Why do many marmalade recipes not work for you? It’s the details!
To produce a good marmalade, it must be prepared by one of three methods, the Peel and Slice Method, Juice and Slice Method or the Whole Fruit Method. Each involves cooking the fruit in sufficient water to soften the fruit with enough acid to assist with the release of pectin from the fruit.
A weight of sugar must be added to achieve a sugar content of at least 60% in the finished product. This percentage is necessary to achieve a traditional gelled consistency. A product with less than 60% total sugar content cannot be sold as Marmalade. It may not keep as well as Marmalade and will fall foul of the Jam and Similar Products Regulations 2003. These Regulations replaced very similar regulations issued in 1981 and were intended to ensure that all Marmalade sold has good keeping properties.
There are many different recipes which work but they all follow the same basic principles.
A good recipe will have a precise list of ingredients with the weight of each one and an exact description of the fruit. For example, bitter oranges differ hugely in their setting properties to sweet oranges. Not all limes are juicy and have tender skins once cooked in water. Bergamots are unusual but their intensity, if not used with care, overwhelms a balanced flavour.
Clear, detailed instructions should guide the reader as to how to prepare the fruit for cooking. Traditional Marmalades have even, sliced peel, something a food processor cannot do as well as a human by hand. One of the joys of making marmalade is the timeless tradition of rhythmically slicing peel.
Cooking the Fruit
Precise instructions are essential for the first stage of cooking the fruit in water, including whether the pan should be covered or not and how this will affect the texture of the peel, as well as a test to check the peel is tender. If the peel is not tender it will be chewy and tough in the finished jar.
Boiling to a Set
The choice of sugar and the boiling times in the recipe will influence the colour, which should be bright, not cloudy and the consistency which should be gelled, not syrupy or stiff. Granulated cane sugar creates the best colour, set and consistency. A short boiling time ( no more than 10 minutes for 1kg of fruit) should make a marmalade with a bright colour, gelled consistency and full fruit flavour.
Once the marmalade has set, clear instructions should explain the bottling process. Jars should be clean, warm but not too hot to handle. The marmalade should be left to rest for at least 8 minutes, to ensure even distribution of peel once the marmalade is in the jars. A variety of jars can be used for bottling marmalade. To create an airtight seal and to ensure a shelf- life of at least a year, choose glass jars with new twist top lids. Once potted, jars are best left upright and undisturbed to cool and set.
Common Faults in Recipes
If the description of the ingredients is not precise, the results can be disappointing. Different varieties of fruit contain different levels of pectin. Some citrus fruit are more suited to making marmalade, for example Seville oranges, Limes, Lemons and Grapefruit.
Many commercial marmalades and competition winners have a bright attractive appearance with an even distribution of peel. If you are aiming for a bright appearance, the instructions should specify that the inner membranes must be separated from the fruit and cooked in muslin with the pips, then squeezed to extract their pectin properties before the sugar is added. If you are making marmalade for home consumption, you may accept a less attractive looking product and consequently need not separate the membranes from the fruit. It should still keep well. Which ever procedure is adopted no part of the fruit should be discarded, before the fruit has been cooked.
Look for instructions about how much the volume of the marmalade should reduce during the cooking process, if too much water is left in the marmalade you may never achieve a true gelled set.
Boiling to a Set
The recipe should make it clear that the final boil should be a very fast rolling boil, for this to be practical, the marmalade including the sugar must initially only fill half the pan, as it will rise up the pan when it starts to boil.
If marmalade is boiled too slowly it can become syrupy rather than producing a true gel and if it is boiled too long, some of the fruit flavour will be lost and the colour can start to darken as the sugar starts to caramelise. Many domestic cookers will not produce sufficient heat to achieve a rolling boil, for a large batch of marmalade.
A well balanced Seville Orange recipe using 1Kg of good quality fruit, should set in no more than 10 minutes fast boiling and give a true fruit bitter flavour, despite having at least 60% sugar content.
For more images and a step by step guide
For more marmalade recipes First Preserves: Marmalades and First Preserves: Marmalades-Jams-Chutneys and Marmalade Make & Bake
For Bottles and jars, Bottle Company (South) Ltd