The Marmalade Making Season Is Here! Seville Oranges Should Now Be Arriving In Your Local Shops, So Let Us Start Our Preserving Preparations
Why Make Marmalade?
Marmalade is an essential staple in many of our homes. We tend to think of it as a very British preserve - Paddington Bear, Scotland and smothered on white toast springs to mind. However, marmalade in fact has a long and surprisingly exotic international history that is truly inspiring for the preserving enthusiast. It is so much more than oranges - thick cut or shredless. Happily marmalade offers a whole range of opportunities as the autumn jam making months pass and winter settles in.
Where Did Marmalade Originate From?
The beginnings of what we now know as marmalade are with the Greeks and Romans. They learned that quince fruit cooked with honey would product a set jelly for them to enjoy at the end of a meal, their doctors prescribed it to help with digestion. It was served with pepper and ginger, flavoured with rosewater, musk and sometimes spices such as cloves, parsley seeds or spikenard.
Quince are small bitter oranges, high in pectin and so ideal for preserving. The tree actually originates from China where it grows on rocky slopes and the margins of woodlands. It was introduced via the Middle East to Southern Europe by Arab traders in the 10th century and is still grown in the south of France and Italy today.
Quince fruit continues to be widely used in the making of jelly or 'marmelo' - particularly in Portugal. Marmelo ( Greek for quince) is a thick set paste often eaten with soft cheese. It was this dish that in 1524 was presented in a box and served in slices to King Henry VIII by an ambitious Portugese nobleman. From then on, shipping records show that 'marmelato' arrived in England from Portugal, Spain and Italy and was commonly seen on wealthy Tudor dining tables in the first half of the 16th century.
Recipes from the mid part of the 16th century are available today and so we know that at this point the nature of marmalade making in England became much more diverse. Indeed , it is from marmalade at this very time in Tudor England that 'jam' emerged. Learning from quince marmalade making, all manner of fruits: peaches, plums, prunes, damsons, apricots and apples were now recommended for boiling. The addition of sugar and re-boiling before placing in a jar for preservation. Again, the word jam, is thought to have originated from the Arab word for 'close-packed'.
It is only later in the 16th century that the first recipes for orange marmalade appear. First in England and then in Scotland. Legend has it that a Spanish cargo ship laden with Seville oranges was forced by a terrible storm to harbour in Dundee. James Kellier, a quick-thinking grocer bought the entire cargo of Seville oranges only to discover that they were sour. It was his wife who came up with the idea of using them instead of sweet oranges - and thus Dundee marmalade was born. Today, only McKays continue to manufacture authentic Dundee marmalade in the Dundee area using whole Seville oranges.
Five hundred years later Seville orange trees continue to adorn almost every Middle Eastern desert and are also grown along the coast of Lebanon. They are used in Middle Eastern cultures not only for preserving but for the making of orange blossom essence and syrups, used in a Arabic desserts and sweets. It was in the 12th century that the Spanish region of Seville started to cultivate the sour, thick skinned oranges and hence the name we know today was created. Their sour taste is considered perfect for orange marmalade making.
Why Not Create Your Own Unique Marmalade?
However, we need not be confined to orange marmalade making. Far from it. These days the demarcation between jams and marmalades is clearer. Marmalade contains suspended fruit in jelly, jams have mushed fruit forming a thick paste.
So, delightfully - every possible combination of citrus fruit lies ahead for the marmalade maker; limes, kumquats, grapefruits, mandarins, bergamots, lemons and blood oranges are all there for the trying. Along with a world of accompaniments such as watermelon, tomato, pineapple and japonica as well as so many more possible flavours - vanilla, chilli, rosemary, whisky, liqueurs and champagne. There are many delicious ideas such as 'Christmas pudding marmalade' and 'chocolate orange marmalade' that make lovely gifts.
Keep reading over the next few weeks as we will inspire you with some marmalade recipes for you to try this marmalade making season.
If you already have your own treasured marmalade recipe then please do click here to see our full range of glass jars suitable for your marmalade.