Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Seville Orange Marmalade: Not For the Wimps

Seville Orange Marmalade for breakfast

Seville Orange Marmalade brings me back to vacation mode because I often eat it for breakfast when I am on vacation in some fancy resort. I love to smear it on a well toasted piece of bread with some butter. It is like an explosion in your mouth: the bitterness, the sweetness and when you bite into the peel pieces; you are transported into another world! Seville Orange Marmalade is not for the wimps, not for the faint hearted that consider store bought generic strawberry jam is a safe bet (sorry).

 jars of Seville Orange Marmalade ready to be gifted
Now you probably associate Seville Orange Marmalade with the British Kitchen if you are a westerner, but it is very much a Middle Eastern staple. Seville oranges blossoms are used to make the Orange Blossom essence which adorns almost every Middle Eastern dessert and sweet dish. The peel is also preserved and made into a wonderful Seville Orange Peel Preserve (future post) and the juice is used to add a sweet sour bitter flavor to Fool (cooked fava beans) and many other dishes. Seville Oranges are called Boo Sfayr in Arabic (بو صفير) and in Lebanon they grow along the coast where all citrus trees grow. However, the fruit season is very short, so you better take advantage and make the Seville Orange Marmalade while in season and this way you can enjoy the flavor year round. Seville Oranges are also called Sour Oranges, or Bitter Orange or Naranja Agria and they appear in Mexican and Middle Eastern markets from the end of December till mid January if you are a lucky. You should see the look on my face when I saw them on display at the Middle Eastern store; it was the same reaction I had when I recently tried on my wedding dress and it fits again!

A bitter sweet explosion in your mouth
I researched how to make this marmalade a lot, I looked into British ways and Middle Eastern ways and I came up with my version which is a bit lengthy but it produces a gem of marmalade. Trust me. This recipe yielded to the best tasting Seville Orange Marmalade that I have ever tasted. I was very surprised to see even my daughter Alya who is only 3 could not stop eating it with a spoon. SevillaeOrange Marmalade: Either you love it or you don't.

Let me first warn you that when making jams, marmalade and jellies in general, you dont really work with precise measurements because it is not a matter of weight, it is a matter of ration of fruit to sugar. Depending on your preference, you will need for each amount of fruit, 2/3 to 1/2 amount of sugar.
Seville Oranges or Sour Oranges
  • Wash the sevilla oranges and soak them for 24-48 hours in cold water, then drain and rinse. This soaking allows the skin of the oranges to soften up and expand.
  • Fill a large, thick bottomed saucepan with oranges, cover with cold water and slowly bring to boil. Reduce the heat, cover the saucepan with the lid askew, and simmer very gently for 3-4 hours or until the oranges are completely soft, stirring from time to time. Make sure that the liquid does not totally evaporate during the cooking; add a little bit of water if it does. Remove from the heat and cool. Take the soft oranges out of the pan and put the pan and any remaining liquid aside.
Seville Oranges all puffed after soaking in water for 48 hrs
  • Cut the oranges in half.
Oranges cut in half
  • Place a large strainer over a big bowl and with a tablespoon scoop out the inside of the orange and place it inside the strainer. Using the spoon, stir and push in order to push the silky pulp in the bowl. You will end up with the seeds and tough fibers in the strainer. 
Pulp and juice are collected in a bowl

Liquid Gold
  • Don't throw away the seeds and fibers out. They are rich in natural pectin and will help this marmalade reach its jelling texture. Some people prefer to use artificial pectin but, you should know me by now, artificial and I are not good friends. I use a tea ball to save all the seeds but you can use a folded cheese cloth or muslin cloth.
The seeds of Sevilla Orange are rich in pectin
  • Cut the flesh and skin of the oranges into small squares. Some people like to cut them in thin strips but I like to bite on the peel pieces. It is a matter of preference. 
The beautiful Skin of Seville Oranges
Cut the skin of the Seville Oranges into thin strips
  • Using a scale, measure the saved pulp and the cut pieces of peel. Measure out two thirds or more of the weight in sugar. Mine where around 800 g so I added around 500 g of sugar.
Measure the pulp and skin and add sugar in order to determine sugar amounts
  • Return them to the pot that had the remaining liquid and gently bring to boil, stirring to prevent sticking and to help the sugar dissolve. 
The Seville Oranges are ready to be cooked
  • Turn the heat dow a little and let simmer for 30 to 60 minutes until the temperature reaches 220 F (the jelling point). The jam should be very dense and dark in color. Cool for 5 minutes and spoon into sterilized jars.
The marmalade is simmering
The marmalade reaching the jelling point  220 F
Dark and beautiful marmalade
The seeds have released all their pectin
The recipe called for 30 minutes of simmering time but mine reached 220 F/ 104 C after 50 minutes.  It depends on the amount of water in your pot, the size of your pot and the strength of fire. Luckily, I had a digital thermometer to rely on. But you can also rely on the cold dish jelling trick or setting test:
Place a small dish in the freezer 15 minutes or so before the jam/marmalade/jelly is ready. When it seems thick, turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam/marmalade/jelly on the chilled plate. Put it back in the freezer for a few minutes, then do the setting test: If the jam does not run and stays in a mound and wrinkles (as shown in the photo), it’s set. If not, continue to cook, then re-test the jam until it reaches that consistency.
The jelling rick or setting test
Jars of Seville Orange Marmalade
For sterilizing and canning instructions, please go to National Center for Home Food Preservation
Adapted from Green River Cafe Cookbook Ruth Grey and Rose Rogers


  1. UGH! I just LOVE these photos! I could eat them! I couldn't find Sevilles, so I am going to make a Meyer lemon marmalade adapting your method. I will let you know how it turns out!

  2. Meyer lemon marmalade sounds wonderful! I suggest you skip the soaking in water for 48 hours because the zest of lemons is delicious whereas the zest of the sour oranges or seville oranges is very bitter, hence the soaking. Let me know how it goes.

  3. I've always liked Seville orange marmalade and a few years ago I made some when I found Seville oranges (not easy in a small town in Washington state). Wow, the flavor is so much better than any commercial marmalade I've ever had. I've never gone back. And I love how the house fills with the scent of oranges as the whole oranges simmer away. I once tried adding some orange flower water to a couple jars, I couldn't tell the difference.
    I've made Meyer Lemon marmalade a few times, and I do it like you suggest. I'll just squeeze the juice out, simmer the half lemons for 30 minutes, slice and boil the batch up. I usually make small batches and the whole thing is done in less than an hour.

    1. I am always pleased to know of the existence of other Seville Orange fans! it is a shame that such a beautiful fruit is not given the proper appreciation! oh well..more seville oranges for us! I am lucky to be living in California where almost everything is grown.Thank you for dropping by.