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Marmalade Days

“Bought marmalade? Oh dear, I call that very feeble.” ~ Lady Trentham, Gosford Park (2002)

Are you as particular about your marmalade? This fruit preserve, made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits (usually bitter Seville oranges) and boiled with sugar and water, started out as a combination of fruits including lemons, limes, grapefruits, mandarins, sweet oranges, bergamots, as well as non-citrus. In fact, the word "marmalade" is borrowed from the Portuguese marmelada, from marmelo referring to the quince! Marmalade devotees include Paddington Bear (whose passion for marmalade is well known) and International Spy James Bond! 007 has it on his toast in the mornings as chronicled by Ian Fleming’s 1957 novel From Russia, With Love! The Scots are credited with developing marmalade as a spread, with Scottish recipes in the 18th century using more water to produce a less solid preserve than older recipes. The Scots also moved marmalade to the breakfast table, and by the 19th century the English followed suit, abandoning the eating of marmalade in the evening. Today, there is a yearly Marmalade Festival & Competition, hosted in Dalemain Mansion & Gardens in the Lake District, where the world's premier marmalade makers submit their delicious concoctions for tasting! 🍊 🍞

The "Marmalade, My Toast is Calling" tartan marks the time of year for competition for the title of the "World's Best Marmalade" held annually at Dalemain Mansion & Gardens, Penrith, Cumbria.  The marmalade awards are given in several categories, including: homemade, artisan, hotel, B&Bs, and more.

By designer Carol A.L. Martin, this tartan evokes the colors of browned toast, creamy butter, and the oranges and orange peel that are the hallmarks of traditional orange marmalade.

Technically, a marmalade fruit preserve can be made from various fruits, but the classic citrus fruit for marmalade production in Britain is the Spanish Seville orange, Citrus aurantium var. aurantium, prized for its high pectin content.  The peel has a distinctive bitter taste which it imparts to the marmalade.

According to a Scottish legend, probably apocryphal, the creation of orange marmalade in Britain occurred by accident. The legend tells of a ship carrying a cargo of oranges that broke down in the port of Dundee, resulting in some ingenious locals making marmalade out of the cargo.

Marmalade was said to be a favourite treat of Anne Boleyn and her ladies in waiting. The English recipe book of Eliza Cholmondeley, dated from 1677 and held at the Chester Record Office in the Cheshire county archivists, has one of the earliest marmalade recipes ("Marmelet of Oranges") which produced a firm, thick dark paste. 

Marmalade's ensconced place at the table also appears in various literary references.  James Boswell remarked that he and Samuel Johnson were offered it at breakfast in Scotland in 1773.   And when American writer Louisa May Alcott visited Britain in the 1800s, she described "a choice pot of marmalade and a slice of cold ham" as "essentials of English table comfort".

For more fascinating facts about the history of marmalade and references in literature and popular culture, click the buttered toast with marmalade!

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