How to choose the right marmalade recipe for you?

There are seemingly countless ways to prepare seville orange marmalade and with the right group of people, this topic could lead to a rather long and heated debate. Some of it comes down to personal preference - do you like a fine, medium or chunky peel, would you prefer a low sugar jam if it means compromising the perfect set? But some of it also comes down to science and what constitutes a perfect marmalade.

Here are some things to consider when looking for the perfect marmalade recipe for you.

1) Choosing your Seville Oranges

If you are lucky enough to live in an area where you can actually choose your Seville Oranges, consider yourself lucky ;). In previous years, I have been lucky enough to get my hands on organic sevilles and have noticed a couple of difference when using them to make marmalade. So if you are wondering if there are benefits to going organic over and above health benefits - there are! They definitely have better flavour and they set more quickly than non-organic. Overall leading to a higher quality marmalade.

The fresher they are when you make your marmalade the better. Over ripe fruit tend to lose some of their pectin so you will have to cook your marmalade down too far in order to achieve set if your oranges are old.

And you may not know this but Sevilles come in several sizes if you are buying them in bulk, this is a good thing to know. In Canada you can get 88, 72 or 56's. The smallest are the 88's and the largest the 56's. If you are following a recipe it is always a good idea to use one that goes by weight and not number of oranges as this can lead to varying results.

shredding peel

2) Preparing your peel

There are so many different ways to prepare your peel and this is truly where personal taste comes into play. If you prefer a less bitter marmalade you can peel the skin off like would would an apple, getting as little of the pith as possible and shred it super fine or you can leave it nice and chunky. Just keep in mind the chunkier the peel, the darker your marmalade will end up as it will take longer to soften it. If you find a recipe you like the sounds of but want to alter how you prepare your peel, just keep in mind it may affect how long you need to cook it in order to soften the peel.

marmalade soaking peels

3) Soaking the peels overnight

Recipes vary and you will find as you comb through them, that some suggest you prepare your peels one day, soak them overnight and cook the marmalade on Day 2, while others have you do it all in one day. How do you know which is the better option?

For me it is a simple answer. If you are looking to enter your marmalade into competitions you always want to follow the 2 day process. You will end up with a brighter marmalade that is more appealing from an appearance perspective for the judges. I also find, that when you split the tasks over 2 days it is a lighter workload on each day.

But if you are pressed for time and you only have the one day available in your calendar to make marmalade, don't worry about it. You will still end up with a lovely tasting marmalade if you do it all in one day.

preserving pans

4) Open pan vs lidded pan  

Yes, recipes will vary on what type of pan you should be making your marmalade in. Some swear by the preserving pan, which is generally not lidded, has outwardly tapered edges and is quite often made of copper. While others will swear by using a pot with a lid.

Why the difference in opinions and which route should you go? I have made marmalade both ways. With the open pan, (especially if it is copper just remember to not use it until you have added sugar to the mixture. Use a different pot to soften the peels) you will notice a high bitter note to your marmalade. You may also notice that the liquid in your marmalade evaporates more quickly and you end up with a higher concentration of peel to liquid ratio when jarring. With the open pan method your peels also may lean towards a chewier consistency.

The lidded pan obviously contains the evaporation which means it will not reduce as quickly. You will have a less bitter flavour and a lower ratio of peel to liquid when jarring.

5) How much sugar should the recipe have?

There are wide swings in the amount of sugar stated in recipes that I have tried over the years. If you want a marmalade lower in sugar you will have to keep in mind that your marmalade will not achieve a proper set and will be softer in consistency. It will also have a shorter shelf life which means it most likely will not last you til next marmalade season. 

6) Testing for set

I am not going to go into the details of how each of these tests are performed in this post. I am just going to give my opinions on which method I think works best when making marmalade. You can use the plate test, a thermometer r

Personally, I prefer the spoon test. This gives me the closest relationship with the marmalade. This may sound strange, but I think this is important. When I can see the consistency of the marmalade beginning to change and I think I am getting close to set, I dip my spoon in every 5 minutes or so and check on how the drops are falling off the spoon. I find this visual way of checking gives me the ability to achieve the set I prefer.

Trusted marmalade recipes I have used in the past with great success:

Lower sugar - Nigel Slater shares his marmalade recipe which is lower on the sugar side which leads to the softer set and shorter shelf life I mentioned earlier

Smaller batch - Vivien Lloyd shares her small batch marmalade recipe. This recipe leaves you with a bright marmalade with a perfect set

One day marmalade - Canadian Living provides a recipe for those that want to get it all done in one day

Marmalade - Superfine, Fine, Medium or Thick Cut

Superfine peel - best obtained with a zester

When you make your marmalade, do you slice the peel real thin?

Do you zest it very slowly, or cut it while you grin?

Eat that thick cut, thin cut marmalade, but tell me when I ask,

when you make your marmalade, do you cut the peel real fast?

Fine cut peel - best obtained by cutting the peel off with a sharp knife and then chopping it very fine

Medium Cut Peel - best obtained by juicing the orange and then removing all of the membrane from inside the peel, and then cutting into medium size chunks.

Thick cut peel - best obtained by juicing the orange and then removing all of the membrane from inside the peel, and then cutting into thick size chunks.

What to do when a jelly doesn't set

 One of the best tips that I learned in my early jelly making days when I would struggle AGAIN and AGAIN with achieving set is one that I sadly had to use on a semi-regular basis when I first started making jelly.

You have a couple of options when the dream jelly you are making doesn't set and instead continues to slosh around in the jar even after the water bath and cool down period.

1) You can get really angry and open each and every jar and pour the contents down the drain (been there, done that).

2) You can decide that even though it is runny you just don't have the energy to do anything further with it and use it as a spread for pancakes, stir it into your yogourt or add it to fruit shakes. This was a personal favourite of mine way back when.

3) You can reprocess the jars and actually achieve the set you meant to get the first time. Now this option tended to be one that I personally avoided like the plague. Mostly because I hate doing something twice. I hate turning back if I forgot something at home...I simply hate doubling back.

But that being said, there is a time and place for everything and sometimes you just want your damn jelly to set. If that is the case, then these simple steps will save the day.

- Empty the contents of each jar into a similar sized pot as you used the first time you screwed up the jelly

- Over low heat (keep stirring) until the jelly melts down and is soft and fluid once again.

- Add 3 tbsp sugar, 1.5 tsp lemon juice for each 250ml jar of jelly that you are re-heating. Keep over the heat and continue stirring until all of the sugar dissolves.

- Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat to med-high and bring the jelly back up to a rolling boil. Then stir in 1.5 tsp of liquid pectin for each 250ml jar of jelly that you are re-heating. Continue stirring until the jelly reaching that same rolling boil and boil for 1 minute.

- Skim off any foam, jar and water bath as per the first time.

Pickling Cucumbers - an important tip

It is cucumber season, which in my books means it is time to make some pickles! My cucumbers are in full bloom and every morning I walk out to pick more and more cucumbers. Last week I made Manitoba pickles, but I think the time has come to make classic dill pickles.

If you have decided to try your hand at dill pickles and are perusing recipes out there, you may notice that in a lot of recipes they instruct you to cut off the blossom end of the cucumber. Well what might follow in your mind are a couple of different questions, such as 'What is the blossom end?' and 'Why do I need to cut it off?'

The second question is easy to answer in a few quick words. The blossom end contains enzymes that can cause softening of your pickles.  Remove at least 1/16th inch from the blossom end in order to give your pickles a fighting chance at being nice and crunchy!

If you are picking the cucumbers from your garden it is easy to determine the blossom is opposite to the stem. But what do you do if you are getting the cucumbers from a farmer and are just not sure which is the stem end?

The stem end is indented and smooth (left image), the blossom end is rough (right image).

Happy Crispy Pickling ;)


5 Time Saving Tips - Pickled Green Beans

My friend Kathleen attended one of my preserving classes at The Depanneur earlier this summer and it is like I have created a monster :). Her latest masterpiece was Blackberry Sage Jam. So when she mentioned that she was about to tackle Pickled Green Beans, I knew I had to throw some of the things I have learned when pickling green beans down on paper and get it over to her asap.

Top Time Saving Tips When Pickling Green Beans

There are a few very simple things such as, getting organized before you even start. Have all your ingredients and tools out and get them set up in a way that works for your kitchen that I will mention right off the start before I get into the tips themselves.

1) After clipping the ends of your green beans lay them out on a cutting board or flat surface near where you will be filling your jars. Ensure all bottom ends of the beans are facing in one direction. This allows you to grab handfulls of beans at once to fill jars and will mean less time fussing in the jar filling stage.

2) If your jars are too short or your beans are too long, don't spend a lot of time getting them to be equal lengths. Just put them into your jars will all the bottom ends of the bean facing the bottom of your jar. Then take a pair of kitchen scissors and trim the beans up to be all one length

3) Don't forget to use a rubber spatula to release air bubbles from inside of the jar after pouring in your brine. You will be amazed how the level will drop after doing this. Top up each jar to the headspace outlined in the recipe.

4) After the water bath if your beans look a little wrinkled, don't deflate and think they are ruined. Sometimes after a week or two of aging they plump right back up. If they remain wrinkled it could be because you used too much salt in your brine or the beans were old. Think of it as a life lesson ;)

5) And the most important tip of all - ALWAYS use a recipe from a trusted source to ensure you end up with a product that has a ph level that is water bath safe. Remember safety first!

Top reasons for why your jars may have lost liquid during the hot water bath

Ever spend an afternoon or even a couple of hours pickling or preserving something tasty only to be disappointed when you pull the jars out of the water bath canner and see that the liquid level has dropped significantly? When this happens you are often left scratching your head and wondering what went wrong and wondering if it is still safe to eat.

The top reasons for this occuring (in no particular order) are:

  • Overpacking your jars. I know we want each jar filled with as much goodness as possible, but it is possible to overpack your jars
  • Ensure that after you have filled the jars with brine that you take the time to release air bubbles before sealing the jars
  • Accurately measure the head space provided in the recipe. Over filling the jars can cause them to overflow in the hot water bath
  • If using the raw pack method ensure the brine or liquid you are adding is still HOT when added to the jars
  • Starchy foods tend to absorb more liquid. So make a note to use more liquid when pickling these types of items
  • Don't over or under tighter the band on the jars. Over tightening can cause too much pressure to build up inside of the jar as air attempts to escape and under tightening can allow the lid with the sealing compound to float up off the jar in the water bath.
  • Ensure that you cover the jars with at least an inch of water during the water bath

Is it still safe to eat?

All is not lost. I wouldn't suggest putting these jars in your pantry and planning on storing them for months. However, if the liquid loss is not significant and if your jars have all sealed properly keep an eye on the jars and eat them up quicker than you originally planned.

Crazy for Cranberry Sauce

It seems to be right around this time of year when people start to hang up their Christmas lights, the days get shorter and the wind gets colder and I start to think about cranberries.

There are a lot of great cranberry sauce recipes out there. Some of them add ginger or orange zest to the sauce to make the flavour more complex and interesting.

What do you do to your cranberry sauce to make it stand apart?

I can tell you what I do. I add roasted walnuts and pecans. I take anywhere from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of a combination or walnuts and pecans and I chop them roughly and place them in a pan on my stove top over medium-high heat and stir them occasionally. Keep an eye that they don't burn. You want the nice flavour of the roasted nuts to permeate your cranberry sauce - not a burnt flavour. In about 5 minutes the scent of roasted nuts will be evident and they will have turned a golden brown.

Prepare your sauce as per your normal instructions and add the nuts close to the end of the cooking time. Delicious!


Pressure Canning vs Water bath

There are two ways to process preserved fruits and vegetables, but how do you know when you need to use one method over the other? When can you safely water bath something versus having to pressure can it?

There is a simple rule - fruits and HIGH acid foods can be safely preserved using the water bath whereas vegetables and LOW acid foods are what NEED to be pressure canned. Now don't go confusing pressure canners with pressure cookers or steamers, or it may result in some exploding jars, contaminated product or worse. Pressure cookers and steamers simply will not heat the contents of your jars to the correct temperature, so be sure you are using a pressure cooker and follow the operating instructions that you will find inside the box. Pressure canning increases the temperature of the product inside your jars to a hot enough temperature that it kills and bacteria present and will also deactivate any unwanted enzymes.

So what types of items are considered LOW acid?

  • tomato sauce recipes that do not have lemon juice added to them
  • vegetables that are not pickled using vinegar
  • meats and seafood
  • vegetables with a pH level higher than 4.6, lack the acidity to stop the growth of bacteria spores

The basic process of the water bath

- To calculate the size of the water bath canner, keep these measurements in mind. You need to allow for the following:

  • height of your jar
  • a minimum of 1 inch of water above the jar
  • 1 inch of air space above the water level
  • 1 inch for the rack you place on the inside of your pot
  • the pot should be no more than 4 inches larger in diameter than your stovetop burner to allow for the water to achieve and maintain the proper temperature

Once you have chosen the correct sized water bath canner/pot for the job, follow these simple steps to complete the water bath process.

  • Put your rack on the bottom of your canner and fill with water, leaving as much as 4 inches of clearance from the top of the canner. If you notice mineral deposits beginning to form on your processed jars, you can add vinegar to the mix to prevent this.
  • Place the lid on the canner and place your canner on your stovetop and turn heat to high
  • Using a jar lifter, place each of your sterilized and filled jars into the canner and ensure it is sitting flat on the rack within. Leave space between each of the jars to ensure water continues to circulate between the jars and heats jars evenly.
  • Ensure that there is a minimum of 1 inch of water above the top of your filled jars and if necessary add more hot water to the pot
  • Bring the temperature of the water up to the level required for your recipe and begin timing the water bath.
  • Ensure the temperature maintains at a minimum the temperature outlined in your recipe and increase heat if required.
  • Process for the full amount of time prescribed in the recipe. Do not shorten this time or you may not kill any harmful bacteria present inside your jars
  • When the time is complete, remove the jars from the bath and place on a cooling rack or tea cloth. Never place your hot jars directly onto your countertop or they could shatter.
  • Allow the jars to cool and then store in a cool, dark place.

The basic process for pressure canning using a weighted gauge canner (be sure to read any manufacturer instructions that come with your pressure canner)

  • Place the metal rack that comes with your canner on the bottom of the canner and fill with 2-5 inches of water
  • Place the pressure canner on your stovetop over low heat and bring the temperature to 180F.
  • Using a jar lifter, place each of your sterilized and filled jars into the canner and ensure it is sitting flat on the rack within. Leave space between each of the jars to ensure water continues to circulate between the jars and heats jars evenly.
  • Put the lid on top of your canner and twist into place leaving the weighted gauge off the canner to start
  • Increase your heat to medium-high until steam begins to escape. At this point, set your timer for 10 minutes.
  • After it has steamed for 10 minutes, place your weighted gauge on the steam vent. The gauge you use will be outlined in your recipe. Do not change the weight used
  • After about 4-5 minutes your gauge should show that you have reached the desired pressure. Set your timer for the amount of time outlined in your recipe. Ensure the pressure does not drop throughout the entire process. If it begins to drop, increase your heat.
  • Once the time is complete, turn off the heat. Let the canner cool until the gauge reads zero. DO NOT OPEN BEFORE IT REACHES ZERO AS THERE WILL STILL BE A BUILD UP OF PRESSURE INSIDE THE CANNER AND YOUR LID COULD SHOOT UP
  • Once you have reached zero pressure remove the weighted gauge and allow the steam to escape before opening the lid. Give your jars a few minutes to cool before removing them from the canner
  • remove the jars from the canner and place on a cooling rack or tea cloth. Never place your hot jars directly onto your countertop or they could shatter.

Couple of tips to remember:

- if the pressure drops during the process for less than 5 minutes, increase your heat until pressure has returned to the desired level. Add 10 extra minutes to the time remaining in the process.

- if the pressure drops during the process time for more than 5 minutes, increase your heat until the pressure has returned to the desired level and re-process for the entire time outlined in the recipe.

Tips for the perfect batch of Jam

There is nothing more disappointing than when a jelly doesn’t set or your jam separates or pickles or preserves float or change colour. Don’t take it as a personal failure! There is a lesson hidden in the jar and once you learn what caused this particular batch not to turn out the way you liked, you are one step closer to making the perfect batch the next time.

With that in mind, here are some tips to help you make the perfect batch of jam every time.

Jams, jellies and marmalades are all made from a balanced combination of four ingredients and the correct proportion of each of these in relation to the other is required to achieve the right set.

  •      Fruit
  •      Sugar
  •      Pectin
  •      Acid

Too little sugar, acid or pectin in proportion to the fruit and your jam will remain liquidy

Too much sugar, acid or pectin and your jam will be stiff

Thinking of speeding up the preparation time for your batch of jam? Put that food processor or blender back in the cupboard! Using one of these handy kitchen tools to chop or crush your fruit could lead to some rather disappointing results:

  • The pureed fruit will be filled with air bubbles and this will lead to additional foam during cooking
  • There will be a higher risk to having the fruit float in the jar
  • You will release way more liquid from the fruit this way than if you were to cut or chop by hand.
  • This can upset the balance of the recipe and you can end up with too liquidy a jam
    • To cook off this extra liquid will require extra cooking time and can lead to burning your jar

Always remember not to double recipes to increase yield. They may fail to set and potentially separate as they cool.

Want to make jam with a sugar substitute or with less sugar, purchase a pectin designed specifically for this purpose and follow the directions on the box carefully

Always check the expiration date on the pectin and follow the instructions for its use carefully.

What tips or tricks do you have for the perfect batch of jam every time?

Why you should always check the expiration date on Pectin

Crestfallen…that is how I felt when I woke up this morning.


adjective /ˈkrestˌfôlən/ 

  1. Sad and disappointed
    • - he came back empty-handed and crestfallen


When I walked into the kitchen and picked up the 125ml jar of what was supposed to be Beer Jam but is still simply beer liquid, I felt my heart drop. I knew that the people who attended my Prosecco Jelly (which turned out beautifully) and Beer Jam class last night at The Depanneur would at some point come to the same realization when they checked the jars they brought home last night.

I sat down with a bit of a thunk at my kitchen table, rested my head in my hands and mentally ran through the list of reasons why a jelly doesn’t set so that I could diagnose the situation.

  • Incorrect amount of sugar. I knew that was not the problem as I watched as Vicky meticulously measured the sugar and even got someone to double check the quantity. Sugar was not our problem
  • Not enough acid. We used the juice of 1 lemon as the recipe called for and I watched Gwen squeeze the life out of that lemon. Acid was not our problem.
  • Overripe fruit. There was no fruit in this particular jelly unless you consider Guinness Beer a fruit, so I knew I could cross this one of our list.
  • Not enough pectin. We used the prescribed amount of pectin. Not enough pectin officially crossed off the list.
  •  We cooked the jelly for too long after adding the pectin causing it to break down. We timed it to the second. Argghhh….what was the reason

 Suddenly it came to me in a flash and I ran to my Rubbermaid container with the supplies from the class last night and dug out the box with the pectin used in the beer jelly. EXPIRED.

 KEY LEARNING: Always, always, always check the box for the expiration date before using it.

 The good news for those in the class is that you can still use what is in the jar. It is not a total waste. Just bring it to a gentle simmer in a pan until it begins to thicken up and use it as a syrup or marinade.

 But as anyone who knows me will attest, this really bothers me. For those in my class (and I am going to try to reach you via email) who would like a jar of the Beer Jam that they got to taste at the beginning of the class, just drop me a line. I will whip up a batch and drop some off at The Dep for you to pick up.

I hope that the skills you learned in the class will still prove handy and that you will have the confidence to try this recipe again at home!