Seville Marmalade 2016 notes

I’m entering a marmalade competition!  The Culinary Historians of Canada are hosting a Seville Marmalade competition at Fort York on 2016 February 20th.

… I’ve never entered a culinary competition before, so …

Since the judging criteria (available at the link above) include clarity of the marmalade, evenness of the peel size and shape, and an even distribution, I’ve somewhat modified my standard method of making Seville Marmalade.  I’ll note specific changes below, but essentially, I cut the peel more carefully for the competition batch, and I did not add any additional pectin into that competition batch.

simmering marmalade

My Basic Method

  1. Sort and wash the Seville oranges
  2. Cut the Sevilles roughly into eighths.  I make the first cut through the equator of the fruit (to open the large cells into pieces, maximizing the release of juice).  Then — and this is a particular change to produce more even-sized and shaped pieces of peel — I cut make parallel cuts rather than classic ‘smiles’. (See one of the images below for a visual understanding …)
  3. Put all the Seville slices and any escaped juice into large cooking pots and just barely cover with water.  Slowly bring to a boil, and then simmer the fruit until the peel ‘rubs to soft stage between thumb and finger’. You’ll know the feel when you get it …
  4. Soak the peel down in my cold room for two or three days in the water. The liquid thickens and the flavours and pectins seem to draw out.
  5. Filter the juice from the pulp using a colander.
  6. Scrape the pieces of peel using sharp-edged tablespoon.  I have a special spoon from an old set of cutlery. I don’t remove anything forcefully, just what comes easily off. The pulp goes into one bowl, and the peel into another, with the liquid draining through a sieve into a third bowl.
  7. Stack the peel pieces in parallel on a cutting board and then use a sharp knife to cut the peel into shape. Normally, I don’t care whether the peel is terribly even in size or shape.  I like thick-cut peel that adds a gentle pleasing texture to the softness of the body of the marmalade itself. For the purposes of the competition, I paid particular attention to the parallel-sided pieces of peel as cut in step #2. (See one of the images below …)
  8. Often I use a Foley Food Mill to mash the remaining pulp to extract more substance which I then add back into the juice. I care more about the final flavour than overall clarity. However, for the competition batch, I did not add any mashed pulp back into the juice.
  9. In total, starting with 26 huge Seville oranges this year, I ended up with 24 cups juice or ‘liquor’, 15 cups ordinary hodgepodge cut peel, and 8 cups carefully sized- and shaped peel.
  10. To actually boil the marmalade, I start with 9 cups fruit (i.e., peel + juice) — which takes a bit of ratio-and-proportion calculating — and then add 11 cups white sugar.  … I use a big pot …
  11. Slowly heat the peel + juice mixture, stirring to avoid burning the peel on the bottom of the pot. When the fruit mixture is well warmed, I slowly add in the sugar, stirring constantly. I make very sure that the sugar is fully dissolved and not accumulating on the bottom of the pot before I turn up the heat.
  12. Once the peel + juice + sugar is boiling gently, I simmer it for several hours with the lid off.
  13. If I want relatively light coloured marmalade, I will carefully add half a cup of sugar at a time, stirring fully and letting the temperature stabilize upwards with each addition of sugar.  Once the mixture ‘looks’ finished (either by sound, by actual look, by the wrinkle-on-a-frozen-plate method, or the sheeting-off-a-spoon method), I quickly heat the marmalade to a brief rolling boil. My best success is to consider marmalade ‘finished’ when the temperature reaches 6 Celcius degrees above the measured boiling temperature of plain water that day. (This is higher than usually recommended, but it works for me.)
  14. Often I will add perhaps just a couple of tablespoons of powdered canning pectin into each big batch to ensure a good set with peel that doesn’t float. (For the competition batch this year, I did not add any pectin.)
  15. Once the marmalade is off the stove, I stir it gently and occasionally for 20 or more minutes until the temperature drops into the low 90sC.
  16. Then I ladle the marmalade into jars — hoping desperately that the peel doesn’t float — and put the lids onto the jars, wiping the jars clean as they cool.
  17. I’ve been known to despairingly take ‘floaty’ jars and turn them upside down for a few minutes while they cool. This is probably not ‘officially allowed’ — but it works … (See my note below for recent thoughts on why peel might possibly float some years worse than others …)
  18. This year’s results: 10 * 500ml jars, 41 * 250ml jars, 12 + 125 jars = approx total of 16.5 litres of wonderful Seville Marmalade to have with toast and more, to bake with, to share with family, and to gift to friends! Yum!!!
  19. And I still have 6 Seville oranges with which to practice what I’ll learnt through this competition!


Seville marmalade


A partial Visual Guide

Sevilles from Coachella 2016

2016 Sevilles from Coachella, CA. I have a good-sized hand — these are the biggest Sevilles I’ve seen in about two decades!  48 of these Sevilles in a box cost me $70 this year. Last year, the same-sized box of Sevilles, also from California, cost me about $65 and included 109 much-smaller still excellent Sevilles.


Seville smiles

Seville oranges cut 2 ways: parallel in back and smiles in left front. This year for the competition batch, I used the back parallel cuts of peel.


cutting peel

On the left is the lovely sharp-edged tablespoon scooping out peel. On the right is the scraped peel carefully lined up to be cut into uniform pieces for the competition batch.


cut peel 2 kinds

A view of the two piles of scraped peel and the cut peel. Above the knife is the parallelograms and uniform pieces of competition peel; on the bottom is my normal style of smile wedges of peel, and the higgledy-piggledy more random pieces of peel.

I was fascinated with the story that my first-year Psychology prof told of his father working with Wilder Penfield, the brilliant Montreal neurosurgeon and early brain researcher. Penfield was the first brain researcher to selectively put electrodes into the brains of conscious and consenting human patients. My prof told of one bricklayer who upon particular stimulation could relate the details of each brick he was laying in a particular wall several decades previously. Fascinating!  Each year I pay attention to some of the ‘odd’ shapes of my normal irregular peel, noting several unusual pieces, be they triangular, or in some other way particular. … I’ve never yet found one of those pieces in any marmalade later in the year … But maybe some year …


simmering marmalade

A portrait of the marmalade artist as an old man …


To Float or Not to Float

I’ve puzzled for many years as to why some batches and some years produce more floating peel than other years.  This year was particularly ‘bad’. For the non-competion jars, I turned them upside down while they were cooling, sometimes for as much as ten or fifteen minutes.  The marmalade doesn’t taste any different, whether floating or not. But I do agree that it looks better.

This year, my zoologist wife suggested to her botanist husband that perhaps floating has something to do with the proportion of aerenchymatous tissue (i.e., airy pithy cells) in the white of the peel. BINGO!  What an obvious possibility that this plant-obsessed marmalade maker has never considered.  In retrospect, the small oranges of last year had thinner skins, and also produced very little floating peel.  The huge oranges this year had thick white layers under the also-thick orange epidermal layers of peel — and nearly every jar floated.

I’d previously thought that slow simmering would help the sugars infuse into the peel and even their density so as to minimize floating.  That hypothesis never did quite explain everything, but …

I have six huge Seville oranges left, and next week, after I see what the marmalades of other people look like, and after I talk with other competitors, and hear from the judges, I will make a final test batch to see if I can improve the quality of my marmalade.


tasting raw Sevilles 2016

I tried to pass this photo off to my family as one of my late wonderful mother. One of my ever-gracious sisters pointed out that it was undoubtably of me — and that despite the particular grimace I share with my mother, my mother never wore a hat like that, and that my chest was too flat …  Ouch!

This is actually my annual eating of a section of fresh Seville orange. Try it! Sour, bitter, juicy, sweet — and so much promise!
My hopes rest on this jar …  (And I think I know what’s ‘wrong’ with it — though taste isn’t one of those things!)

Seville Marmalade 2016 notes

Seville Marmalade Almond Date Squares

I’m entering a marmalade competition!  The Culinary Historians of Canada are hosting a Seville Marmalade competition at Fort York on 2016 February 20th.

Of course, I’m entering a jar of my Seville Marmalade!

I’m also entering Seville Marmalade Almond Date Squares in the Baking With Marmalade category.

Seville Marmalade Almond Date Squares

The recipe is based on a recipe I use from the old Complete Harrowsmith cookbook, combined with some ideas from an unknown online recipe possibly from a Ricardo website, but it is mostly derived from several versions as made by our daughter, Anne, and then modified by me to strengthen the Seville Marmalade favour.

I should add that in keeping with the Persian theme of the Culinary Historians day at Fort York, we experimented with adding almonds to the date squares.

It’s noteworthy to me that the three of the ingredients are all from California:  the Sevilles from Coachella, the almonds, and the dates!  At what cost to the water table? …


Seville Marmalade Almond Date Squares


  • 2.5c dates (good fresh dates from California, where Anne has been for the week!)
  • .75c Seville marmalade ‘juice’, taken after the Seville oranges have been simmered for several hours and then steeped for another several days
  • .5c dark Seville marmalade, with extra peel (taken from a ‘floaty’ batch …)
  • .5 tsp baking soda
  1. Bring dates, Seville juice and marmalade to a boil
  2. Add baking soda, simmer 5–10 minutes


  • 2.6c large flake oats
  • 1.5c flour
  • 1.25c brown sugar
  • .5 tsp baking powder
  • .5 tsp almond extract
  • .33c flaked almonds
  • 1.5c softened butter
  1. Line the  8″ square baking pan with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350ºF
  2. Mix oats, flour, baking powder, brown sugar, almond extract, and then knead in softened butter very thoroughly by hand
  3. Layer two-thirds of the crisp into pan, packing it well with a wet spatula
  4. Spread all of the date filling evenly
  5. Take remainder of crisp and spread lightly without packing
  6. Sprinkle additional flaked almonds on top
  7. Bake 45–55 minutes
  8. Cool thoroughly
  9. Resist tasting until absolutely essential …
Seville Marmalade Almond Date Squares

Old stuff …

(This page is old material from an earlier web site, and dates mostly from 2004.)


Seville Orange Marmalade (circa 2004)

  • 6 Seville oranges (I process 36–48 oranges in 4-6 batches every year.)
  • Water to suit …
  • 7 1/2 cups sugar approx
  • 25 ml blackstrap (cooking) molasses (optional, and I’ve only done this once)
  • 50 ml orange liqueur or whiskey (optional — whiskey is very nice … even in marmalade — and again, I’ve only done this once)

The Process:

1. Cut washed & rinsed oranges into sixths or eighths, cutting over the pot so as not to lose any precious liquid.
2. Cover with water & bring almost to a boil and simmer for several hours or until very soft. The peel should rub to almost nothing between your fingers.
3. Lift out oranges from cooking water with a slotted spoon, and scrape out the inside pulp and pips using a spoon
4. Strain the pulp & pips through a jelly bag, saving the liquid & discarding the pulp.
5. Meanwhile, thickly slice soft orange peels and return peels into their cooking water.
6. If left to sit overnight (or longer), more pectin & flavour seems to be released.
7. Add sugar, grated peel, the drained liquid of the pulp, (and the molasses if desired). I start with 9 cups fruit to 11.5 cups sugar in a thick-bottomed stock pot. (I use the approximate ratio of 1 orange to 1.5 cups peel & liquid, which is more dilute than many of the standard recipes by as much as an additional one-half — and I don’t notice any diminution of the intensity of the bitter flavour I strive for. My rationale is that the new fresher Sevilles now available are much superior fruit in every way.)
8. Slowly bring to a boil under constant stirring, until sugar dissolves. Simmer 20 to 60 minutes observing the temperature constantly. As the temperature climbs over 103°C, I proceed to the next step.
9. I then add a cup of sugar at a time, bringing it back to a full boil for a few minutes, and checking the temperature constantly. I bring the temperature up to a finishing temperature of 105° this way, and then finish the marmalade normally, using all three tests.
10. Cool for at least 20 minutes, add liqueur / whiskey if desired.
11. Pour into sterilized jars and seal immediately.

Miscellaneous Marmalade Notes:

  • This recipe has been progressively modified from my modification of a recipe (posted January 25, 1996 to newsgroup which in turn comes from the Homemaker magazine (a Canadian magazine).
  • Seville oranges are available here in the Toronto area of Canada in early- to mid-January for about three weeks. Until several years ago, they were imported from Seville, Spain, and were typically tough withered specimens. Recently, they are imported from Arizona, and are usually much fresher — moister skins and juicy (sour!!!) pulp.
  • In January 2001, I paid $3.28 (Canadian) for a kilogram of oranges. I bought 48 oranges for a total of about $18.00. Add to that 16 kilograms sugar (approx. $12.00) and jars, the total project cost about $45 — and a few hours of work for Anne and me and our supporting cast of choppers and washers and tasters. In 2003, Sevilles were $3.79/kg — and better than ever. In 2004, I paid $2.84 and $3.29/kg in two different stores. The oranges aren’t always as large nor as juicy.
  • In 2015, I bought a case of Sevilles directly from a fruit and veg distributor near the Toronto Airport.  I paid less than $65 for 109 small but wonderful Sevilles.
  • In 2016, I bought a case of Sevilles in Ottawa from a fruit and veggie store. I paid $75 for 48 Sevilles — the biggest and wartiest oranges I’ve ever seen!  Same size case, just much bigger oranges! Again, wonderful fruit!
  • You should be able to rub the peel to nothing between your fingers when the oranges are properly done. If the peel isn’t cooked thoroughly enough, or if the sugar is added too soon, the peel will be very tough in the finished product. Simmering the cut-in-half oranges for several hours works very well for eliminating the one step of separately simmering the pulp and pips.
  • Various tests of the finishing point:
    • 3-5 Celsius degrees above boiling. (I personally find this to be too low — I cook it to 5 Celsius degrees above.)
    • the marmalade wrinkles when you push it with your finger after
    the marmalade has sat for a few minutes on a cold plate in the
    freezer. I’ve never been able to get what I think is a clear indication of this …
    • the preserve ‘sheets’ off a wide metal spoon. Again, sometimes this is clear, and sometimes not …
  • I have used a Foley food mill to press the juice from the pulp — it does a fine job, though it may make the marmalade a bit cloudier — which isn’t as much a problem in the molasses-darkened product as in the traditional clear type. It is simpler to use a jelly bag to accomplish the same task. In recent years, I’ve just filtered the juice from the pulp by letting it passively drain through a Foley food mill. The result has been a clearer product. It seems to be mostly starchy material in the pulp, not pectins.
  • My daughter, Anne, modifies the recipe by straining the pulp through a sieve and then through fine cloth. The result is stunningly clear — somewhat like the famous ‘silver shred’ — an old trade name. Another maker hand-washes the peel, gently rubbing it to clarify the resultant jelly.
  • Another modification that I used to use was to first quarter the oranges, separating the pulp and trimming most of the inner white rind. I simmered the pulp and white rind separately from the peel for several hours. After simmering the pulp and white rind, I used the Foley food mill as above. I sliced the fresh peel, and then simmered it for about two hours, until the peel rubbed smoothly between my fingers. So the recipe became the combination of simmered outer peel plus the juice from the pulp and white rind plus sugar. Separating the pulp and chopping the peel when the orange is uncooked is slow and tedious. I prefer to do the long simmer method — it’s quite fast!
  • My current method, more or less followed since 2004: The modifications that have worked for me include making the combined cooked peel and pulp up to 6 cups of pulp, peel, and water for every 6 Seville oranges. Then, add 7.5 cups sugar to these 6 cups cooked fruit mixture. Bring this to a good boil, and observe the temperature carefully. (I find it helps to have a large batch, so that the thermometer is well-immersed in the boiling mixture. I start with 9 cups fruit to 11.5 cups sugar in a thick-bottomed stock pot.) I then add a cup of sugar at a time, bringing it back to a full boil for a few minutes, and checking the temperature constantly. I bring the temperature up to a bit below finishing temperature this way, and then finish the marmalade normally, using all three tests. This method is faster, results in more product, and yet, because of the long cooking of the peel and pulp, still produces the very strong bitter flavourful marmalade that I love.
  • If you add in the molasses, your marmalade will be dark in colour and strong in taste. It comes quite close to a style of marmalade sold in England called Oxford Thick Cut, which is common in the central part of England.
  • The original poster ‘cheats’ on the sugar – she uses only 2 kg, and adds some pectin. She reports that it still tastes delicious — but others don’t …. I sometimes add the about one-third the recommended amount of pectin near the end.
  • Leaving the cooked pulp and the cooked peel soak overnight (or longer) seems to bring out both flavour and pectin.
  • Really let the marmalade cool before you put it into jars — twenty minutes of occasional gentle stirring is not too long!
  • If you have any thoughts or methods that get you a guaranteed jell without the peel floating or sinking, then let me know, please, and if you have any other recipes that work, then I’d be glad to link to your marmalade page(s) or to publish your recipes here. (I cheat, and turn the jars onto their lids as the marmalade cools … flipping it back and forth as the jelly sets — and I finally get reasonable success!)


Japanese Amanatsu Marmalade

(as made by the grandmother of Izumi Kamitani, from the Osaka area of Japan. Her grandmother was born in Hiroshima, and now lives in Yamaguchi.)

amanatsu recipe

“My grandmother makes marmalade around April, which is the season for Amanatsu oranges in Japan. In Japan, we use slightly sour oranges like Amanatsu or Hassaku.

4 oranges (about 1 kg in total).
sugar (800 g; about 80% of oranges).
A little bit of salt.
If you think that this is not sweet enough, you can add honey (200 g).
If you use sweet oranges, you don’t need so much sugar.
If you use frozen oranges, it’s better to use more sugar. Wash oranges with hot water, because peels are covered with wax.
Score the oranges into 4 sections and peel.
Cut away the white inner rind from the orange peel because it’s bitter.
Slice the peel and put them into water and wash them two or three times, rubbing them thoroughly. Then squeeze them well.
Remove the membranes from the sections and discard the membranes.
Use an enamel pot. Put peels and pulp into pot and pour water over them until you cover them, and leave for two to three hours. (When you leave them in water, peels release pectin so they thicken when boiled.)
After 2 to 3 hours, start to boil over low heat until peel becomes soft. After that, put in sugar and salt and continue to boil for 3 to 4 hours.
After boiling, put into clear bottles. Cool down and freeze. Then eat little by little!”


Calamondin Orange Marmalade

I get occasional responses from around the world from readers such as yourself, many with comments that add to my understanding of what I’m doing. (Thanks!)

Early in 2004 or so, I got an e-mail from O.G.Touchstone, <ogt111 at>: “marmalade recipe is great. thank you for sharing- if you send current address i will try to send sample. i used calamondins oranges from greenhouse this past weekend & modified accordingly. got”

True to the promise, in a few weeks I got a heavily-wrapped jar of lovely fresh and fruity calamondin orange marmalade! (And a jar of my finest is on it’s way back to Alabama!)

Calamondin oranges are the tiny cherry-tomato sized oranges that grow on small decorative shrubs — I’ve only seen them grow in greenhouses up here in the frozen north!

  • Slice over bowl to save all juice & remove seeds (save seeds & scraps)
  • 9 cups sliced oranges
  • Cover with water + 1 cup = 11 cups total
  • Heat in pot uncovered until froth rises to surface (do not boil)
  • Prepare seeds & scraps separately with more water
  • Put entire mixture (seed mix separately) in ceramic bowls & allow to soak overnight
  • Strain to separate liquid from pulp & peels
  • Strain seed / scrap mix same
  • Hand rinse pulp & peel in cold water to clean pulp from peels
  • Add peels to liquid & slowly bring to boil adding sugar to taste (approximately enough sugar to equal liquid — less if sorghum is used)
  • Alternate: add cup of sorghum per cup of mix for dark colour& flavour
  • Boil vigorously for 5 to 10 minutes until thick (to test place 1 T on saucer in freezer for 3 minutes, marmalade should wrinkle when touched if ready)
  • Let stand for 20 minutes before putting in jars
  • Alternate: add 1 T Grand Marnier per cup just before putting in jars & stir in

TOTAL FINISHED PRODUCT: 12 half pint jars


Grapefruit Marmalade

Our daughter and marmalade partner, Anne, made marmalade from pink grapefruit, following my old standard recipe. The result was distinctly grapefruity — “breakfasty” is Anne’s comment — but otherwise very much like the Seville marmalade.

grapefruit marmalade


Indian Marmalade

Our other daughter, Gillian, brought me back a jar of marmalade from India, where there are many varieties of citrus fruits. This jar is made by the Gaddi Women’s Self-Help Society in Bhagsunag, Baal, and Naddi, which are mountain villages in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh. Apparently, the marmalade is made from Kinu oranges.

The marmalade was sweet, not bitter, and quite fruity. The taste was reminiscent of the Calamondin marmalade described above. … The jar was soon empty! …

Old stuff …