Seville Oranges: A Sunny February Tradition

By Fiesta Farms

/Feb 13 2024

“Do you have any Seville oranges?” We hear this question a lot beginning in late January when Fiesta customers begin the frenzy to find bitter oranges for marmalade. 

The city-wide search for the elusive fruit is unsurprising. Seville oranges are only available in limited supply for a few weeks a year. 

Sarah B. Hood, a respected culinary historian and writer who has published books on marmalade, is embroiled in the hunt. 

Every year, Hood receives countless DM’s and emails from people looking for tips on where to find Seville oranges. She admits:

 “Just yesterday, I had a half-hour call with somebody who had been trying everywhere and had not found any.”

Why Bitter is Better:

In her book Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, award-winning author Jennifer McLagan says: 

“Bitter oranges are much more complex in flavour than the sweet ones. My favourite is the Seville orange, a throwback to days when oranges were prized for their bitterness, not their looks or sweetness.” 

The bitter orange flavour of Seville oranges inspired the creation of Cointreau and Grand Marnier. 

Seville oranges are ideal for marmalade because the fruits’ bitterness keeps the preserves from being too sweet or cloying. As Hood says:

“The reason for wanting to use the Seville oranges is that if you make marmalade with sweet oranges you end up with something that tastes like orange hard candy. Seville oranges have that nice biting quality that good marmalade needs.”

Seville oranges also have high pectin content, which helps create the thick consistency you need in a good marmalade. 

Oranges with a Storied Past:

Hood tells me that Seville oranges originated in what is now known as Iran—spreading to China, Spain, and eventually to the rest of Europe through cultivation. The story goes that in 18th century Scotland, Janet Keiller was the first person to commercially produce orange marmalade from Seville oranges. 

Today, Seville oranges are primarily used in marmalade. But, many cultures have historically used their elegant tartness in a huge variety of dishes.

The Guardian described Seville oranges as “sour like a lemon yet warm like an orange.” In an article dedicated to the use of Seville oranges beyond marmalade, the writer said:

“Nothing is better over a piece of fresh white fish. Every yolk-based emulsion, from mayonnaise to sabayon, benefits from swapping Sevilles for lemons because they add sourness without that acid rasp. In Germany, Sevilles were traditionally a match for broccoli. I have yet to find a supper they don’t enhance.”

A Remedy for the February Blahs

Sarah B. Hood reminds us that marmalade-making comes at the perfect time of the year, just after Christmas, when “you’ve finished all the cookies and the fruitcake and everything.” 

It’s true–making marmalade is an ideal way to get through the post-holiday slump. 

Hood anecdotally proposes that marmalade-making promotes better health. She says:

“The act of boiling the oranges releases fruit oils into the air. Whether we realize it or not, spending two or three hours boiling orange releases a lot of antioxidants that you’re literally breathing in.”

Finally, the appearance of Seville oranges in early February gives eager food preservers like Hood something to get excited about:

“I used to hate February,” Hood says. “But l when I learned about Seville oranges only being available around February, I started looking forward to making marmalade at this time of year.”

Making Orange or Grapefruit Marmelade

Photo credit: Susan M.


If you’re eager to jump onto the marmalade bandwagon, a loyal Fiesta customer Susan M., shared her favourite Serville orange recipe with us.

If you can’t wait another year until the Seville oranges are back in stock, Sarah B. Hood suggests making grapefruit marmalade instead. 

Here’s Susan’s go-to recipe for orange marmalade adapted from a recipe from The Toronto Star’s Frank Jones. Susan’s been using this marmalade recipe for 30 years!


  • 4 Seville oranges.
  • 1.5 litres of fresh water
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar

This will depend on the amount of cooked and measured fruit after evaporation.


  • Cut the oranges into quarters, squeeze out seeds and the juice into a bowl. (Don’t cut the seeds.)
  • Remove the inside of the orange from the rind and discard.
  • Place the rind quarter sections, face down on a cutting board and cut the rind in skinny lengthwise slivers. Use a sharp knife.
  • Trim the excess white part (the pith) as you go, and discard.
  • Pits, skin, a little pith and juice are placed in an earthenware bowl (is the best if you have one).
  • You can either strain the seeds or add the juice. Placing the pits in cheesecloth. To be added with the juice. Or just add everything and skim off the seeds later. (You need the seeds for pectin to set the jam.)
  • Add 1.5 litres of water. (2.5 or 3.5 litres of water for every kilo of fruit)
  • Cover the bowl with waxed paper and a cloth. (Don’t use plastic warp as it may produce mould.)\
  • Let it sit for three days, giving it a stir daily.
  • Boil the fruit very gently in a pot until the slivers of fruit feel soft between your fingers. (Two to three hours. ) Pour it back into the bowl and cool for half an hour.

Susan emphasizes: “Here’s the important thing. Don’t try to do the final boil all in one go.”

  • Instead, measure four cups of fruit into the pot and add three cups of sugar. (I use 2 1/4 cups).
  • Boil rapidly for 15 or 20 minutes, stirring constantly. To tell if it has reached the setting stage, drop a little on a saucer and put it in the fridge for a few minutes. If it forms a skin on the surface, it is ready. ( Skim off the seeds if you didn’t put them in cheesecloth.)
  • Pour into clean, sterilized jars. If not, mason jars
  • Seal with wax.
  • Repeat this process with four cups of fruit and 3 cups of sugar until you have used all the fruit.