In today’s blog post I’ll guide you through my tried and tested tips on how to set marmalade every time – including the reaching the right temperature, testing your marmalade and knowing how to thicken your marmalade if the marmalade is too runny.
Achieving the perfect marmalade set is probably the most frustrating thing about marmalade making. I’ve been making marmalade and jam for over 30 years now, so I’ve had my fair share of marmalade not seting properly or batches of jam going wrong.
The good thing is that there is a solution to runny marmalade and in this blog post I’m going to share with you all my tips on how to set marmalade every time (and what to do if the marmalade doesn’t set).
So, here are my answers to questions you impatiently waiting to know.
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What is the temperature setting point for marmalade?
105-110C (or 221 F – 230 F)
This is a ‘range’ because every kitchen environment is very different and the setting point depends partly on the humidity in the room.
The higher the humidity the higher the temperature needs to be for the marmalade to set. To control humidity, open the window, switch on a fan or put the heating on, depending on the season.
How long to boil the marmalade before it sets
Once you add the sugar, leave to dissolve it properly you’ll start to boil the marmalade to reach rapid rolling boil (this is the point when the marmalade is constantly bubbling and the boiling mixture rolls back on its self on the sides of the marmalade pan.
This can take about 8-10 minutes for most recipes, but it could be up to 15 minutes. Once the temperature reaches the 105-110 C (or 221 F – 230 F), switch the heat off and remove the pot from the heat.
Test the marmalade (see the wrinkle test). If the wrinkle test is not satisfactory (e.g. the marmalade is still runny), bring the marmalade to boil again and this time boil only for extra 5 minutes (from the point of boiling). Re-test and re-boil if necessary.
My marmalade won’t reach the setting point
Not to worry, just carry on boiling the marmalade mixture on medium heat until it does.
Depending on the original volume of liquid, the amount of pectin in your marmalade (which is not something you can see), the type of sugar you are using and humidity in your kitchen, the time that it takes for the marmalade to reach the set point can vary from the recipe that you are using.
Just don’t panic and keep boiling the marmalade, stirring occasionally.
Make sure you have a large saucepan or wide stockpot. The large the surface of the marmalade liquid the quicker the water evaporates, which means that the setpoint is reached quicker.
Another thing to bear in mind, is not to keep stirring the marmalade once the sugar is added as it will cool the marmalade and the set point will be difficult to reach – just stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
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How do I set my marmalade?
Making sure the marmalade reaches the right temperature
First of all the marmalade first need to reach about 105C. It’s always very quick to reach about 100C (which is the boiling point for water and most liquids), but it surprising takes quite some time to reach that extra few degrees.
Making sure the liquid is the right volume
The volume of liquid (before you add sugar and start boiling all the mixture) should be about 2x the amount of the original weight of your fruit.
If you follow your recipe, you would have already measured your liquid as you go, but sometimes you might have less or more, so it’s always worth measuring your liquid before you start boiling.
Always do the wrinkle test
Always do the wrinkle test after your marmalade reached the setting point. Turn off the heat, add a spoonful to a cold plate (make sure a stack of plates is available in the fridge for you to use as you test your marmalade) and leave it to set for 5 minutes in the fridge.
If the mixture sets and when you run your finger over the surface it crinkles and it feels slightly hard, you are on to a winner! You know that the rest of the marmalade will set too and you are ready to pot your marmalade up.
If not, don’t worry, just bring the marmalade back to boil and boil for another 5 minutes. Test again.
How to fix marmalade that didn’t set
Wait 24-48 hrs first
First of all you need to be absolutely sure that your marmalade is not going to set. Citrus marmalade c can take up to 24-48 hours to set properly. This is because pectin can take that long to develop firm set.
Reboil your marmalade
If after 48 hrs your marmalade is still very runny, here is what to do: Open all your jars up again and pour into large stock pot. Start heating the pot on medium heat and bring to boil and then gradually back to the marmalade setting point (105C).
Add extra pectin (optional)
For a greater set, you can whisk in one tablespoon of powdered pectin as your marmalade heats up. Once you reach the setting point, test your marmalade again. If you are still not achieving the right set, add more powdered pectin (1 extra teaspoon at the time), re-boil and test again.
Make sure you are using wide large pan (rather than tall slim pot). The large the pot, the wider the area of the marmalade mixture, which helps with boiling down and reducing (evaporating) the marmalade to perfect thick texture.
You can re-boil and re-set your marmalade at any point, even if you’ve originally made the marmalade few days ago (as long as your jars were sealed properly)
If you don’t have powdered pectin, you can also use a liquid one (just make sure you measure the amount correctly) or add a fresh lemon juice.
Bake/dry out your marmalade mixture
There is another way of re-making runny marmalade. Instead of thickening the marmalade by re-boiling it, pour the marmalade to a large baking tray and place in the oven on low heat (about 100C) for an hour or two.
This will help to evaporate some of the moisture from the marmalade, concentrate the flavour and reduce the volume without re-cooking.
This works brilliantly with more delicate types of marmalade, like tangerine marmalade, where you want to make sure that the marmalade is nicely translucent even after the re-boil.
How long does marmalade take to set?
Marmalade can take up to 24-48 hrs to set. This is the length of time that it takes for the pectin to fully develop and set. Sometimes it can take up to a few weeks to achieve the perfect set.
I once had a batch of marmalade which didn’t set and as I didn’t have the time to re-boil the whole mixture, I’ve left it for few weeks.
When I finally got around to sorting out the marmalade, I found it perfectly set! The mystery of pectin, still puzzles me… If you are not sure whether your marmalade has set, wait 48 hrs before you re-make or re-boil your marmalade.
Do I need to add lemon juice to my marmalade?
Most recipes call for lemon juice (which is sometimes referred to as citric acid), which is added to help with setting the marmalade.
Fresh lemon juice is perfectly fine to use, but if you have bottled lemon juice (commercially produced) use it. This is because the pectin levels in lemons vary, but commercially produced lemon juice has the same level of pectin, which means you get the same results every time.
What type of sugar do I need to set my marmalade?
Citrus fruit is naturally high in pectin, which means that normally there is no need to add extra pectin. Most of the time I use just ordinary granulated sugar. But you can also buy preserving sugar, which has much large sugar crystals and it’s specially formulated with added pectin to ensure a perfect set.
The level of pectin in each batch of fruit (or each fruit) can vary, so if you are completely new to marmalade making, try the preserving sugar (you can normally find it in large supermarkets in the same place as normal sugar).
It’s slightly more expensive than normal sugar, but you should achieve perfect set every time. It’s also worth noting, that Seville Oranges are the highest in pectin, whereas sweet orange or tangerines are in comparison lower in pectin.
Oh, an another thing….Don’t be tempted to use less sugar than the recipe indicates (this is usually double the quantity of the original weight of your citrus fruit. The volume of sugar is absolutely necessary to ensure a perfect set. If you add in less you’ll have problems with setting your marmalade.
How to thicken marmalade without pectin
As I explained above, citrus fruit does contain natural pectin, which means that most marmalade recipe don’t include extra pectin as an ingredient.
To thicken marmalade without pectin, just carry on boiling (or re-boiling) your marmalade on medium heat, until it thickens more (as the water evaporates), test it with the marmalade wrinkle test and pot when the wrinkle test is firm enough.
If you want to speed up the process a little and don’t want to, or don’t have pectin, you can add more lemon juice.
Which fruits are best for good marmalade set?
If you are worried that your marmalade won’t set properly and you don’t want to use added pectin, you can also start with the fruits that are naturally higher in pectin.
Marmalade should be only referred to as conserve made from citrus fruit, so this is what I’ll be focusing on in this answer. As a rule of thumb, the thicker the skin the more natural pectin the citrus fruit has.
All citrus fruit has a much highter content of natural pectin than other non-citrus fruits. However there are some citrus fruits that are slightly higher in natural pectin than others.
You can use any citrus fruits to make traditional marmalade, mainly Seville oranges or Seville Oranges substitutes. To make sure the marmalade sets well a lot of recipes include one lemon or lime with the main citrus ingredient.
HIGH NATURAL PECTIN CITRUS FRUIT
- Seville Oranges
- Grapefruits – white, pink or ruby
- Sweet Oranges
- Blood Oranges
- Lemon or Meyer Lemon
MEDIUM NATURAL PECTIN CITRUS FRUIT
- Key Lime
What should be the consistency of marmalade?
Just before you pour your marmalade into your jam jars (after it’s been boiling and you’ve successfully tested it with the wrinkle test) the consistency should be as a thicker sauce, but still fairly runny.
It should pour easily and it shouldn’t be too thick, so that it sets on the spoon or a funnel immediately. If that happens then you’ve ended up with the opposite problem and your marmalade is a little too thick. The thickness can be easily solved with adding more juice or even water into your marmalade.
How much pectin to use in marmalade
If you are using a good quality citrus fruits and you are following the traditional method of either soaking the fruit peel and the pith overnight or using the all in one method by boiling the whole fruit, you shouldn’t need to use pectin at all.
If your marmalade is not setting as well you’d hoped, start with one tablespoon of powdered or liquid pectin to start with – 1 tablespoon for each 500 grams – 2 pounds of fruit recipe size.
What happens if marmalade doesn’t set
If your marmalade doesn’t set you have a couple of choices here. You can either re-boil the marmalade (see my instructions above) or you can use the marmalade in it’s runny form.
The marmalade is perfectly fine, edible and can be used in many ways in your daily cooking, baking and eating even if it’s not perfectly set. Marmalade is good for us, so whether it’s runny or not, we can easily use it as a cooking ingredient in the kitchen.
Runny marmalade can be still used as a spread for toast, pancakes or topping for porridge, oatmeal or smoothie bowl.
You can also use it for baking. I regularly make Orange Marmalade Pancakes, Orange Brownies and Marmalade Fruit Cake recipes, where I use a dollops of marmalade in the cake batter. It doesn’t matter that the marmalade is runny as I adjust the amount of liquid (by say a couple of tablespoons) I add to the recipe to compensate for the runny marmalade.
You could also use is as base for making citrus fruit curds and use the runny marmalade instead of fresh orange, lime or lemon (you can follow my Lime Curd Recipe for that, if you like).
Runny marmalade is also perfect for making sweet fruity glazes for roasting meat or making savoury sauces with game or roasted meat.
You can also use the runny marmalade as a sweetener in making hot or iced teas, herbal or green teas (you can use a sieve to get rid of any rind or peel if you want to).
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This recipe was originally written on 10 January 2018 and last updated on 21 November 2022