Jam Session: The Master Lemon Marmalade Recipe

I’ve been hysterically making lemon marmalade all week in preparation for my open house/craft fair I’m hosting this weekend.

In general, I think marmalade is gross. Most marmalades are either too sweet, or too bitter, or too chewy. After a year of failed marmalade experiences, I finally developed a recipe for lemon marmalade that I can eat right out of the jar. It has the right balance between sweet and bitter. I really like its supple texture. Although this recipe will work with just about any variety of lemon, I prefer to use Meyer lemons for their inherent sweetness.

While I use the basic Meyer lemon marmalade recipe for everything from flavoring hot tea to cake filling, the basic recipe is a great jumping off point. See the cook’s notes at the bottom of this post for all the variations I’ve made to the basic recipe.

This recipe makes about twelve 4 ounce jars of marmalade. Do NOT double this recipe. Trust me on this. You will not like the results. If you want to make a lot of this marmalade, presoak separate batches and then cook them up one after another. This marmalade really should only take about an hour to cook down.


10 Meyer lemons (around 1.5 to 2 pounds)

4 cups of water

4 cups of cane sugar

Twelve 4 ounce jelly jars

candy thermometer

cheese cloth and kitchen twine or disposable tea filter bags

Scrub the lemons so they are super clean. Cut the lemons into quarters and remove all the seeds and the thick white core. (Don’t throw away the seeds or the cores! That’s were all the good pectin is that will thicken the marmalade). Tie the seeds and cores into a cheese cloth bag or put them into a paper tea filter bag.

Slice the lemon chunks into thin, 1/8th inch slices. Put the lemons slices, the bag of seeds, and the four cups of water into a large, (I use a 6 quart) non-reactive pan. You should have about two quarts of the lemons, water, and seeds mixture. Let the mixture stand for 24 hours at room temperature.

The next day, bring the lemon mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes or until it is reduced by half. Once you’ve cooked the lemon mixture down to one quart, remove the bag of seeds and stir in the sugar. Return the mix to a boil. Stir the mix and remove any foam. Turn off the heat once the candy thermometer reads 220 degrees or a teaspoon of the marmalade gels on a chilled plate.

Spoon the hot marmalade into hot, sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4 of headspace at the top. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Let the processed jars cool overnight at room temperature to ensure a proper seal.

Store processed jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

Notes: Brown sugar can be substituted for white sugar.

To make Earl Grey Tea Infused Marmalade replace the water in the recipe with four cups of freshly brewed tea. Use one tea bag per cup of hot water.

To make Lemon Ginger Marmalade add three tablespoons of powdered ginger to the marmalade, stirring well. Or add a thumb sized piece of peeled fresh ginger to the lemon mixture to soak overnight. Remove the ginger after the initial boil, before you add the sugar.

To make Lemon Hibiscus Marmalade replace the water in the recipe with four cups of jamaica. To make the jamaica, mix 1/2 cup of dried hibiscus blossoms with four cups of hot water for a dark pink, tart marmalade or 1/4 cup of dried hibiscus blossoms with four cups of hot water for a light pink marmalade with less pucker. Add just the liquid tisane, not the blossoms themselves to the lemons. (Warning: jamaica is also an excellent clothing dye, so wear an apron)!

To make Lemon Marmalade Con Chili add one to three tablespoons of dried chili flakes to the marmalade when you add the sugar.

To make Pirate Marmalade add two cups of sweetened shredded coconut to the cut lemons. Increase the water to six cups and add five cups of sugar total. Add three tablespoons (or to taste) of spiced rum to the Marmalade at the end of the cooking process.

To make Hot Toddy Marmalade add one cinnamon stick, four whole cloves, three allspice berries, and one cardamom pod to the seed bag. Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg to the lemon mixture. At the end of the cooking process at two tablespoons (or to taste) of Irish whisky.

Speaking of Brown Sugar Marmalade, check out how amazing Sarah Dash looks in this early incarnation of Beyond The Thunderdome fashion.


  1. Posted December 15, 2012 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    Woo Hoo!!! I am SOOOO happy that you posted this! I just inherited two HUGE bags of Meyer lemons. I made a batch of carrot-lemon-ginger marmalade that was good, but too much carrot and not enough marmalade, if you ask me. I will try your proportions on the next batch. Thanks!

  2. Posted December 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    LisaPie–Wow! That sounds so interesting! I would love to have this recipe for Carrot Lemon Marmalade once you’ve perfected it.

  3. Posted January 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Update: I haven’t bothered with the Carrot recipe yet, but I did make the Hibiscus Lemon Marmalade. And it is sooooo good! I am trying to quit eating so much bread, but this stuff makes it hard. I am thinking of doing the Earl Grey one next, since I still have pounds and pounds of lemons on hand and my husband drinks so much Earl Grey that he orders it in bulk online.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Jams
    Posted December 17, 2014 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    I made the lemon earl grey variety tonight and it’s lovely.
    Every year I make a little anonymous gift for the neighbors in my building and this year they are receiving marmalade!

    Thank you for your lovely recipe.

  5. Posted December 30, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Hi Jams!

    Thanks for stopping by. I love that you gift anonymously. That’s so cool. I hope your neighbors love the marmalade.

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