Seville orange marmalade

I recall a year between the Cuban Missile Crisis and Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon that was equally as dramatic: we ran out of marmalade.

I come from a family of marmalade dependents. The day simply could not begin without tea and a thick slice of toast slathered with lashings of butter and a mountain of the thick-cut orange good stuff. So you can imagine that, on that fateful day, things ground to a complete halt. My father couldn’t tie his tie or buckle his shoes; my mother was at sixes and sevens with school lunches and bus fares; I sat looking pointlessly at the trees in the garden wondering whether, if I stared hard enough, they would suddenly grows jars of orange marmalade. And this was in the days before 24-hour supermarkets. We were, if you’ll forgive the expression, utterly buggered.

From that moment (and I was only three, by the way), I vowed that when I had a home of my own, no such fate would ever befall my family. I confess that, most of the time, I am very happy to rely on the great jams I can buy from just about any decent supermarket. But when the shelves are filled with Seville oranges, I just can’t resist making a batch of my own. This wonderful fruit, with such a short season, lends itself so well to marmalade and is a great way of preserving its unique flavour.


  • 2 lbs Seville oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 lbs granulated sugar
  • 4 pints of water


  • Heavy bottomed saucepan
  • Square of muslin (around 10 inches)
  • 6 jam jars with lids
  • 6 wax paper discs to cover the jam


  1. Pour the water into a pan.
  2. Cut the oranges and lemons and half and squeeze out the juice into a bowl and then into the water (having reserved all the pips and any pith. (Make sure you reserve any of the good stuff stuck to the squeezer too.)
  3. Lay the pips and pith in the middle of the muslin.
  4. Cut the fruit peel into quarters and then each quarter into thin shreds. Add these to the water. Make sure you put any pith that you scrape off the skin into the muslin (the pith has lots of pectin which is a good thing).
  5. Tie the pips and pith up (loosely) in the muslin and attach this to the handle of the pan. Suspend it in the water.
  6. Bring the liquid to simmering point and gently simmer, uncovered, for around two hours
  7. Meanwhile, chill the saucers in the freezer. You’ll need these later for testing.
  8. After the simmering, remove the bag of pips and leave it to cool on a saucer.
  9. Pour the sugar into the pan and stir it occasionally over a low heat. Make sure it has fully dissolved.
  10. Once you are certain there are no more sugar crystals, bring the pan up to a high heat and squeeze all the goodness from the bag of pips into the pan. Scrape the side of the bag too. You want every bit of it. Whisk it in.
  11. Just as soon as the mixture comes to a fast boil, start a timer. After around 15 minutes, spoon a little of the mixture on to one of the saucers you have had chilling in the freezer. Let it cool in the fridge. When it has cooled, you can tell if it has set by pushing the mixture with your finger. If it has a crinkly skin, you are good to go. If not, continue to boil and test again around 10 minutes later.
  12. That’s it. Give the marmalade 20 minutes or so to settle and then spoon into sterilized jars, cover with a wax paper disc and seal while it is still hot.
  13. Make sure you have excellent bread for toasting.
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