Harvest · House & Home · Recipes

Making Preserves the Old Fashioned Way

Making mouth watering marmalade or plum or apricot jam from your own home grown fruit is an art that I have practised for decades. There are a number of tricks and tips that I will share with you but if you are new to this process then start with something very reliable like grapefruit marmalade.

Read all of this method before you begin …. 

This basic method is the one I use for all fruit and have included tips and extra information for jam fruits, in italics, at the end of each ‘Stage’

  • Quantities:  I usually prepare enough raw fruit to come halfway in my preserving pan…. this is usually about 4 – 6 large grapefruit
  • If you are new to Preserves … start with a smaller rather than larger quantity
  • With Apricot and Plum …. approximately half half



  • Use a vase shaped large preserving pan or similar
  • Weigh the pan before you start

Stage 1 :   Prep & Slow Cook

Prepare fruit ..slice grapefruit and prep other fruit.


….. include skins of Grapefruit and flesh of orange / lemons


Cook down the grapefruit skins a little first as they will take longer, then add other pulp. ( or you can just juice the lemons and add at the beginning of Stage 2 )

Add water to just below top of fruit ( less with jam fruits* ) ….. you can always add more as the fruit cooks down.


  • Always select home grown fruit if possible, as bought fruit often has been coated in a wax or it may have been sprayed with pesticides Ugh!  (  remove by washing /scrubbing in a solution of water with vinegar added …. a tedious process! )  
  • If you wish to avoid grapefruit then make marmalade with oranges …. soak the sliced  oranges overnight to soften the skins before cooking.
  • When using apricots* or plums … take care to start the cooking with a smaller amount of water as  the fruit often becomes very fluid as it cooks down … you can always add water  … but you can’t reduce it
  • Check the Pectin content of fruits so that you can assess the setting qualities … eg Apricots and most berries are low in pectin so I always use Jamsetta or combine with a pectin rich fruit …. or both. ( there are charts online …. just google )

NOTE: you do not need to continue to Stage 2 at this time …. you can let the cooked fruit from Stage 1  cool and then freeze it ….. I do this with Apricots ( low pectin ), so that when I have Plums  available ( high pectin ) I can combine the 2 fruits before continuing to Stage 2 


  • Frozen apricots ready for stage 2


  • I also freeze lemon juice when I have surplus to use with summer fruit jam making

Stage 2 : Ready to Go …. add Sugar & Fast Cook

Once all fruit is cooked ( don’t overcook )…..    Weigh pan and fruit ( deduct original weight of pan …. )

ADD SUGAR ( White ) 3/4 K to every 1K of cooked fruit ….. stir until dissolved

( Note: too much continuous stirring at any stage will destroy Pectin content )

Once sugar has dissolved … cook rapidly, stirring as needed so it does not stick to the bottom of the pan…. but also check that it does not boil over!

  • Marmalade usually does not stick to the bottom of the pan too much but jam fruits often do …. I minimise this by adding 2-3 apricot stones to the process …. they will bubble around the bottom of the pan and help stop the stick ( Mum uses to use old fashioned glass marbles …. but I have never been game! )
  • I complete Stage 2 outdoors on my BBQ Wok Burner as the evaporation can clog up your inside exhaust fan


After about 7 – 10 mins test for setting ……. drop a little marmalade onto a cold plate …..leave stand for a minute and hopefully it will have formed a skin …. if not keep cooking for longer and test again until it is ready. ( evaporation is the key at this stage … that’s why it is handy to have a wide top pan )

Usually I can tell when the Marmalade / Jam is ready as the bubbles look thicker and a bit ‘volcanic’


Remove any whitish skim from the top and you are ready to finish

Meantime Sterilize Jars in the oven ( 110deg. For 15 mins should do it ) and prepare cellophane covers ….( this must be proper cello that breathes ) You can get Vacola covers in the supermarket



I usually let jars and jam stand for 5mins before stage 3.        ( Coffee time! )

Stage 3 : Pour & finish

Glove up and using a small jug pour Marmalade into glass jars.

Wipe one side of cello cover with some vinegar on a small cloth ( not too wet )

Place over jar ( vinegar side down ) and secure with rubber band.



Add a greaseproof paper dust cover and label

This Marmalade will store easily in a cupboard and if it lasts long enough may harden a bit on top …. but leave it to mature for about 1 month after cooking.




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