whole food ~ well made

vanilla blood orange marmalade

Best Time for Marmalade is Now. Here’s How.

A warm south wind howled all through the night, our first herald of spring. While some people are more than ready to kiss winter good-bye, this is the prime of citrus season.

I’ve been stocking up on pink grapefruit, Meyer lemons (for my favorite quick preserved lemons), Key limes and blood oranges as well as cheap oranges, lemons and limes.

Just feel the Vitamin C.

cut blood orange closeup

So I was ready when Marisa McClellan announced her first Food in Jars Mastery Challenge. {This is a month-by-month preserving extravaganza for anyone who wants to broaden their horizons, and over 1,600 people have already joined in. You can, too.}

January’s task: Make marmalade.

It just so happens that I was toying with what type of treat to send to my Dad this year for his Valentine’s birthday. (Last year it was homemade candy.) And I remembered how much he loves orange marmalade. Win-win.

orange marmalade in half pint jar

This is also the most relaxing time of year for making preserves when we’re already spending more time indoors. And we don’t have a plethora of produce competing for attentions. Win-win-win.

Tips for making marmalade (& Jam)

Marmalade is a type of jam. One for grownups who like some bitter with their sweet. So, if you’ve ever made jam, this is just a variation relying on the natural pectin in the citrus.

cutting oranges for marmalade

Tools for jam & marmalade

Fruits are great entry into preserving, and I first started canning with blackberry jam. All you need is a heavy-bottomed pot (to prevent scorching) and a large metal spoon (for stirring and skimming foam). Always use a pot twice as large as you think you’ll need. Fruits invariably boil up and froth, and it’s a pretty dicey moment to wonder if it’s going to volcano flow all over your stove top.

For marmalade, a candy thermometer is pretty key for determining the moment when the fruit has reached 220°F and will set. It’s a good kitchen investment and will save you any guesswork.

I also love using a scale, since it removes all the measuring and pouring. Digital scales come really cheap now and they will change your baking life.

A simple ratio

Here’s my favorite part about marmalade: I never need a recipe. Marmalade is a ratio by weight of equal parts fruit, sugar and water. That’s 1#:1#:1#. Pretty easy to remember and to adapt to a small batch or larger.

cutting blood oranges for maramalde

And, using a scale, I simply weigh out the fruit, sugar and water. Done–and accurate!

Sugar magic

For marmalade, the cut fruit and sugar sit overnight to soften the rind. This is essential for marmalades, but is also useful for other jams as well. Giving the fruit and sugar time together before boiling starts to candy the fruit, drawing out the water. It’s is just one of several pro-tips I learned from expert jam maker Rebecca Staffel.

Unfortunately you can’t use any other type of wonderful alternative sweeteners to make marmalade. The magic is in the sugar and the jam will not set properly with out it. As much I try to reduce processed sugar in other cooking and baking projects, this is just one area where I embrace it.

When jam sets

This is the source of a lot of worry for folks. Patience, a steady bubbling and that thermometer hitting the magic 220°F are the solution. Still, we worry.

tea, toast and marmalade English breakfast

Here’s the worse thing that can happen: you end up with a thick, delectable citrus sauce perfect for pork, poultry or soft cheeses. Or, use it for a layer cake, thumbprint cookies or mix it into plain yogurt for your own much-less-sweet-than-store-bought flavored yogurts.

To be honest, I prefer a looser set on jam in general. But for those who want insurance that they’re marmalade or jam will be set up, I’ve included the back up, feel-better-about everything “plate test” in the recipe instructions.

Most of all, enjoy the process and trust yourself. Anyone can jam, I mean, marmalade.

{For tons more tips, tricks and other marmalade methods, head on over to Food in Jars.}


and become a forager

Vanilla Blood Orange Marmalade

This recipe is for a small batch of whole fruit marmalade. It yields enough for yourself and to give as homemade gifts. Don't limit yourself to spreading it on toast. Marmalade makes a great glaze for baked ham, a pan sauce for pork chops or spread on crackers with goat cheese.
Course Preserves
Cuisine British
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings 4 half pints
Author Lynne


  • 2 pounds blood oranges, washed about 6
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • pinch salt


  • Trim the ends of the blood oranges with a sharp knife. Cut each orange in half and remove the pith. Reserve and bundle the trim and pith in a square of cheese cloth and secure it with butcher's twine. This will add more pectin during cooking and help the marmalade set.
  • Stand each half on the cut surface. Slice the orange halves 1/8-inch thick. Then cut the half slices into quarters. You'll end up with very thinly sliced orange quarters. 
  • Combine the sliced oranges with the sugar, vanilla and pinch of salt in a large stock pot. When all of the sugar has dissolved, add 4 cups water and stir again.
  • Tie the bundle of orange trimmings onto the pot handle and submerge it. Cover the pot and refrigerate it for 8 hours or overnight. 
  • Uncover the marmalade and heat it over medium heat. Gradually increase the heat to medium to achieve a gentle but steady simmer. This stage of cooking can vary widely, from 45 minutes to over 1 hour. It only requires intermittent attention to skim any foam off the top, stir to prevent sticking and check the temperature.
  • The marmalade will set once it reaches 220 degrees F. You'll notice that the bubbles are thicker and glossy and it will be reduced by about half. For extra insurance do the plate test described in the notes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and let cool for 15 minutes before transferring into sterilized jars with lids. You can refrigerate it or can it following these guidelines.


Plate test: One way to double check when your marmalade is done is by doing a simple test: put a small plate in the freezer for 15 minutes. Spoon a puddle of liquid marmalade onto the cold plate and let it set for 5 minutes. (Take the pot off the heat momentarily.) If it thickens to a jammy consistency, it is done. 


  1. Michele

    These is so much great information in this article… makes it a loss less intimidating for me give it a whirl! Pinning for future use!

    1. So glad you think so, Michele. Making fruit preserves is something anyone can do and, I think, everyone should try because it’s so satisfying, delicious, and giftable! Hope you do give it a whirl.

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