5 Ingredients or Fewer

Lemon Marmalade (Marmellata di Limoni)

by:
January 11, 2017
10 Ratings
Photo by Emiko
Author Notes

Making marmalade doesn't need to be complicated or fiddly. Actually, you really only need only two ingredients.

If you're a marmalade skeptic, start with this marmellata di limoni, which is extraordinarily simple and low maintenance. You just need a few hours up your sleeve, some good music (or good company), and a watchful eye while you let the lemons boil away, perfuming your entire house like the best aromatherapy you've ever experienced.

In Italy, making jam (marmellata or confettura) is traditionally found all over the peninsula, just as you’d expect from a cuisine that still relies heavily on the seasons to dictate what’s on the table (and preserve it for later on in the year). It’s usually eaten for breakfast or turned into tarts known as crostata.

Lemon marmalade is made most notably where you find profuse amounts of lemons. There's Campania’s Amalfi coast, where the lemons grow larger and sweeter than anywhere else. And, of course, Sicily, where lemons have been growing since the Middle Ages, one of the many exotic and beautiful things brought to the region when it was an Arabic island.

While the classic English-style citrus marmalade results in a crystal clear jam punctuated with finely sliced citrus peel, Sicilian recipes for marmalade are a thick purée of blended fruit. The recipe requires first boiling the lemons whole (oh, the perfume of citrus!) rather than chopping peel, sieving out the pith, or any of that. You only need to scoop out the pulp to remove the seeds and then pulse everything in a food processor, blender, or—the more traditional way—pass it through a passatutto or food mill (and in this case, you don't need to scoop out the pulp to remove the seeds, as the food mill will be filter them out).

The result is a perfectly smooth, perfumed, bittersweet jewel-toned jam. Spoon it onto buttered toast, drizzle it over some yogurt, or try a spoonful in a mug of black tea to sweeten it. This would also be lovely to cook desserts with, not only in a crostata, but also brushed over a plain sponge cake (this one is my favorite—it's fluffy and light and happens to be gluten-free. Or for a triple-threat lemon layer cake, try it in in this recipe, swapping it in for the raspberry jam.

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).

Note: 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. —Emiko

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Makes about 10 cups or 2.5 litres jam
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds (1 kilogram) organic, unwaxed lemons
  • 10 cups (4.4 pounds or 2 kilograms) sugar
In This Recipe
Directions
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nancy G. Lefavour
    Nancy G. Lefavour
  • Anna Garver
    Anna Garver
  • Bee Bee
    Bee Bee
  • Jennifer St Clair
    Jennifer St Clair
  • Liz D
    Liz D
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.

    31 Reviews

    Patty P. January 17, 2021
    I chose your recipe for lemon marmalade because of the simplicity of preparation and ingredients. Instead of the cold plate test, I boiled it until it reached 120* F. What I especially love is that all the pulp and rind is perfectly distributed and suspended in all my jars. I ended up with about 11.5 cups of marmalade, portioned into 13 canning jars. This is a delicious way to use some of the fruit from our cocktail tree. I look forward to eating, and sharing, the delicious results.
     
    Nancy G. December 16, 2020
    I made this with Tahitian limes and it came out great! I used the instant pot like other reviewers at 5 cups water for 8 minutes. Really shortened the cooking time.
     
    Sposen January 24, 2020
    Didn’t work for me at all. Instead of a clear, golden jam, I wound up with a granular, beige paste. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t use the recommended ratio of sugar to solids—we prefer a very tart marmalade. I boiled the mixture longer than recommended, till it started spitting dangerously, hoping for the magic transformation, but it never happened. It’s in jars now, and from my interim tastes, delicious. But nothing I’d ever serve guests.
     
    Anna G. July 22, 2019
    Since I don't have a food mill, had to get rid of the seeds using my hands, that was the only unpleasant moment in making that delicious jam! Such an easy recipe!
    That amount of lemons let me make 8 jars of jam for my colleagues, friends and family. Amazing taste, a bit runny texture (I've added less sugar on purpose), but I love it the way it is! Also, I've left some peices of lemon's skin without processing them too much, so it's a bit chewy too, which is absolutely perfect!
    Will make some more next month (or even this month, can't stop "trying" it :) :) :) )!
     
    Lorena February 18, 2019
    I've made this several times with lemons, reducing the sugar at the beginning and adding more after the initial quantity dissolves (we like it best on the slightly tart side with a ratio of 1:1.5 or 1:1.75 fruit to sugar). So easy - no chopping, zesting or supreme-ing - and only about 20 minutes or so of monitoring if you like your jam slightly wobbly (so it dissolves into your toast).

    For those wondering about other citrus - I made it (yesterday) with sour oranges (about 500 grams sour oranges plus one 73 gram lemon) and it turned out really well. I used the same rough ratio of 1:1.5 - 1.75 fruit to sugar, probably closer to 1:1.5.
     
    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.
    P.S. this makes a tasty jam cocktail with lemony Malfy gin and a little Campari & soda...
     
    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
    Limes
     
    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.

    For the whole context, see chapter 1, esp. pp. 7-10 of:

    http://www.healthycanning.com/wp-content/uploads/USDA-Complete-Guide-to-Home-Canning-2015-revision.pdf

    As for me, I'll make the marmalade (which sounds delicious!) without processing the jars and store them in the fridge. ;)

     
    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.
     
    Jeanne B. May 2, 2020
    I am a professional pastry chef and confectioner.

    I’m sorry to have to tell you that you are, in this instance, wrong. The combination of sugar and citric acid renders this recipe perfectly safe.