Lemon Marmalade (Marmellata di Limoni)

January 11, 2017

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

While the English-style of marmalade results in a clear, often soft jam punctuated with finely sliced citrus peel, this is a Sicilian style recipe for lemon marmalade where the cooked, whole lemons are put through a passaverdura, a food mill, for an opaque purée that is then combined with the sugar and thickened over the stove.

For marmalade inspiration, I turned to Nigel Slater, who has plenty of excellent advice (even if for Seville oranges https://www.theguardian...), as well as some old Sicilian recipes, which are usually all a version of the one found in “Marmellate e Conserve” by Enza Candela Bettelli (in Italian, 1986).

It sounds like an awful lot of sugar, but this is the classic ratio for citrus marmalades (1 part fruit to 2 parts sugar) and we’re talking lemons here—much less sugar is just a bit too tart, but if you are using naturally sweeter lemons such as Meyer lemons (a cross between a lemon and a mandarin or orange) or Amalfi lemons, you could get away with less sugar. Taste it as you go and add more sugar, if you like. Although I love this jam just as it is, it would also go beautifully infused with elderflower, fresh ginger, fresh rosemary, or speckled with vanilla.


Makes: about 10 cups or 2.5 litres jam
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 2 hrs 30 min


  • 2 pounds (1 kilogram) organic, unwaxed lemons
  • 10 cups (4.4 pounds or 2 kilograms) sugar
In This Recipe


  1. Wash your lemons well and cut off the little buttons on the tops where the stems were, then place in a large jamming pot (a heavy based one with tall sides is ideal) with about 2-2 1/2 litres (8-10 cups) water. Simmer these whole lemons gently until the skins become incredibly soft and a fork slips through easily—about 2 hours if large, 1 hour if they are small and the skins fine.
  2. Remove the lemons from the pot, saving the water left in the pan and topping up, if necessary, to have about 1 1/2 litres (5 cups) of liquid.
  3. If using a food mill, it is sufficient to cut the lemons in quarters and pass through a food mill set over a bowl to collect the pulp. The seeds and some hard membranes will be separated from the pulp and can be discarded. If you don't have a food mill, halve the lemons and scoop everything out with a spoon. Place the insides (pith, seeds, pulp and all) in a colander over a bowl to drain and set aside the skins for the moment. Strain out the seeds like you would with an orange squeezer/hand juicer (actually you could use one of these too to remove the seeds) and discard them. Blend the pulp/juice along with the skins you set aside with a food processor or blender.
  4. Return the blended pulp and skins to the pan with the lemon water, along with the sugar (if you are using sweeter lemons and want to use less sugar, taste as you go).
  5. Place a saucer in the freezer to test the marmalade later.
  6. Bring the marmalade to a boil and boil rapidly for about 20 minutes for a soft set. The liquid will first look very opaque and a little frothy, then as it cooks, it will turn transparent golden and shiny. To test if the jam has set, place a blob of hot marmalade on it, pop it back in the freezer for 30 seconds and then take a look at it. Poke it or turn the plate a little, if you can see the surface crinkle, it's done. If you prefer a firmer set jam, leave it a little longer and test the jam on the cold saucer.
  7. Ladle the hot jam into the jars one by one (be careful of fingers, hot jam burns!). Seal the lids tightly (a dishcloth helps protect your hands) and set aside. Place the jars in a large boil and fill with water to their necks. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Let the jars cool. As the jam cools, the seals should tighten and contract. Store somewhere cool and dry; once opened, store in the fridge.

More Great Recipes:
Condiment/Spread|Sauce|Southern Italian|Jam/Jelly|Lemon|Make Ahead|5 Ingredients or Fewer|Pickle & Preserve|Winter|Vegan|Breakfast

Reviews (25) Questions (0)

25 Reviews

Emily January 21, 2019
I just made this recipe. I used my Instant pot on high for eight minutes and let it slow release for 10. Worked great (from what I could tell). I think I may have over a boiled mine because it tastes a little bitter. Or I’m wondering if it’s because of the pith that is left in? I was a little confused on the instructions in steps 3 and 4. I just pulverized the whole lemon in my food mixer (removing seeds as I went). The marmalade is cooling in the jars now. I will taste it again once it’s cool but right now it taste a little bit like cleaning supplies, haha. Is that what it supposed to taste like?
Rachel December 31, 2018
Much easier than my usual prep for marmalade! I came up short on Meyer lemons so I added a handful of calamondin oranges and halved the sugar. Perfect for my taste. Seemed easier to remove the seeds before simmering so I did that. Love a spoonful dissolved in a glass of bubbly water.
Rachel December 31, 2018
Forgot to say that I processed in water bath for 10 min.
Bee B. December 3, 2017
I have made this exactly as the recipe describes. The jam hast set nicely but the flavour ist way to bitter. The lemons were from my neighbours garden, maybe it's the variety. Any ideas what to do with super bitter lemon Marmelade ?
Author Comment
Emiko December 4, 2017
Possibly. I would put it all back in the pot and add a bit of sugar to taste (I usually taste before letting the jam set for this reason too!)
Jennifer S. May 6, 2017
I made this today as freezer marmalade, and while I'll definitely pick out the seeds before processing, it worked well! Much simpler than the fussy marmalade recipe I used last time. I wanted it tart, so I used less sugar. (And the lemons came from my own tree!)
Jennifer S. May 6, 2017
Before processing next time, I meant.
Susan F. March 12, 2017
I've made this recipe three times now, and it is delicious! I boiled the lemons the first time, then tried my pressure cooker--on high for 8 minutes with 5 cups of water, and the lemons were perfect. Also, I let the lemons cool, then tear them open and scoop out the seeds and either pick them out by hand or drain in a sieve and return the juice to the pot. I don't have a food mill, so use a food processor. My lemons are fairly sweet, so I use slightly more than one kilo of lemons (one extra lemon) and 4 pounds (one bag) of sugar. Everyone loves this recipe!
Jennifer S. May 6, 2017
I think I'll try the lemons in my Instant Pot next time!
rlsalvati February 12, 2017
Yummy, Emiko, thanks for this recipe. I used 1 lb Meyer lemons and a bit less sugar (maybe 4 cups), the output was a generous 5 cups of marmalade. I can't wait to try Liz D's jam cocktail.
Lynn P. January 24, 2017
Hi Emiko - this sounds delicious :-) If I wanted to speed up the process by cooking the lemons in a pressure cooker how long do you think they would take - maybe 20 minutes?
Author Comment
Emiko January 27, 2017
Unfortunately I don't have any experience cooking lemons in a pressure cooker. What you're looking for though, is completely soft skins, i.e. very easily pierced with a fork.
Liz D. January 22, 2017
Yummy marmalade. However, after boiling the lemons for 1 hour, the seeds were so soft they went through my food mill, and I had to try to pick out the pieces. Next time I will pick out the seeds after cutting up the lemons before milling the remainder.<br />P.S. this makes a tasty jam cocktail with lemony Malfy gin and a little Campari & soda...<br />
Author Comment
Emiko January 22, 2017
Oh thanks for noting this, I haven't had this problem before but it is good to know. Nice idea for the cocktail, I sometimes put it in tea!
Fran M. January 21, 2017
Fran M. January 21, 2017
Can Lumes or oranges be used?
Author Comment
Emiko January 22, 2017
I've never tried it with limes but I make orange marmalade this way too, same proportions of sugar, especially if using bitter oranges!
Smaug January 23, 2017
I messed around with marmalade from both Persian and Key limes for a while (with a more standard method) and, while it worked fine technically the flavor was a little overpowering- I think a lemon lime mixture would be more successful.
sydney January 17, 2017
Would loved to have seen photos of the process!
Author Comment
Emiko January 18, 2017
I will see if I can eventually add some more photos if maybe just of the scooping out of the lemons -- the blending part isn't such a pretty photo!
Mike G. January 17, 2017
This method of preserving is not following current USDA guidelines for home canning and could put people at risk for serious food borne illness. It would likely be safe if you stored in the fridge after putting in jars.
Author Comment
Emiko January 18, 2017
Naturally acidic foods (lemons are on the highest scale of acidic foods) are safe. This is taken directly from the USDA guidelines: "Whether food should be processed in a pressure canner or boiling-water canner to control botulinum bacteria depends on the acidity of the food. Acidity may be natural, as in most fruits, or added, as in pickled food. Low-acid canned foods are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of these bacteria. Acid foods contain enough acid to block their growth, or destroy them more rapidly when heated."
sfmiller January 20, 2017
I'm afraid you've misinterpreted the quoted passage. Per the USDA guidelines, ALL home canned foods must be processed in either a boiling water bath (for acidic foods only) or a pressure canner (for both non-acidic and acidic foods). They definitely don't say that it's OK to can acid foods without processing.<br /><br />For the whole context, see chapter 1, esp. pp. 7-10 of: <br /><br />http://www.healthycanning.com/wp-content/uploads/USDA-Complete-Guide-to-Home-Canning-2015-revision.pdf<br /><br />As for me, I'll make the marmalade (which sounds delicious!) without processing the jars and store them in the fridge. ;)<br /><br />
Pisanella January 23, 2017
What silly nonsense! In the UK, we make a lot of jam, myself included. I have NEVER had to put jars of jam or marmalade through the canning process . I store my jars for years, if necessary, in an old-fashioned pantry. My mother and grandmother did the same.
Smaug January 23, 2017
The USDA is pretty conservative- this may just be aimed at screwups in home canning- such as poorly sterilized jars, or overestimating the acidity of the food.