*&%$#@!!! Marmalade!

May 22, 2006

After the "Key Lime Rubber Marmalade" and "The Most Bitter Key Lime Marlade Ever Invented" fiasco of last year, I decided to give it another try with a big bag of fresh Naval oranges from a friend's tree.

So we zested the oranges, peeled them, and diced the pulp. I let the pulp, zest, and water sit in a cool spot for about 10 hours after the initial simmer. Brought it back to a boil, added the sugar, brought back to another boil, and even added a pouch of liquid pectin for good measure. The house smelled great!!

Next morning, it didn't set! So I uncapped all the jars, poured them back in a pot, and reprocessed; this time with a packet of powdered pectin. The @#$%#$ things STILL didn't set!!!

So now I have 11 half pints of orange syrup! What am I doing wrong with this stuff?? Marmalade is the only canning item I haven't figured out and it annoys the heck out of me after all that work! (pouting)

Comments (42)

  • annie1992

    Gardengrl, don't give up yet. Let it sit for a while. That batch of grapefruit marmalade I made a couple years ago took nearly a week to set.

    Marmalade is a notoriously slow setter, so there's hope yet. Just leave it where it is and see if it jells.

    If it doesn't, it makes a great glaze for pound cake but I'm betting it's going to set.


  • readinglady

    Love your heading gardengrl! Don't we all feel that sometimes.

    I'm with Annie. You can't trust the fact that it wasn't set by the next morning. It can take up to 6 weeks to get a good set with marmalade, so unlike other preserves, what you see in 24 hours is irrelevant.

    If anything takes patience, marmalade is it.


  • ksrogers

    Yes, I agree with Annie, it can take a month or more to actually set up. Zesting and such isn't really ncessary. Just squeeze out the juice and thin slice the peels after removing the inner membrains. I also add some orange juice concentrate to increase the flavor. About the ONLY pectin that will set up fairly quickly with citrus based jams is the Pomona type. Because its made from citrus, it works very well and allows you to have as little, or as much sugar as you wish. It doesn't gel with sugar, as it uses calcium instead. If you have rubbery jelly or sour jelly, these can also be redone by adding some sugar, water, juice, or whatever you need to make them palletable again. Just avoid the use of sugar gelling type pectins.

  • gardengrl

    It is thickening a little, or could that be my imagination? I can't tell. I look at the jars each morning and sigh.

    I think I need a vacation. How many more weeks till Canny Camp??

    grumble...grumble...patience grasshoppah.

  • jessay3

    LOL! It does take it a long time to set. I made orange marmalade almost a month ago and it has finally set!


  • annie1992

    gardengrl, only a couple of months until Canny Camp. I'll see you there!

    Maybe your marmalade will be set by then. LOL


  • jessyf

    I got my airline tickets and room reservations heee heee better watch out for me (Annie you CAN'T stop me)

  • annie1992

    Jessica, I have no intention of trying to stop you. However, I am stocking up on liquor before I come, I figure I can lie about drunk for at least 3 days. (grin)


  • northcountrygirl

    What's canny camp? Sounds good!

  • annie1992

    northcountrygirl, Canny Camp is actually a Cooking Forum get together here in Michigan in August. Several of us are regular posters to both forums and some Cooking members expressed an interest in learning to can. One of the members has a large kitchen and volunteered to let us use it, with the restriction that we could have no more than 12 participants. Those spots filled up fast!

    KatieC, Wizardnm and myself have been "volunteered" as instructors to teach basic canning. There are other activities planned including a side trip to Penzey's Spices and a tour of a local cheese factory. I believe that additional members are going to attend some side trips and meals, just to meet each other.


  • renee_cook

    I just ruined several lemons from my tree and lots of sugar. I don't think I want to try this again.

  • readinglady

    Maybe we can help. When you say, "ruined," do you mean it didn't set or some other problem? It's possible your marmalade can be salvaged.


  • tuiallen

    Yay! re-assurance. I Googled you because my marmalade didn't set. It is marmalade season here in New-Zealand as it is winter (or very early spring) and all the trees are covered in fruit now. I just made marmalade the same way I always do using grapefruit, lemons and oranges from the trees I planted myself. I picked them on a fine day, cut them up and soaked overnight, then boiled the next day for 20 minutes and on the third day I boiled it again for about half an hour and then added the sugar and boiled until the setting point was reached. Then I bottled it up in sterilised jars. This works every time and I never use pectin or whatever stuff you are all using. My only ingredients are the fruit, the sugar and the water. I just slice the fruit very finely and never remove anything from it except the pips. In the morning, when I checked, for the first time ever - it hadn't set! but now having read this thread I won't panic just yet. This is my first visit to this site so not sure why you ask for a link but I've given you my own site as a link - the only relevant thing about it is that in the picture of me on the home page, every tree you can see behind me was planted by me on our property - there were no trees when we moved to the property here 6 years ago, but now there are heaps and lots of them are fruit trees. It is so wonderful to be hardly ever have to buy fruit now as we have it year round from our own property.

    Here is a link that might be useful: My own website called Tuiscope

  • rachelellen

    My first attempt at marmalade was with Meyer lemons from a large tree where I lived at the time. It never set. It did make a nice syrup to soak lemon bread in, though.

    I have never had that problem since, and as far as I can tell, I have done nothing differently. I guess those lemons were just plain ornery.

    However, homemade marmalade (or at least mine) always has more of a bitter edge than store bought...since I like it that way, I've never investigated how to lessen the bitterness. I've read that the pith is what causes the bitter flavor, but gardengrl says she made bitter key lime marmalade and any key limes I've bought have almost no pith. So I wonder what it is that lends the bitterness?

    By the way, I am hoarding my batch of key lime marmalade because I love it, but it's such a pain in the patootie to slice and remove seeds from all those itty, bitty limes that I don't gift it with anywhere near the generosity I do other canned goods! MINE! :D

  • readinglady

    Tui, welcome to the forum. We hope you visit many times. The link is optional. It's an easy way for members to post a link when/if they reference another site.

    Some here do use commercial pectin, but lots of us make traditional preserves without it, just as you describe.

    Rachelellen, I'm chuckling. Right now I have a batch of salsa in the canner, some pints and some 12-oz. jars. I told Annie I have "pint friends" and "12-oz. friends." Salsa's a lot of work, so unless I rea-a-a-lly am fond of someone, I give away the smaller jars!


  • bigfoot839

    strange but you folks have opened my eyes to somthing i have been missing for a long time instead of going out at christmas and buying store bought gifts why don't i give canned good as i have seen so many peep here saying they give gifts of their canned goods. hmmmmmm. yes i am against all the commercializing of the holidays

  • readinglady

    This may be a topic for another thread, but I know I'm not alone in giving homemade gifts. Usually I try to vary depending upon the person and their preferences.

    I've given: Bone-shaped tins of homemade dog biscuits, a selection of homemade mustards, a salsa basket with salsa and tortilla chips, a sundae basket with ice cream toppings, a pasta basket with homemade spaghetti sauce, pasta and a wedge of Parmesan.

    The possibilities are endless. Except for the little'uns we don't generally give purchased gifts. The past two years we took the money we'd normally spend and donated it. Year #1 to the local animal shelter, Year #2 to Heifer International.


  • bigfoot839

    hmmmmmmmmm i would really like to know more about the homade mustards and the spaghetti sauce you make i have one but it uses that ball mix lol can't be as good as yours

  • lynn_1965

    Carol, I'm also interested in the homemade mustards. Sounds good! I kind of lean towards hot mustards.


  • kayskats

    what I'm wondering is: Did gardengirls marmalade ever set?

  • readinglady

    Hi Lynn,

    Why don't you start a new thread on mustards? I have some recipes I can post and I'm sure others do too.

    Also the new Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has some mustard recipes and info on canning them.

    I started giving mustards as gifts for diabetic friends. Candy at Christmas wasn't any favor. The guys, especially, love the mustards.


  • ckknh

    Just thought I'd chime in with my own marmalade tale. I made some orange last winter - didn't set. I put it down in the cellar after canning, took it out a few days ago after months of storage to use in some strudel, and lo-and-behold - it was gelled! I was really shocked. Tasted good, too.

    I never seem to have trouble with Apricot marmalade, but always seem to have trouble with orange.

  • leanne76

    i realize this topic is rather old, but it was very helpful to me! i'm new to all this and canning and made glorious pickles, so i tried my hand at the orange marmelade.
    ......... is all i have to say. it took forever (which i don't mind because i take pride in doing things like this). processed the filled jars and still this morning; not set. So in reading this there is hope! thanks!

  • kanningkat

    Made my first Orange Marmalade yesterday morning and have spent much of today very down that I worked so hard and it didn't set! A google search led me here. Thank you all so much for some very valuable information that frankly the Ball book should mention.

  • tracydr

    I'm wondering what the tastiest marmalade wold be for my marmalade hating family. They've only tried smackers so have never had a good one.
    I'm going to make some this winter with our Meyer lemons but right now was thing maybe clementines and peaches or something? Suggestions?

  • cabrita

    I make mine out of a mix from whatever is producing and we have in excess. For us this is a mix of Meyers lemons, Eureka lemons, some type of juice orange (don't know variety name), minneolas, and grapefruits. We also have Washington navel oranges and Dancy tangerines trees, but we never seem to have an excess of those, no matter how many we get ;-)

  • tracydr

    Thanks, Cabrita! I bought some really sweet limes and juicing oranges very cheap today at the market. Tonight I will give it a try. I'm going to try not using the bitter membranes except in a cheesecloth, wiill peel the outer zest thinly.
    I can hardly wait to see what this tastes like!

  • kelbella_mcn_org

    Tripping onto this page was a godsend! Here I am, the morning after my 1st marmalade attempt, and I was so bummed to see liquid in my jars. Especially since the marmalade residue in the bottom of the pot firmed up quite well by the time I finished filling the jars last night! Thank goodness I didn't have any immediate plans to gift them. But I can't get over how NONE of the recipes I read mentioned that extended storage may be necessary for marmalade to set. Since most jams set up within two days - having to wait a few weeks IS notable. I'm so relieved that I didn't go with my first instinct of dumping them all out! Much thanks to all for the tips and support!

  • jimmoore89_msn_com

    I'm a first timer. This is great! I'm going to buy a new (accurate) thermometer , reheat my runny marmalade and reset my patience clock.
    We're in our early 80's and go to a fair amount of social events. Our friends look forward to a medium size jar of our marmalade or red raspberry jam. So much better than a bottle of indifferent wine.

  • colleenoz

    I tried a new recipe for lime marmalade which recommended slicing and boiling the limes in the full amount of water until soft, then leaving it to stand overnight before bringing back to the boil and adding the sugar. The extra step was supposed to remove any bitterness. It certainly seemed to work as the marmalade is delicious!

  • GingerGarden

    I know this is an old post, but I joined Garden Web because it looks like a good place for a canner to be. I just made grapefruit jam and mandarin orange jam, as well as mandarin and lime marmalade. The marmalade is like a thick syrup now. I made some lemon marmalade last year with meyer lemons from my tree, and it didn't set for about a month. I kept checking the jars. getting more and more depressed, until one day I picked up a jar and when I turned it, the marmalade stayed where it was!! After canning this batch of mandarin and lime marmalade, I took to the interwebs when it didn't set and came upon this site and all you lovely people. I didn't know if marmalade took a long time to set as a matter of course, but glad to know that you all have been experiencing my pain. Also? Love the thread name.

  • pqtex

    I'm also careful to resist the temptation to turn over the jars of jams, jellies, or marmalades to check the set, at least for a couple of weeks. I think that can break a set that isn't quite there yet. Be patient! :-)

  • gardengrl

    LOL! This post brings back memories! Well, that original batch that I named "Maybe Orange Marmalade" never set, but it did make FABULOUS syrup to add to asian sauces, cakes, pancakes, etc. I was "Marmalade Challenged" for a long time.

    Since then, I am very proud to say that I have broken the code and have found a perfect recipe that I now use every time without fail.

    This marmalade recipe can be mixed up fruit-wise for whatever citrus you like. Use the same total amount of citrus called for in the recipe.

    Enjoy everyone!

    No Fail Orange Marmalade
    (makes 7-8 half pints)

    *4 med oranges
    *2 large lemons
    8 cups water
    8 cups sugar

    *Note: For Meyer Lemon Marmalade, I used about 5 extra large lemons total (or use 10 regular size). Follow the same directions for processing as listed below.

    Cut each orange and lemon in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut the oranges and lemons into very thin slices. You could probably use a mandoline, but I�ve never had much success with mine using citrus. Place the citrus slices and any reserved juices into a large stockpot.

    Add the water and bring to a boil, stirring often. Remove from heat and add the sugar; stir until the sugar is dissolved. Place a lid on your pot and let the orange mixture sit at room temperature for 24 hours.

    After 24 hours, bring orange mixture back to a boil, then lower temperature to a steady simmer. Simmer orange mixture for 2 hours, stirring often. After 2 hours, bring heat back up to medium-high and boil for 30 minutes to gel stage (220 degrees). The orange mixture should have a dark golden orange color. Ladle hot orange mixture into prepared canning jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

  • humboldtdeepher

    Hi everyone,

    I'm new here, but saw your post about marmalade not setting. I have a question of my own. I made two types of kumquat marmalade and neither is setting... both have pectin in them too! I'm so nervous. I entered them into a local county fair and they have to be dropped off on week away!!! I don't have time to let them sit for 6 weeks to firm up. Any way I can reboil and add more pectin or something? .... I am thinking of just making a new batch too. I have enough kumquats left to re-do one batch and add more pectin to it. Please advise me. I'm running out of time.

    On another note, the fair requires that I submit an 8oz jar. I have another jam (blueberry key lime) that turned out perfect but I only have them in 4oz jars. Can I open two and put them into one 8oz jar and reprocess them without boiling it again? If I have to boil it again, will I jeopardize the jel and need to add more sugar, lemon juice and pectin? What do I do?


  • gardengrl


    Hmmmm....that's a tough spot to be in. In my opinion I would redo both batches only because one, you can't guarantee the kumquat jam will set with more pectin and processing and you take a chance of overdoing it and ending up with kumquat rubber. Two, I think if you reprocessed the blueberry into one jar, there would be a chance that the jam may not look like a consistent batch, which will cost you points at the judge's stand. I've never reheated and reprocessed a jam that has set up, so I don't know if reheating the blueberry would break the jell.

  • humboldtdeepher

    Poo... lol. I guess I'll redo both. I really don't need a bazillion jars of blueberry key lime, but I suppose its worth it for the fair in the event I take a title.

    Thanks for your input!

  • darnidle

    I also just attempted my first marmalade and it didn't set! I thought I would have to accept it as a failure until I read this blog. I'm surprised to see so many people saying they boiled the hell out of their's, as I read that the pectin can be destroyed if boiled for too long, does anyone have any opinion/knowledge on this? I also read that you can add the juice of a lemon and try boiling again, using the fresh pectin I presume.

    I used rapadura instead of sugar, has anyone tried this? I'm wondering if it would affect it setting. It made a very dark marmalade with rich molasses type flavour, so I added some whisky and decided to make it a xmas special :)

  • malna

    I've used some piloncillo in marmalade (similar to rapadura I think?). I love the flavor with oranges. It didn't affect the set at all - I honestly don't have much trouble getting marmalade to set if I use the recipe below, but it may take a week or two or three to really firm up :-)

    I go by proportions of fruit to sugar, so FWIW, here's how I make marmalade.

    Calamondin oranges (works for key limes as well - I just happen to have those two as "house plants" for free fruit) I would think this would work for any type of citrus.

    1. Cut oranges/limes in half and squeeze juice and seeds into a glass container. Most of the seeds will pop right out but some will cling to rinds. Pick them out before chopping.
    2. Chop or slice the rinds into the size you want.
    3. Combine the chopped rind and strained juice. Measure and add an equal amount of water. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, then cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
    4. Simmer covered for one hour.
    5. Measure again and add an equal amount of sugar. The one time I used piloncillo, I *think* I added 1/2 piloncillo and 1/2 regular white sugar (didn't write down exactly how much I used).
    6. Boil rapidly to jelly stage (about 220ðF). Stir occasionally.
    7. Pour into sterilized canning jars (I use 4 ounce jelly jars), seal and process in a hot water canning bath for 5 minutes (10 minutes if you don't sterilize the jars first).

    I measure the juice and add an equal amount of water, then simmer, etc. and measure again to determine how much sugar to add. I've never had good luck with marmalade recipes that say to add a specific amount of water, sugar, etc. because some fruits are juicier or drier than others.

    Hope that helps.

  • 11ebayer

    Here is my Meyer Lemon Marmalade recipe....It ALWAYS sets.

    • 3 pounds of Meyer Lemon - I weigh mine
    • 8 cups of water
    • 8 cups of sugar

    Cut each lemon in half. Juice the lemons with a juicer (works fast and catches 99% of the seeds.

    I take a cheese cloth and put in a cereal size bowl, throw in seeds. I take the lemons and cut off both ends, I toss the stem end and put the butt end in with the seeds. I then scrape out the membrane of the lemon, it peels quite easily. Toss that in with the seeds and the tie up cheese cloth tightly so the seeds don't escape.

    Slice the peels into 1/8" strips.

    Add all the lemon juice, 8 cups of water, cheese cloth, and sliced peel into a large pot. Bring to a boil and boil for exactly 15 minutes. Remove cheese cloth. I put in freezer to cool quickly. Once it is cool, squeeze as much of the milky substance as you can into the boiling lemons....this will addd pectin and make your marmalade set.

    Add sugar to boiling mixture. Bring to a boil and boil for 30-35 minutes. Remove frome heat and pour into sterilized jars. Makes 11 half pints.

  • lucienalta

    Oh golly, After looking through several recipes I finally tried my hand at canning 10 eight ounce jars of orange marmalade. It hadn't set by the next morning. On no! What to do" Check the Internet on how to save your jelly, reprocess according to instructions. Oh no! Next day, still not set!!! Check the Internet on how long for canned marmalade to set? What maybe as long as six weeks? Why, why, why is there no mention of this anywhere in any of the recipes I researched. Holding my breath for six weeks, hoping I wind up with something other than syrup...

  • morz8

    Good luck to you, and let us know if in January you have marmalade, or tasty orange sauce ;0)

  • annie1992

    Orange sauce is still good, my youngest daughter liked a puddle of marmalade on her plate, so she could dunk every bite of toast. It's also an awesome chicken or pork glaze.


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