Christopher Kimball: I love almost all things English. I love German Street. I like Trilby hats. I like My Fair Lady. I’m not too crazy about kippers, but I love, for breakfast, orange marmalade. But I have to admit a slight weakness for packaging — those little Dundee things. [camera pans to marmalade jars and labels] I go, “This is great; it looks terrific.” And sometimes you taste it. Well, it looks better in the package than it does in your mouth. So I’m here with Jack, who’s done a tasting of orange marmalades, and we’ll see if I’m up to snuff this morning.
Jack Bishop: We’ll see. You can dig in. [CPK picks up first bowl] We’ve brought four of the samples. We had eight brands, 20 tasters. And there were two major issues. The first one was orange flavor and the intensity of orange flavor. All of the tasters wanted something that said “big oranges” to them and said “natural oranges.” [CPK tries second sample, grimaces] Some of them had a chemical, almost orange-house-cleaning-product flavor to them.
CPK: [eyes wide, sarcastic] Great!
JB: [laughs] Those obviously didn’t do very well. The ones that really tasted like fresh oranges did well. The issue that divided us was about bitterness. And I imagine, Chris, you probably are going to like the bitter, tart ones.
CPK: It’s true.
JB: Something just tells me that you will. But we really found the people who liked the sweet ones — and in fact, one of our winners was really very, very sweet…
CPK: [taken aback by fourth sample] Ooh.
JB:…and didn’t even use Seville oranges, which are bitter oranges, which is the traditional choice.
CPK: This is really sweet.
JB: One was really, really bitter, and you know, people just thought it was almost like an anesthetic, the people who didn’t like it. [CPK sips water] The people who liked it said, you know, [in serious tone] “This is the way marmalade is supposed to be.”
CPK: That’s the one I’m going to pick.
JB: And then there was a sort of middle-of-the-road choice that used Seville oranges but had more sugar than orange in it and had good bitterness but not over-the-top bitterness. So that was sort of up to personal taste. But you really are looking for real, natural orange flavor as you’re tasting those. So things you’re liking, things you’re not liking?
CPK: [referring to fourth sample] This is much too sweet.
CPK: It’s completely masked the orange flavor. [tastes second sample] This feels like it’s more like a Dundee. It has sort of a caramelized flavor. But you don’t get a strong orange flavor out of it.
JB: [patiently] Okay.
CPK: It’s a distinctive sort of caramel taste. [picks up first sample] This one I liked a lot, although it seems a little watery, but…
JB: And there was, you know, differences in the amount of zest that’s in there. I mean, some… which is really affecting the bitterness. The ones that have sort of more chunks, more bits of the skin are going to be more bitter. [CPK sips more water] So in addition to the choice of the oranges, whether they’re using a sweet orange or a bitter orange like a Seville orange, the amount of skin in the marmalade really does affect the bitterness. What do you think about that sample?
CPK: [ruminates on third sample] Too sweet. It’s too sweet. So I would say this is really sweet.
CPK: This is still sweet. I think this is probably my favorite. [tastes first sample] There’s good rind in here. It’s sweet, but it has… you can taste the orange. I kind of like that. [selects second sample] This is… I grew up on this. This has got that… I am partial to this. This doesn’t have a lot of orange flavor. It’s got that caramel thing going. [gesticulates with spoon] But this is what I’m used to. So I would say this [fourth sample] is way too sweet. This is… [third sample] this has pretty good orange flavor, but I still think it’s too sweet for me.
CPK: This [first sample] would probably be my winner, it has good orange flavor. And this one’s [second sample] a little caramelized, so it’s a little dull. This is my winner — da-da! [JB hums and joins in mini fanfare]
JB: Reveal! That was the winner of the tasting.
CPK: [faintly surprised] Look at that.
JB: It’s Trappist.
CPK: It’s good.
JB: It’s made with Seville oranges, but it has more sugar than oranges. So we thought that was the moderately bitter, not the super bitter choice, and that was the overall winner.
CPK: I bet this is, like, Dundee.
JB: No, close, Hero.
CPK: [faintly disappointed] Oh.
JB: This one has got more Seville oranges than sugar. It was by far the most bitter. It was the runner-up. People who liked a really intense marmalade…
CPK: I like it, yeah.
JB: …liked that one. But it was sort of a less safe choice than the Trappist.
CPK: This one, let’s go to this one. [fourth sample] This was super sweet.
JB: This is Bonne Maman.
CPK: Ooh, I didn’t like that.
JB: People felt like it was too sweet. The biggest complaint, though, was the orange flavor, which was missing — last place of all the ones we tasted.
CPK: This one looks like Smuckers. I don’t know really what it is, but… yeah. See? [grins] There we are.
JB: This was third place. I mean, people liked the orange flavor in the Smuckers. It’s much sweeter. It doesn’t use the bitter oranges. They’re using a sweet orange, and they’ve got a lot of sugar in there. So the orange flavor is good, but it’s not really got that tart marmalade flavor that some people really wanted. But if you like sweet ones, this does it.
CPK: [faintly excited] So for once, I agreed with the Test Kitchen.
CPK: My palate’s going to the dogs. So the Trappist was the winner.
JB: That’s right.
CPK: And the runner-up was the Hero, which is a little more caramelized, but I… that’s kind of the taste I’m used to. All we need now is a little blood pudding and kippers, and we’re all set for a full English breakfast.
View the full report of our Orange Marmalade Tasting
Captioned by Media Access Group at WGBH
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