Marmalade Rescue

Sometimes, despite one’s best efforts, marmalade will not behave, and will be there, the next morning, sloshing around in its jars, like syrupy orange juice. All your boiling and squeezing, not to mention that sordid business with the chilled saucers, was for nought.

All is not lost. Here is the distillation of conversations with wise mothers, a gentleman whose marmalade regularly wins prizes, and desperate searches on Google.

To get a proper set, you need the following conditions:

  • pectin – Seville oranges are loaded with it, but you can’t tell how much – according to Sally Wise the levels drop as the oranges ripen and the longer they’re left on the shelf
  • acid – don’t forget the lemon juice – Dan Lepard recommends 50mL per 500g original weight of oranges
  • temperature – the liquid needs to hit 105°C
  • liquid – the pectin can gel only so much liquid – Dan Lepard recommends double the original weight of the oranges

Here’s what I do to rescue:

  1. buy some pectin from the supermarket – it comes powdered, in sachets
  2. decant the jars back into the pot (this is particularly humiliating, especially if you triumphantly labelled it)
  3. add the juice of another lemon
  4. stir in the pectin powder (easier said than done as it clumps and you may need to thrash the mix with a whisk)
  5. bring to the boil and either test for a set in the traditional manner, or use a thermometer to ensure it hits 105°C

There’s a good argument to just keep your sloppy marmalade: boiling it again means you lose more of that orange flavour, and you risk ending up with something that’s perfectly set, but doesn’t really taste of very much at all. The sloppy stuff may run off your toast, but is excellent in puddings, cakes, muffins, and as topping for crepes.


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