This orange marmalade or confiture d'orange is low in sugar. It's made all-natural the old-fashion method without pectin or artificial flavoring. So, it's sweet, sticky, and less bitter than commercial condiments using my no-fail method below.
Place two small ceramic plates in the freezer so we can use these to test the marmalade later. Alternatively, you can use a candy thermometer to check the doneness of the jam.
Zest and juice the lemons – and set aside.
Zest the oranges - Use a sharp vegetable peeler or paring knife and peel the bright orange-colored zest making sure not to get the bitter white pith underneath. Julienne or cut the zest into strips. And set aside.Alternatively, you can use a citrus zester that I have used in the video to zest the oranges. And set aside.Pro tip - Thoroughly wash and lightly scrub the oranges as the peels are clean before you zest them.
Juice the oranges - Cut the oranges in half and squeeze the juice out. Strain the juice to remove any peps or pulp. Set aside.Pro tip - I like to work over a strainer to ensure I get as much of the juice as possible.
Collet the pith and membranes - Collect the pulp, pips, and remove as many membranes from the orange as possible (see video). Tie it all in a cheesecloth. And set aside for later.Pro tip - The pectin we need to make marmalade is in these pips, pulp, and zest, so make sure to save collect as much as you can.
Cook the zest/rind first
In a heavy-bottom pan, add the orange and lemon zest, lemon and orange juice, and water. Place the cheesecloth with the membranes inside the pot as well.Pro tip - Make sure the cheesecloth is tied well so it does not open in the pot with boiling.
Bring to a boil. Then, cook on medium simmer partially covered. Cook until the orange zest becomes soft, the liquid will reduce to about one-third of its original volume.Pro tip - It can take from 20 to 30 minutes depending on the zest as well as the time and temperature of heat. What is important is that the zest gets soft.
Then, remove the bag from the pan making sure to squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. Pro tip - It is best to take this bag out now before we add the sugar otherwise it gets harder to squeeze the sweeter juice out later.
Start the marmalade process
Once the orange zest is soft, add the sugar. Cook on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Then, turn the heat up and let the mixture come to a boil. Let it boil for two minutes on medium-high. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low.Pro tip - The marmalade should still be simmering but at a low simmer, not bubbling.
Continue to simmer on medium-low for about 20 to 30 minutes more stirring often so it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. The marmalade will continue to thicken as well as deepen in color as it cooks.Pro tip - The cooking time will depend on the quantity of the marmalade as well as the heat applied to it. It's ok to cook a little longer but there must be a simmer for the gelling process to start.
Test the marmalade
Remove one of the ceramic plates from the freezer. Place a teaspoon of marmalade on the cold plate. Pro tip - The cold plate will help cool the marmalade almost instantly and give you a good indication if it is ready.
Set aside for 2 to 3 minutes. Then, test with your finger. Simply move/push the marmalade with your finger. If it wrinkles/crinkles it means it is ready. And if not, let the marmalade cook a couple of minutes more and test again.Pro tip - You may need to test on a ceramic plate more than once or a couple of times depending on how early you start checking.
Alternatively, you can use a candy thermometer - the marmalade should reach 105 C / 221 F.Pro tip - I find the thermometer to be the easiest and fool-proof method to check for doneness.
Optional - Just when you are ready to take the marmalade off the heat add a teaspoon of butter and stir well. Butter helps dissolve foam that accumulates on top of the jam. Pro tip - You don't need more than 1 teaspoon of butter to help with the foam. It will also give you that glossy shine.
Pour the marmalade into warm sterilized jars leaving ¼ inch space from the top. Use a clean sterilized knife or spatula to move it a bit – this will remove any air pockets.
Place a piece of wax paper on the top before you place the lid on tightly. Clean the rim of the jar with a clean paper towel. Top the lid. Alternatively, use the lid with screw-on rings that come with the canning jars.
The canning process (if you plan to can the marmalade)
Sterilize the jars
Sterilize 4 x 8 oz (250 g) jars by washing them in hot soapy water or cleaning them in the dishwasher with a gentle cycle. Then, place them in the oven for 20 minutes at a low 284 F / 140 C.Pro tip- I find the dishwasher does a good job of cleaning and the oven dries any excess moisture in the bottles.
Note - Leave them in the oven until you are ready to use them (you can turn the oven off). Don’t forget to wash and sterilize the bottle lids as well.
Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot. Fill half the pot with water. Bring the water in the pot to a boil on high heat.
Lower the jars over the rack leaving enough space between the jars.Pro tip - The level of water should be at least an inch above the top of the jars. So if necessary pour more boiling water.
Bring the water to a boil again. Cover the pot and process/simmer for 15 minutes.
Then, carefully remove the jars from the stockpot and place them on a kitchen towel to absorb any excess moisture. Cool completely. Pro tip - The hot jars are very delicate so make sure to use tongs when taking them out and place them on soft towels to prevent them from breaking.
Press the top of the lid to ensure the seal is tight – the lid should not move at all. Store in a cool dry place.
Shelf life - Homemade marmalade made with sugar and fresh fruit can have a long shelf life. If processed with the canning method, and stored properly in a cool dark place, marmalade can last for up to 2 years. Once opened it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 months
Bitter marmalade - The best way to take the bitterness out of orange marmalade is to make sure to use the outer zest or rind of the orange. Making sure to not get the white underneath. The white pith is where the bitterness is. This does require a little bit of effort but it will give you the best sweet (with a slight bitterness) homemade orange marmalade.
Do you need lemon juice? Almost all jams use lemon juice. Lemon is a great way to cut down on that sweetness with a citrus edge. It also prevents the sugar from crystallizing. Most importantly the lemon helps prevent any growth of bacteria when canning the marmalade.
How long do you cook marmalade? We often say low-heat slow cooking is what makes a good jam. This does not mean it takes a long time. Usually, a good 20 minutes is all it needs for about 1 kg / 2 lbs of fruit jam to reach a set point. You can start checking the marmalade after it has been cooking for 18 to 20 minutes.
Marmalade no setting -Often the reason a jam or marmalade does not set though reduced to half is that it has not been boiled enough. The low-heat slow cooking is what makes marmalade reach its setting point. If cooked too fast the liquid is reduced but without going thru the natural process of setting. So, low-heat slow cooking is the key to a perfect marmalade.
Over-cooked marmalade - It is possible to overcook marmalade. It is better to undercook rather than overcook a marmalade. Because undercooked can be cooked again, but once overcooked you have to add water to thin the jam. Note, once you add water you reduce the shelf life of the marmalade as well. Best to get it right the first time.
Jam done test - getting the marmalade off the heat is critical and often we take it off too soon or too late resulting in a runny or too thick marmalade. So here is an old mom's method that works great to test any fruit marmalade.
Place two ceramic plates in the freezer or fridge. These cool while the marmalade is cooking. When you are ready to test - bring the cold plate out. Put a spoonful on the plate. The cold plate will instantly cool it giving you an indication of how much it has set. Simply put the mixture on the plate from the corner towards the center. If it wrinkles it is set. Time to take the marmalade off the heat. If not, continue with a few more tests - every 3 to 5 minutes.
If you do have a candy thermometer on hand you can use it and take the guesswork out. I used mine for instructional videos to show the process for those who would like to use a candy thermometer.
If canning, the canned orange marmalade will stay in a cool dry place in the pantry for up to a year or even longer.
When not canned, the marmalade will stay at room temperature for a month or more in good weather.
You can also keep the marmalade in the fridge for 3 to 6 months.
Label the jar with the name and date so you know what is in and when you made it.
The nutrition information and metric conversion are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee its accuracy. If this data is important to you please verify with your trusted nutrition calculator. Thank you