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Bitter orange marmalade, and nothing else

If it is true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, it is also true that we must be careful to take the right path, avoiding the troubled track full of bends, up and downs and breathtaking cliffs. Everyone loves an adventurous journey, though getting car sick is not always necessary.

I’ve always been known as a girl with a deep love for the ‘and‘. A delicate crostata filled with custard with cinnamon and bitter almond aroma, a steaming cup of black tea with lemon zest and vanilla, a fragrant pie with sun-dried tomatoes and black olives. Sometimes you need to play with flavour matches, it is the dish which calls for it, but often I end up adding unnecessary complications, which weaken rather than enhance the appreciation of a recipe.

Bitter orange marmalade

The most striking example are preserves. The label on my jars is often too small to contain all the ingredients that I used: pumpkin jam with vanilla and almonds, apricot and cardamom jam , peach and rhubarb jam (one of my most colossal flops, after a short cooking it turned out of a dull green color…). And I was so proud of it!

Imagine the scene: a quiet kitchen on a Sunday morning, autumn light, sleepy eyes and huge smile when I present my jam, ‘this is homemade with my very hands, can you see it? the fruit bought at the market, raw cane sugar, an handwritten label‘… then I began to list all the ingredients and I almost lost his attention. He asked: what about a simple jam, as they used to make years ago? There were blackberry, peach, apricot jams…

Bitter orange marmalade

True, they had a unique and evocative name, immediate in bringing back to mind the penetrating scent of peaches that gets into your nostrils while you peel them off in the shade, in a sleepy afternoon of a late Tuscan August, chasing the buzzing wasps away and lustfully eating syrupy slices of peach.

So I searched for the marmalade I made last year at the end of the bitter oranges season, a few jars hidden in the bottom of the pantry because they had nothing special to me, no extra ingredients added to make them unique. To be honest I had also forgotten the jam on the stove and it was a little bit overcooked, a thick caramel coloured gelatine. I showed him the jar dubiously and something magic happened! The marmalade was halved in no time, spread generously on slices of toasted bread. He finally asked: What kind of  jam was that? and I said, proudly:  bitter orange marmalade, and nothing else.

Well, this year you have to make again a few jars of  bitter orange marmalade and nothing else.

Bitter orange marmalade

Bitter orange marmalade

So here we are, the season is ripe for the bitter oranges, and I found a good recipe to follow with just a few changes, the Seville orange marmalade from Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2.

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5 from 5 votes

Bitter orange marmalade

Course marmalade, Preserve
Cuisine Italian
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cook time: 2 hours
Total time: 3 hours
Serves 12 jars (250 ml each)
Author Giulia


  • 1,8 kg of bitter oranges, preferably organic or unwaxed
  • 2 l of water
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 kg of raw cane sugar


  • Rinse the oranges under running water. Cut them in a half and squeeze the juice, then collect it in a jar. Remove any white skin remained inside the oranges and cut the zest into thin strips. Put the zests in a large bowl and pur in the orange juice. I got 500 ml of juice and 700 g of zests. Add 2 liters of water and let stand overnight.
  • The next day, pour the entire content of the bowl into a large pot and bring to the boil. Let it simmer gently covered on low flame for about 1 hour and a half, until the zests become soft.
  • Add the lemon juice and the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon to melt. Bring it back to the boil and let it simmer gently for at least forty minutes. Check if it is ready: pour a drop of marmalade on a cold saucer from the fridge. If it solidifies and does not slip away when you tilt the saucer, it is ready to be put into sterilized jars.
Tried this recipe?We love to see your creations! Snap a pic and tag @julskitchen and hashtag it #myseasonaltable!

How to use it

This bitter orange marmalade calls for a dark bread, spelt or rye , and a sliver of butter. It becomes a feel-good breakfast, a jar of sun that can turn a gray winter morning into a special day. You an almost feel the warmth of the sun on your skin.

Maybe it is the colour, maybe the slightly bitter taste, but I can see it also as a topping for a cheesecake. Let it drip lazily along the edges, one of those toppings that are so instinctive that you want to stick your finger in it to collect the drippings.

Its cheerful colour reminds me by contrast to the milky white of a pannacotta, pure and perfect. Stain it with a spoonful of marmalade just before serving. It will be a pleasure to meet the candied caramel zests along with the velvety taste of the panna cotta.

The last match is the simplest one, a cup of plain yogurt and a spoonful of marmalade, slowly mixed to create sunny swirls.

Which is your favourite use of bitter orange marmalade? I made twelve jars and I am currently waiting for 20 kilos of citrus fruit to be delivered at Juls’ Kitchen.

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This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. We have a tradition to bake croissants for breakfast on Saturdays. I would love to try this with the croissants or a piece of well toasted bread. Lovely photos too, my dear!

  2. I just need decent oranges! This looks devine, I just love the color of orange marmalade! I’ve been saving a jar I bought from an old lady in England for months now, it is still delicious! Can’t wait to try yours x

  3. Dear Juls, What a delight it is to stumble across your web pages! I am an American living in Spain for decades in a small city right on the edge of Seville. In the center of the pedestrian street in front of my house there is a row of about 7 or 8 bitter orange trees chock full of ripe fruit, just begging to be picked. Your recipe looks ideal, so why not? But you say nothing of pectin? Is it possible that you overlooked that? Can I substitute stevia for any of the sugar? I’m not really supposed to eat sugar, but I do it sometimes, especially during the Christmas season.

    1. Hello bruce, so sorry I just found your comment.
      I do not add pectin, as pectin is already into the seeds of the oranges and into the white part of the orange zest.
      I am not sure how stevia could work, I am sorry, I usually do not use it.

    2. Make marmalade with pectin easy to find at Whole Foods then
      using Stevia is no problem.

    1. You want to add the nice orange peel to the marmalade, it’s the best part! 😉

  4. Hi. I realize that this post was from several years ago; I’m hoping you’re still monitoring comments. I have a few wild orange trees growing at the back of my property. Today, I harvested the fruit. There’s quite a lot, and the oranges are quite sour. I thought they’d make a great marmalade, and so I searched the internet to find a good recipe. Yours sounds terrific. I am wondering why you leave the juice, peel, and water in the pot overnight before cooking…… Also, you mention that there is a lot of pectin in the pits. At what point in the process do you remove the pits?

    1. In this recipe I left the pit on the skin, but lately I improved it. You can skip the soaking part and collect seeds and pit in a cheese cloth. Close it well and boil it into the oranges, remove it before adding the sugar and squeeze it well. The thick liquid that will drop is the pectin! Let me know if you try this out!

      1. 5 stars
        Thanks for the fine points. In the end, I did leave the fruit to soak overnight. The next day I started the cooking and left the house, telling my husband at what time to turn off the flame. He forgot what I’d said and left it cooking an extra hour. The pieces of peel were certainly soft and tender when I got home… no harm done. I’d planned to add the sugar that same night, but after doing the math I realized I needed 14 lbs. of sugar! (I told you I had a lot of oranges!) I have a fairly well stocked pantry, but couldn’t fulfill that order. Last night I added the sugar – half brown, as I wanted that tawny kind – and finished the cooking. It came out amazing! Everyone I know will be eating marmalade.
        Thanks so much for your support and your great recipe.

        1. I always say that you can follow endless different routes to get to the same result. So happy your marmalade turned out great!!! Lucky friends and family!

  5. Ciao Giulia,

    You say we need to get rid of the white part before we cut the zest julienne. In a comment you say the pectine necessary for the marmelade comes from the white part of the zest…didn’t we just remove this? Please advise us because we al ready pressed our oranges here in Umbria! Grazie Mille!

    1. Ciao Karel, I lately improved this recipe! Collect seeds and pit in a cheese cloth. Close it well and boil it into the oranges, remove it before adding the sugar and squeeze it well. The thick liquid that will drop is the pectin! Let me know if you try this out!

  6. Just finished making my first ever batch of homemade marmalade with your recipe! I was so scared of over or under cooking it, that it happened: I ended up with a very runny marmalade. Hoping after 2 days it would finally set and pondering what to do, I decided today to open all the jars and reboil the whole thing. Voila!! It turned out great. By the way, though my oranges had no seeds nor do I know the exact sort of oranges my tree gives, I followed your improved method of collecting the pit in a cheese cloth. Worked perfect. Thank you Giulia!

    1. that’s fabulous Paola! I can foresee many delicious breakfasts with toasted bread, butter and marmalade!

  7. 5 stars
    This recipe is challenging depending on where you reside as not all oranges are available. The food chain globally has become very narrow and focused on what Sunkist wants to sell. Chances of organic specific types in cold climates are now rare and if available expensive.
    But if you can fins them, the best orange you can get in my experience having also worked in the industry is the Seville Orange.
    At one time in history most of he Seville Marmalade came from Jamaica. Jamaica would also export the Seville peel. I remember dipping into he inventory and having peel for breakfast.
    So for me Seville and 3 fruit good morning marmalade are my favorite.

  8. I am very happy to have found your recipe. I recently discovered I have what we think is a sour orange tree so I have lots of oranges to work with. Do you have to use lemons? I want thinking of using my ruby red grapefruits.

  9. 5 stars
    I try to make marmalade every year, and wait anxiously until the citrus supplier at my farmers market has them available. I LOVE your recipe because you allow for modification depending on the weight of the fruit. It’s so frustrating when a recipe is precise about how much sugar and water to add, but then says “5 or 6 oranges”!!! I have always saved the pips and pith into muslin like you suggested too. Thank you for a clear and fail safe recipe. Seville is to me the only REAL marmalade (though blood oranges and ruby grapefruit are a close second). Sunshine on your toast 🙂

  10. My father-in-law has a small orange tree in a pot out back. The ripe fruit is smaller than a ping-pong ball and the flavor is quite sour, primarily, and only slightly bitter afterward. Generally being unfamiliar with it all, I wonder if this is actually “bitter orange”?

    1. Hi Jane, I’m not sure they might be bitter oranges, as the bitter oranges are bigger than ping-pong ball, they have the average size of oranges.

    2. It sounds like your father has a Calamondin tree – makes great marmalade too! Most calamondins here in Florida are about the size of a ping pong ball. Another possibility is one of the round type kumquats. There are oval and kumquats – I prefer oval ones I think they are Najimi IIRC

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