It’s Marmalade Time!


Making Marmalade – Glorious!!

It’s that time of year again. The Seville oranges are in the shops and every good preserver is dusting off their own take on that classic, Seville orange marmalade. And you know that got me thinking; what exactly is the origin of marmalade. It seems such a British concept ranking alongside afternoon tea and cricket, but is that true. A quick rummage around on that wonderful invention the internet came up with a surprising no!


The word marmalade or derivatives thereof have been used to describe certain edible preserves as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans. Mostly made from quince and more of a paste than a jelly style preserve, it would appear marmalade has been around a long time. But what of the modern version, the one so beloved by the English breakfaster?

Origins of Modern Marmalade

Well, Dalemain House in deepest darkest Cumbria was, in the late 1600’s, the seat of the Bishop of Carlisle. Married to his Right Reverence was a lady by the name of Elizabeth Rainbow and it is to her we really owe our marmalade heritage. Still kept at Dalemain House is a recipe book Elizabeth compiled containing many marmalade recipes she had collected on her travels. She herself was an avid marmalade maker and when residing at her palace in the Strand would visit the newly opened Fortnum and Mason to avail herself of Seville oranges and loaf sugar to make her preserves.


Of course it is the Keiller family of Dundee, James and his mother, that are credited with popularising what we now all recognise as Seville orange marmalade. They were the first to mass produce marmalade from Seville oranges from their home in Dundee and sell it at prices that was affordable to the common man, and indeed the term Dundee marmalade is still much in use today.

I personally, think the beauty of marmalade is it’s such a forgiving preserve to make and the results are, unless a complete disaster befalls you, always gratifying. The intense flavour of the Seville oranges almost guarantees that an acceptable product will come out the other end of the process. Of course there are so many variations to be had on the theme and many of them are quite delicious. Mixed citrus marmalade is one of my favourites; lemons, oranges and grapefruit, preferably pink, all blended together to give a real explosion of flavour.

The World Marmalade Awards

Needless to say all this diversity has lead to healthy rivalry amongst the more competitive of preserve makers. It is quite befitting then that the World Marmalade Awards are held at Dalemain House, home of the modern marmalade. Every year during the first week in March the current incumbent Jane Hasell-McCosh throws the house open to the competition. There are classic classes for the likes of Seville orange and Oxford marmalade alongside some more quirky and fun sections, which have included such oddities and the “Lords and Peers” class, strictly open to gentry only!

On reflection it is hardly surprising there is the World Marmalade Awards, it has to be one of the most popular preserves, certainly in the UK and arguably in the world. Of course Wares has a great selection of jars for you to display your lovingly created marmalade in and if you are new to the art you could do a lot worse than start with following Jess’ recipe for the good old standard Seville orange marmalade. It is so simple to follow and guarantees tasty results every time!

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