In our latest Masterclass video, expert marmalade maker and culinary historian, Allison Reynolds, shares her secrets to making marmalade in the Oxford style.
From picking the fruit, to preparation, cooking and consumption, Allison has kindly shared her insights from years of practice. You can also read the full recipe below.
Oxford Marmalade – Masterclass Method
In the 1870s a recipe for marmalade was brought to Oxford from a Scottish estate and presented to the wife of a well-known grocer in the city. She recreated the recipe and the marmalade soon proved extremely popular among the dons and undergraduates who called it ‘Squish’.
Stages 1 and 2 can be carried out on different days. The recipe begins in a unique manner – the oranges are first boiled whole. Stage 3 and 4 are completed one after the other. This process yields a fine or coarse-cut, bitter but aromatic marmalade. Oxford marmalade is a favourite breakfast preserve in our household, especially enjoyed by visitors. Tucked away in the larder, it is always ready to bring out throughout the year and is an irresistible gift from our kitchen and garden.
2 kg Seville or bitter oranges - washed
2 lemons - washed
2 kg granulated sugar
2 teaspoons treacle
You will need a large preserving pan, 7-litre capacity.
Yield: 7- 8 x 300 ml jars
Stage 1: Boiling the citrus
Put the whole oranges into the pan along with 1 of the lemons and 2 litres water.
Bring up to the boil, simmer with a lid on for about 1 hours, or until you can pierce the fruit easily with a skewer.
Using tongs, transfer the fruit to a colander, sit colander inside a large container, reserve the liquid). Refrigerate fruit and liquid when cool.
Stage 2: separating the fruit and preparing the muslin
Cut fruit into quarters, scoop out the fruit pulp and put aside in a separate container.
Separate out pips along with the pith scraped from the inside of the orange rind (include the pulp, pips and pith of the cooked lemon but discard the lemon peel).
Place the pips and pith in the centre of a large piece of muslin and secure with string.
Slice the orange peel (rind) into thin chips or cut coarsely for a chunky rind.
You should now have a container of orange pulp, a muslin bag of pips and pith and a container of cut up orange peel. Refrigerate.
Stage 3: Bringing it all together
Put jars in the dishwasher to clean.
Put 3 saucers in the freezer to use later when testing for setting point.
Return all the reserved liquid to the pan, along with the juice of the last lemon, the muslin bag of pips and pith, and heat slowly.
Bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes and remove any scum that rises.
Put sugar into a roasting tin to warm, 140C / 120C FF for approximately ten minutes.
Remove the muslin bag from pan and place in a colander over a bowl to cool.
Add warmed sugar to pan and stir over a low heat until dissolved and transparent.
Meanwhile, squeeze out the pectin rich juices from the cooled muslin bag and add them to the pan. Discard the contents left in the muslin bag.
Lastly, add fruit pulp and peel to the pan and turn up the heat, do not leave at this stage.
Rapidly boil (rolling boil) until setting point is reached, remove pan to test setting after around 20 minutes, can take up to 40 minutes (see notes), stir occasionally to prevent sticking and skim if necessary. Be careful that it does not boil over. (See below on how to check for setting).
Add jars from dishwasher to oven 140C / 120C FF for 20 minutes to sterilise (see below).
Stage 4: Potting the marmalade
Carefully remove the pan from the heat, skim the marmalade and add a small knob of cold butter (this helps prevent a skin forming).
Add 2 teaspoons of treacle to the hot marmalade for added colour and flavour.
Allow the marmalade to rest for 20 minutes (this will prevent the peel from rising to the surface in the jars), still stir occasionally.
Stir pan contents well to distribute the peel before measuring and potting the marmalade.
Fill hot jars to just under the rim (add a waxed disc – if using), put lids on immediately, but not too tight. When jars are cold, tighten the lids properly, then wipe jars and label.
To check for setting point, 2 methods:
The temperature test: Warm a sugar thermometer in a jug of hot water to prevent it from breaking when inserted in the boiling marmalade. If the thermometer has a clip, fasten it to the inside of the pan. Cook the marmalade until a thermometer registers 105C / (220F).
Saucer test: This is a good double check. Spoon a teaspoon of the boiling marmalade on to a chilled saucer and put in the fridge for 1-2 minutes. The marmalade is ready to set if the sample forms a skin that is firm enough to wrinkle when you push it with your fingertip.
If the sample remains runny them continue boiling and retest every five minutes. When testing for set turn the heat down to stop it over cooking and going over 105C.
To sterilise jars:
Take jars and lids straight from the dishwasher and put both in a roasting tin and place in the oven at 140C / 120C FF for 15-20 minutes. Make sure the jars go in the oven once your marmalade reaches setting point, if necessary, turn off oven and keep jars hot till needed.
Recipe by Allison Reynolds - Culinary Historian