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What is Marmalade?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Marmalade is a type of fruit preserve which includes citrus rinds. Most people associate marmalade specifically with citrus fruits, although it can also be made with other fruits like strawberries. This preserve is sweet from fruit and added sugar, with a hint of tartness from the included rinds. It is popular as a spread for breads and as an ingredient in various foods from desserts to roasts. Many markets carry marmalade, especially in the United Kingdom, and it can also be made at home.

The origins of this preserve are quite ancient. The Greeks and Romans, for example, both realized that fruits which were high in pectin could be cooked with honey to form a jellylike preserve and stored in airtight containers for an extended period of time. These preserves literally preserved the fruit for future use. The modern word “marmalade” is believed to be derived from the Portuguese marmalada, a word for quince jam. When marmalade made the transition from quince to citrus is unknown, but by the 17th century, the British were making citrus marmalades, especially with Seville oranges from Spain.

The ingredients in a true marmalade are simply the fruit, orange rind, sugar, and water. In some cases, pectin will be added to encourage the marmalade to set, when the fruit is not naturally high in it. The rinds are cooked first to soften them before the fruit and sugar are added, and then the preserve is ladled into sterilized jars, dunked in a boiling water bath, and allowed to rest for several days before use. It can keep for up to 18 months in cool, dry conditions, although most people prefer to use their marmalade within a year.

Typically, marmalade is clear in color, and it has a chunky texture from the pieces of included rind. It is almost like a jelly, although it has a slightly thicker spreading texture. In addition to being served on toast and scones, marmalade can be layered in cakes and mixed into other dishes. It is also used in marinades and sauces in some regions of the world.

Orange marmalade remains the quintessential marmalade, although it is perfectly acceptable to use lemons and other citrus fruits as well. Some people prefer to use candied orange peel, since it is sweeter, and others add ginger, cinnamon, cloves, or other spices to their marmalades. Strictly speaking, these preserves are no longer considered marmalade because of the added or substituted ingredients.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By manykitties2 — On Jul 11, 2011

If you are wondering about marmalade there are oodles of recipes online for you to try out. What is great about the online recipes is that they are not only free but they are also reviewed by others so you can really get an idea of what the recipe will be like when finished.

I used to love buying cookbooks, but after having a lot of recipes turn our poorly I started to look for sites that offered user ratings and reviews.

One of my favorite marmalades is made with blood oranges and not only is it easy to make, but it looks gorgeous when finished. It's such a lovely color. I suggest searching for a good recipe yourself and trying it out.

By lighth0se33 — On Jul 11, 2011

My grandmother gave me her grapefruit marmalade recipe because I hate the taste of raw grapefruit. I love the marmalade, though.

Using one to three ruby red grapefruit and one lemon, I remove the peel by slicing them into quarters and pulling out the fruit. Then, I remove the seeds and membrane.

I slice the rinds thin and bring them to a boil. Then, I reduce the heat and simmer them for 20 minutes. I add the fruit and simmer 10 minutes more. I add three cups of sugar and then boil it for one minute. After that, I stir in the pectin right away and skim off the foam. Finally, I ladle the marmalade into sterilized, hot jars and seal them.

By letshearit — On Jul 10, 2011

If you are looking for a really tasty and healthy snack, having some whole grain toast with marmalade on it alongside your favorite fruit can make a fantastic breakfast.

I used to love having peanut butter on my morning toast, but once I moved in with a friend who suffers from a nut allergy that option was out.

If you have the chance I would recommend trying apricot marmalade for a bit of a change from the regular orange marmalade you usually see in stores. It has a very unique flavor worth trying. I find it tangy, but sweet enough to really be satisfying.

By seag47 — On Jul 10, 2011

I prefer the sharp taste of tangerines to oranges, so I found a tangerine marmalade recipe. You need ten to twelve tangerines, seven cups of sugar, and a pouch of liquid fruit pectin.

You peel the tangerines but keep the peel. Then, you cut up the fruit over a bowl, keeping the juice but removing the membrane and seeds. Scrape the white off of the peel and cut the rind into thin strips.

Then, you boil the pulp, peel, juice, and sugar. Next, you stir the pectin in and boil for one minute while stirring. Take it off of the stove and skim off the foam.

Immediately pour the mixture into sterilized, hot canning jars, leaving one-half inch space. Put the lids on and place the jars in boiling water for five minutes. Then, place the jars on cooling racks for two hours. After two hours, turn them upside down and cool for 2 more hours. Turn them upright after that. The marmalade can take up to two weeks to fully set.

By OeKc05 — On Jul 09, 2011

Sadly, even though I love orange marmalade, I am not allowed to eat it. At least, not for the next few years.

I am currently involved in a clinical study for a drug to treat polycystic kidney disease. This drug is called Tolvaptan, and its effectiveness can be altered by certain other drugs or foods, and grapefruit and Seville oranges are among the list of forbidden fruits.

My mother got a jar of orange marmalade for Christmas, and it looked so good! She offered me some, and I had to decline. I miss that perfect mixture of sweetness and tartness.

By StarJo — On Jul 09, 2011

I made some strawberry marmalade from garden grown berries one summer. You can't beat the taste of fresh berries, and they made the marmalade excellent. I used packaged pectin to make mine, because I had never made it before, and I had a recipe to follow.

Although I love it on toast, my favorite use for strawberry marmalade is as a topping for peanut butter bars. These have a consistency that lies somewhere between brownies and peanut butter cookies, and though they taste perfectly fine on their own, they are out of this world when topped with the marmalade.

By Penzance356 — On Jul 08, 2011

My grandmother loved imported lime marmalade on her toast, which was her staple breakfast except for Christmas when she made a cooked meal.

As a child I hated the stuff, but nowadays I'm a keen preserver and make a mean fruit marmalade from scratch. My kids turn up their noses at it, just as I did, which makes me wonder if it's something better suited to an adult palate.

By serenesurface — On Jul 08, 2011

@fify-- I don't add pectin to my strawberry marmalade, but if you want a very firm result, you can include it. It might be good if you are going to use it only for cake.

Make sure you use ripe strawberries. It's best if you have fresh organic ones and in the right season. Clean the strawberries and cook it on the stove with sugar making sure the sugar melts. Don't add any water but add the juice of one lemon and cook for a couple of more minutes. The lemon helps it set, prevents the sugar from crystallizing and adds a bit of tartness.

I check to see if the marmalade is ready by putting some in a plate and tipping it to the right and left. If the marmalade doesn't run, it means it's thick enough to take off heat.

By fify — On Jul 07, 2011

It sounds tasty! My mom is the best preserve maker I know. She makes the best, the sweetest strawberry jam ever. I'm going to ask her to make a strawberry marmalade to use for cake.

Any specific tips for making strawberry marmalade? Should she include pectin?

By starrynight — On Jul 07, 2011

@strawCake - Yes, there are a ton of different kinds of fruit preserves. Off the top of my head I can think of jam, fruit butter, chutney and of course jelly and preserves. It's hard to keep them all straight!

Apple butter is my personal favorite. I have an aunt that makes homemade apple butter and then sends it to the family for special occasions. It is delicious and so much better than store bought.

By burcinc — On Jul 06, 2011

It's good to know more about marmalade. I've always wondered what the differences between marmalade and jam are. They both appear the same in the jar, but marmalade seems to be more jelly like where jam is more syrupy. The marmalades I've tasted are oranges and clementine.

I have always loved having jam for breakfast and decided to try marmalade when I saw it at an international grocery store. It tasted pretty distinct from jam. It seemed to be less sweet and more jelly-like, as I said. I don't know if that's the case with all fruits and brands though.

I do love quince jam and it would be great to try quince marmalade. I had no idea that marmalade used to mean quince marmalade.

By strawCake — On Jul 06, 2011

I just love orange marmalade! Until today I had no idea marmalade was any different then jelly though. I thought marmalade was just a fancy name for jelly, you know, British or something like that.

But it turns out marmalade and jelly are made two different ways. Like the article says, marmalade is made using fruit and citrus rinds. I know jelly is normally made from fruit juice. So I guess therein lies the difference.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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