Citrus Season is Time for Marmalade

Mix citrus for a delicious marmalade with my favorite recipe.

It’s Carolyn Niethammer here today to share my favorite recipe for citrus marmalade. It comes from an early version of The Joy of Cooking that I received as a gift in 1965. The most recent Joy of Cooking doesn’t even have an entry for jams though I hear there is a resurgence of interest in making them. I love citrus marmalade, but don’t like the overly sweet grocery-story version. I like a little bitterness, more like the English version rather than the American style.  I’ve used this recipe for at least 30 years, varying the proportion of fruit according to what I have.

Some of the oranges come from a Sweet Orange tree in my front yard that my husband as a small child planted with his dad, Dr. Leland Burkhart, a half time extension agent, half time college ag professor.  Dr. Burkhart used to travel all over the state consulting with citrus growers. Since my own grapefruit tree died, I have to snitch a few of those from my neighbors. I also gather a few sour oranges from street trees in the neighborhood because I like the tang it gives my marmalade.  If you don’t have access to free fruit, the farmer’s markets are full of all varieties right now.

Farmers’ markets in the Southwest have abundant citrus for sale now.

Although I have been using this recipe successfully for years, a couple of years ago I decided to get fancy and carefully cut away all the white pith on the inside of the fruit rinds. Then the mixture simply would not jell no matter how long I cooked it. So….I learned this is where the pectin is, what makes the marmalade thicken up. Leave the white stuff on; it disappears during the soaking and cooking.

Use whatever fruit you have; don’t worry about the proportions. You could use all lemons. Last year I foraged an abundance of kumquats and used those. You might decide to make your version of spring marmalade special by adding some thinly slice barrel cactus fruit, or a little prickly pear juice if you have some, or even some berries. This is a very adaptable recipe. I always try to stress experimentation. Here’s a place to construct your own signature jam to your special taste preference.

The recipe is very easy, but you have to start the process a few days before you plan to do the cooking. The fruit soaks and softens in a corner of your kitchen. During the days when the fruit is soaking, gather up your jars. If you have those with the sealing lids, fine. If not use any jars. Put them in your biggest pot, cover with water, and boil for a few minutes to sterilize. If you don’t have the lids with the rings that seal, be sure to refrigerate the jam until use. If you give it away, caution the receiver not to stick it on a shelf and forget it.

I use whatever jars I have for the marmalade.

Mixed Citrus Marmalade

1 grapefruit

3 oranges

3 lemons


Scrub the fruit, cut each in quarters, and remove the seeds. Slice very thinly. Measure the amount of fruit and juice and add 3 times the amount of water. Set aside and let the fruit soak for 12 hours. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Let stand again for 12 hours.

For every cup of fruit and juice, add ¾ cup sugar. Divide into two pots if you have them or cook one half at a time. Cook these ingredients until they reach 220-222 degrees F. on a food thermometer . It will seem like it takes a long time at first and then at the end it moves rapidly. If you don’t have a food thermometer, once you think it’s looking a little thicker, turn off the heat, put a little of the jelly on a china plate and put it in the freezer for a minute. If it firms up, it is ready. If it is still liquid, cook for a little while longer. It usually firms up a bit more once it cools in the jars.


Ready for another challenge? It was a rainy winter this year in the Southwest which means lots of edible wild desert plants. You can find recipes for 23 of the  easiest to gather and the tastiest in my book Cooking the Wild Southwest available from Native Seeds/SEARCH and from on-line stores.

5 thoughts on “Citrus Season is Time for Marmalade

  1. Bitter oranges, like ‘Bouquet de Fleur’ and ‘Bergamot’ make nastily bitter marmalade. There is no way to get the bitter out of it. I tried to use ‘Bouquet de Fleur’ because I do not have any sour oranges available. The juice is fine, but the rind is horrid! ‘Meyer’ lemon is probably more like sour orange than other lemons are. I still think that the traditional ‘Seville’ sour orange is the best for marmalade.


    • Many many decades ago, somebody decided it was a good idea to plant Seville oranges as street trees in Tucson so there are still abundant oranges to find. These trees are getting old, however, and sometimes people living in the houses, particularly if they are renters, don’t water the trees. The Meyer lemon skin is so thin it gives a finer texture. During my 7 years on the East Coast, I missed making marmalade but made up for it in the summer by putting up lots of peach jam.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have heard about the ‘Seville’ sour oranges at the curbs in Tucson. There was a Seville next door, but it was just an old Cadillac, and was quite a lemon. (Ha!) I still do not know why ‘Seville’ sour oranges were planted rather than standard (orchard) sweet orange trees. It might be because they are more resilient to the climate. It might also be because they are higher branched. I really don’t know.


  2. When you say, “Measure the amount of fruit and juice and add 3 times the amount of water.” Is this by weight or volume? Also you say in the text before the recipe that the fruit soaks for a “a few days” but it seems as if the soaking time according to the recipe is actually 12+12 hours…. Should there be additional soaking time, or is the 12+12 sufficient? Thanks.


    • Measure the weight by volume. When I said “several days” I was referring to the fact that 12+12 is going to occur over several days. And if that 12 hours ends at a time when it is inconvenient for me to move to the next step, I’ll just stick everything in the fridge until the next day. A little extra soaking doesn’t hurt.


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