Marmalade is commonly defined as a fruit preserve that includes pieces of rind in the jelly base. Although historically made from quinces ("marmalade" comes from the Portuguese word marmalada, meaning “quince jam”), most marmalade today is made from citrus fruits, especially oranges. Because of the sour tang derived from both the rind and the flesh of the Seville oranges customarily used as the base fruit, good orange marmalade should have a complexity and depth not associated with sweeter jams and jellies.
We bought eight readily available orange marmalades and gathered 20 tasters to see if we could find that favorable complexity in marmalade sold at supermarket prices. Tasters sampled each marmalade straight and with pieces of dry toast. When the results were tallied, we found both consensus and division. The rankings correlated perfectly with orange flavor intensity—those earning a "recommended" rating had the strongest natural orange flavor, those given a "recommended with reservations" rating had some, and those ranked "not recommended" had only a chemical orange taste.
But within our recommended group, our tasters disagreed about the level of sourness that defined the best marmalade. Some celebrated a strong, sour bite, finding this tartness accented the orange flavor and created "a nice dance of bitter and sweet flavor." Others, however, found that the same sourness overwhelmed the orange flavor—one taster called the tang an "anesthetic" and wanted a much sweeter profile. Another segment wanted a balance between these two elements. In the end, we found three brands to recommend—one for each flavor profile.
Our top-rated brand uses Seville orange rind, but its first ingredient is sugar, earning it a middle-of-the-road sweet/tart profile—it was consistently described as "grapefruit-tart." Our second-rated brand had the highest degree of bitterness—it was the only brand that listed oranges rather than sugar as its first ingredient. Those who loved it claimed its "true orange flavor" made their "taste buds jump"; those who didn't like it complained of a "bitter, pithy aftertaste." Our third recommended brand was favored by those who wanted a "good floral/orange element" without any pithy/bitter distraction—its critics likened it to orange candy.
Our suggestion? If you like an orange marmalade with intense orange flavor and significant tartness, we suggest you look for one that lists oranges as its first ingredient (before any sugar component). For a more balanced tart/sugar taste in a marmalade that also features good orange flavor, sugar may be listed first as an ingredient, but the label should at least specify Seville or bitter oranges.
Our favorite premium extra-virgin olive oil from a previous tasting, Columela is composed of a blend of intense Picual, mild Hojiblanca, Ocal, and Arbequina olives. This oil took top honors for its fruity flavor and excellent balance. Tasters praised its “big olive aroma, big olive taste” with a “buttery” flavor that is “sweet” and “full,” with a “peppery finish.” One taster said: “It’s very green and fresh—like a squeezed olive.” Another simply wrote: “Fantastic.”
|Spain||$19 for 17 oz|
Tasters noted this oil’s flavor was “much deeper than the other samples,” describing it as “fruity, with a slight peppery finish,” “buttery undertones,” and a “clean, green taste” that was “aromatic, with a good balance.” “It has the flavor that some good EVOOs have,” said one admiring taster.
|Italy||$19.99 for 500 ml ($39.98 per liter)|
Virtually tied for second place, this oil was deemed “round and buttery,” with a “light body” and flavor that was “briny and fruity,” “very fine and smooth,” and “almost herbal,” with “great balance.” “Good olive flavor. I could smell it and taste it,” approved one taster. In a word, “pleasant.”
|Italy||$17.99 for 750 ml ($23.98 per liter)|
|Recommended with Reservations|
A clear step down from the top oils, tasters noted “overall mild” flavor and “very little aroma,” with only a “hint of green olive” and a “hint of spiciness at the end.” In pasta, it was initially “not complex,” but gradually “bloomed in your mouth.” Overall, it was “worthy of a second bite.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$12.49 for 750 ml ($16.65 per liter)|
While some tasters found this oil “sweet” and “buttery” with “medium body” and “slight spice at the end,” others complained that it had “zero olive flavor” and was “so floral it’s almost like eating perfume”; still others noted a “bitter” aftertaste. In pasta, it was “extremely mild” to the point of being “boring.”
|Italy, Greece, Spain, and Tunisia||$10.99 for 750 ml ($14.65 per liter)|
Comments: The best comments tasters could muster were “mild” and “neutral.” Some liked it on pasta (though one called it “Snoozeville”), but complaints were myriad: “metallic,” “soapy,” “briny,” “hints of dirt.” Carped one taster, “I can’t imagine what is in here, but they have a nerve calling it EVOO.”
|Spain||$13.99 for 1 liter|
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