of it is located in the skin, contrary to popular belief. You don't need to boil the marmalade with the seeds and as you can see, with this method, the marmalade sets beautifully!
Achieving the perfect set
You have three basic options for determining if your marmalade has cooked enough and will set properly after cooling:
- the bubbles: when the marmalade first comes to a boil, the bubbles are quite volatile, they form and pop almost instantaneously, whereas when the marmalade has thickened enough, the bubbles will be more stable and resemble blinking fish eyes. These visual cues are hard to see for beginners, so if you are new to making preserves, this might not be the best technique for you.
- the wrinkle plate test: freeze a few small saucer plates in your freezer overnight. When you think your marmalade is cooked enough, retrieve a saucer from the freezer and place a dollop of hot marmalade on the plate. Put it back in the freezer for 1 minute, then take it out and push the dollop with your finger: if the dollop wrinkles nicely, your marmalade is probably done, if it's still too fluid to wrinkle, keep cooking.
- the temperature: measure the temperature with a candy thermometer. You want to cook marmalade to somewhere around 104 ºC (219–220ºF). Don't overcook your marmalade because the peel will become chewy and the sugar will caramelize, so be careful how high you push the temperature before you stop cooking.
This recipe and method works perfectly with navel oranges or Seville oranges, and I've also used it to make grapefruit marmalade using pink grapefruits flavoured with vanilla bean, and even three fruit marmalade made from oranges, lemons, and grapefruit.
If you prefer a finer-cut marmalade, try this lime marmalade recipe.
Tools and equipment
You will need a kitchen scale to make marmalade. You need to know the weight of the citrus fruits you are starting with in order to determine how much sugar to use. Most marmalades are made from a 1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar, by weight, if not more sugar than fruit.
To measure the temperature as the marmalade bubbles, I highly recommend using an instant-read thermometer. I use a Thermapen which is very fast at registering temperatures and temperature changes, but it's hand-held. Marmalade splashes so this might not be ideal for you. A probe thermometer with a longer cable like the ChefAlarm would be better because then you don't have to hold it with your hands, which would be much less dangerous to use than my hand-held setup.
- a big pot to boil the jars
- a rack to hold the jars
- jar-lifting tongues
- a tool for measuring headspace and removing air bubbles
- a funnel that is heatproof and non-reactive (which is especially important when dealing with high-acid preserves)
Canning the marmalade
If you choose to can the jars of marmalade for longer storage, you need to bring a large pot (also called a canning kettle) of water to boil at the same time as you wait for the marmalade to reach a boil. When the canning kettle water reaches a simmer, wash the jars and place them on a sheet pan in a warm oven at 250 °F for at least 20 minutes. You can do all these steps at the same time while the marmalade is boiling on the stove.
When the marmalade is ready, fill the jars to ¼ inch from the rim. Place the lids on the jars and tighten until fingertight. Use a jar rack or jar lifter, if you have one, to lower the filled jars into the boiling water in the canning pot. Make sure there is at least an inch of water over the jars. Once the water in the pot comes back up to a boil, boil the jars for 5 minutes. Turn the stove off and let the jars sit in the water bath for another 5 minutes. Lift the jars out of the water, and let cool for 24 hours undisturbed. The jar lids will pop indicating the vacuum seal has formed.
If the jars are properly sealed, you can store marmalade in a cool, dry place, away from the light for 1 year. After that, the marmalade will still be good, but you will notice the vibrant colour will change and the marmalade will become darker.
Store open jars of marmalade (or jars you have not sealed) in the refrigerator.
Cookbooks on Preserves
If you are interested in simple recipes and techniques for making preserves, like this marmalade, check out Camilla Wynne's books on preserving:
- Preservation Society Home Preserves, covering all forms of preserves from jams and marmalades to pickles and savoury preserves.
- Jam Bakes, which is dedicated to making preserves and baking with them too!
I used both these books to research this recipe and follow Camilla Wynne's methods closely as she taught me how to make Seville orange marmalade years ago. Highly recommend!
How to eat marmalade
Orange marmalade is bittersweet with a very concentrated orange flavour. It is best paired with buttery, rich pastries and also salty foods that will balance out the bitterness of the fruit.
Frequently asked questions
No, using the whole fruit method, you do not need to add pectin to make marmalade. You also do not need to boil the pits in the marmalade with the fruit and sugar. The pectin is located in the peel/skin of the citrus fruit mostly, contrary to popular belief.
If you followed the proportions of ingredients in this recipe and you boiled the marmalade to 104–105 ºC or 220 ºF, then your marmalade should set. If you didn’t boil it to this temperature, you will have to reboil it until you hit the setting point.
Did you use the whole fruit method? If not and if you added a lot of water to your marmalade, that’s the problem. You have a batch of marmalade with way too much water and not enough fruit/sugar. I don’t like recipes that add water to marmalade. They take longer to boil and I find the setting temperature is less reliable for those recipes. You will have to decant the jars back into a big pot and bring the marmalade back up to a boil again. Boil until you see the bubbles become more stable and do a frozen plate test (see above).
You have two choices to fix runny marmalade if it's not setting properly:
Live with the runny marmalade and enjoy it despite its flaws: Spread it liberally on toast or better yet, spoon it on vanilla ice cream. Serve it with cake as a sauce.
Reboil it: open up all the jars of marmalade, combine them in a pot on the stove, and cook it again up to 104–105 ºC, 220ºF. You will have to go through the process of sterilizing the jars again and canning the marmalade in the sterilized jars in a water bath.
If the peel in your marmalade is chewy, you may have either under-boiled the fruit at the beginning, which is important to soften it before making marmalade OR you may have overcooked the marmalade. Overcooked marmalade is thick like a paste and the peel is often quite chewy/hard. It’s hard to fix, but you can still eat it! You could also try throwing it in the food processor to break down the peel if it’s way too chewy to eat...
If you properly canned the orange marmalade into jars using the boiling water bath technique, you can keep jars of marmalade for years, though the recommendation is usually up to 1 year. Note that after a year, the colour of the marmalade will change with time. It will be darker in colour, and may even turn brown.
- 900 grams navel oranges this is roughly 5 oranges
- 950 grams granulated sugar
- 100 mL fresh lemon juice
- Bring a large, covered pot of water to boil with the whole citrus fruit. This Cuisinart pot from Amazon is a decent size for the job. Boil the fruit until they are very tender and soft. Navel oranges take about 2.5 hours. Drain the fruit and let them cool slightly before proceeding.
- Place a cutting board inside a rimmed baking sheet (these Nordic Ware sheet pans from Amazon are great). This is to catch all the citrus juices! Slice each fruit in half to expose the seeds (if the fruit you are using have seeds—navel oranges usually don't, but other citrus might). Remove the seeds if there are any, then quarter each half. Slice the fruit finely. Transfer the sliced peel, flesh, and juices into a large pot (like this Cuisinart pot from Amazon).
- To the large pot of chopped fruit, add the sugar and the lemon juice. Clip on your thermometer (like this fast-reading digital thermometer from Thermoworks). Bring the mixture to a boil on medium–high, stirring with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula (grab this spatula from Amazon). When the mixture is boiling, this is when you want to start monitoring the temperature. Boil the mixture, stirring constantly, until it reaches 220°F (105 ºC). When the marmalade reaches this temperature, slide the pan off the heat, and let it cool for 2 minutes, then give it a good stir. This is to ensure that your canned marmalade will have an even dispersion of peel/fruit.
- Divide the mixture between 5 or 6 sterilized jars (I prefer wide-mouth mason jars like these Ball jars on Amazon), leaving a headspace of ¼ inch. If the last jar has a larger headspace, you are just going to have to eat it. Just kidding. Well, except that you can’t can it, so that will be your jar to enjoy right away, storing it in the fridge. Wipe the rims of all the jars with a lightly moistened paper towel. Top each of the jars with a sterilized lid, and tighten the band until it is finger tight. The Ball canning kit on Amazon is key for this step and the next! Get it on Amazon
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with a large kitchen towel (these Nordic Ware sheet pans from Amazon are great). This will be the “cooling station” for the processed jars.
- To seal the jars, place them in a large pot, with a towel at the bottom to prevent them from rattling and cracking. Fill the pot with hot water so that the jars are completely immersed. Bring the pot of water to a boil with the lid on and once the boiling point has been reached, boil the jars for 5 minutes.
- Then take the pan off the heat, and let the jars stand in the pan for another 5 minutes.
- Carefully remove the jars from the water bath and place them on the towel-lined baking sheet. You will hear a popping sound soon after, a good sign that the vacuum seal is proper. Let the jars cool, untouched, for 24 hours before putting them away.