How to Slice Citrus Fruit for Marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade || Hitchhiking to HeavenIn recent months, I’ve logged an astonishing number of hours making marmalade. Many kinds of marmalade. I’ve learned that lots of recipes tell you to cut the peel into thin slices, but leave you alone to figure out the particulars. Other recipes require arguably unnecessary work to separate peel from pulp. We need some help here.

My favorite style of fruit slicing allows you to quickly cut out the pithy center and seeds (setting either aside if needed), while yielding slender, uniform slices of rind. I learned it from One Green Generation and made a couple of modifications to get the kind of slices I like best — thick enough to withstand processing and give you a good bite, but thin and even enough to pass for elegant. I’ve used this on lemons, oranges, limes. It will also work for grapefruit, but I don’t necessarily recommend that because grapefruits usually need to be blanched and softened before they’re sliced. Let your recipe be your guide.

Here we go:

1. Chill out! Wash or wipe your citrus clean, then put it in the fridge until it’s nice and cold. Cold citrus slices much finer — and much more easily — than warm.

2. Sharpen up your favorite knife. Of course you know most accidents happen with dull knives, and you’re going to get pretty close to your thumbs here. I assume you want to keep them.

3. Slice the fruit along the stem, like so . . .

4. Notch the fruit to remove the pith from the center, as shown.

5. This is my favorite part. If the fruit has seeds, run your thumb along the inside of the notch to remove them. Do this over a bowl, and you can save the juice. (Some recipes call for saving the seeds, too, so you have that option.)

6. Turn the pieces over, then finely slice the fruit. (Depending on the size of your fruit and the length you want your slices to be, you might like to cut the pieces in half again along the notch, then turn them over and start slicing.)  Sometimes I’ll make larger slices — about 1/4″ — and sometimes I’ll make very thin slices, about the width of the knife. This is the part where the knife blade ends up very close to your fingertips, so curl them downward toward the fruit and stay awake!

7.  Deal with the odds and ends. You’ll probably have some wide slices of rind from the very ends of the fruit. Depending on how ambitious you’re feeling, you can slice them up or discard/compost them.

Tips for pith and seeds: What I do with the notched-out pith and seeds depends on the pectin situation in the recipe I’m making. If I am adding the citrus slices to a high-pectin juice, like quince, apple, or a second citrus juice that I’ve cooked down using the whole fruit, I discard those pithy extras. (This Quince-Orange-Cardamom Marmalade is one example of a recipe that doesn’t use the pith.) But if I’m simmering my slices and soaking them in water that I’ll use to cook the marmalade, I often make a “pith bag” by tying up some pith and seeds in cheesecloth (well, honestly, it’s a clean piece of a porous old T-shirt) — and I include that bag with the slices during the simmer and soak to bump up the pectin content. (You can check out this Meyer Lemon-Strawberry Marmalade for an example of that.) You can also use just the seeds for a pectin boost — tying them up in a porous cloth or containing them in a stainless steel tea ball. Again, your fruit and the recipe you’re using — or inventing — should give you the clues and cues you need.

Happy slicing!

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  • Reply Julia February 20, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Nice technique!

  • Reply karine July 9, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    very cool. wish i had read this yesterday when I was making my first batch of marmalade. thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven July 9, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Thank you! Karine, welcome to marmalade! It's one of the things I most love to make. I hope it went well for you.

  • Reply Diana September 29, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Do you ever use a mandoline or one of those Japanese slicers that's much like a mandoline for slicing citrus for marmalades, or would those make slices that are really too thin for the purpose?

  • Reply Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven September 30, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Diana: I like slicing citrus by hand, but a mandoline is on my want-list anyway. I don't so much love slicing cucumbers for pickles, and I hear the mandoline can be useful for that. Some of them are adjustable, aren't they? It might work for citrus. I try to slice my rinds rather fine: 1/8" – 1/4" if I can.

  • Reply Ellen March 2, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Love this! One thing I do to spare my fingers in the final slicing phase is I pierce the end of the lemon with a fork. I feel like I can keep the lemon in place better that way and also cut closer down to the end.

  • Reply Sue December 30, 2011 at 11:32 am

    If you buy a mandolin, make sure it has metal parts. Bed of mine is “melted” from citrus. I use one of the ceramic knives for citrus. It doesn’t get dull at all and you can get really thin slices easily! I was ready to get rid of them till is sliced the first lemon. Try it, you’ll like it. Citrus dulls knives so fast and the ceramic just keep cutting. I am a convert to your method. Learned a lot from this! Thanks

    • Reply Shae December 30, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      Thank you, Sue! I have one great knife that I use for most of my fruit prep. I sharpen it almost every day and it holds an edge beautifully, but I would love to try a ceramic knife! I never did get a mandolin. I think I just like the close contact with the fruit that I get with hands and knife. (Though I try to keep if from getting too close.) It’s meditative for me and it gives me more of a sense of control over the process.

  • Reply Jennifer December 30, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    Great tutorial!

  • Reply End of the Year Spicy Marmalade with Kaffir Lime Leaf « uncanny preserves — thinking outside the jar December 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm

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  • Reply Poyma January 2, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    This changed everything! No more rubbery, chewy peel.
    Elegant, delicious, wonderful marmalade. Ive been making it with oranges from the seville tree in my back yard for five or six years. But the peel was somehow just too much.
    Thanks to your post, everything changed, for the better!
    Thank you so much!

    • Reply Shae January 4, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      My favorite kind of comment! Thank you for sharing your good experience. And lucky you, having a Seville tree!

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  • Reply Lise January 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Thank you I needed the knowledge to do my marmelade and endup with a more refine one. . Great infos that I will be using from now on.

  • Reply Sara March 1, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    This is fantastic! This saved my sanity while chopping.

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  • Reply Patrice May 23, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Excellent practical ideas. Buy any chance do you have a recipe for Orange (Seville) or Mayer Lemon marmalade with Passion Fruit> We need to find a way of using our extra production of Passion fruits.


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  • Reply Karena August 4, 2015 at 6:07 pm

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