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Marmalade “Golden Treasure”

A Little History Lesson

The Roman author Apicius wrote a cookbook in about the fifth century AD that mentions marmalade, so we know that marmalade goes back at least that far. The Persians were making it, too, by at least the sixth century AD. They also made it from quinces, and considered it the finest of all fruit desserts.

By the middle ages, the Portuguese were making marmalade and importing it all over Europe. It was not a marmalade that we would recognize in the UK, being more of a thick paste than a clear jelly. It was a popular item for gift-giving among the nobles, and was thought to be a good remedy for upset stomachs. It was considered more of a candy than a condiment, and would often be eaten at the end of a large feast, to help with the digestion.

King Henry VIII received a gift of marmalade from a Mr. Hull of Exeter in 1524. It came in a box, so we can assume that it was probably still the paste variety. We can probably also assume that King Henry enjoyed it, as he had a healthy appetite and may have needed the occasional digestive assistance. It had an additional benefit: marmalade, it seems, was rumored to have aphrodisiac properties.

It wasn’t until the 18th century that marmalade began to take the form in which we recognize it today. In 1797 a retired merchant named John Keiller encountered a Spanish ship in the harbor of Dundee, Scotland. The ship had been forced to make harbor due to a storm, and the captain offered Keiller a great deal on Seville oranges, which were not keeping as well in the hold as he had hoped. Keiller bought the entire shipment and took it home, only to be disappointed that the fruit was so sour.

Keiller’s wife, an experienced confections cook, decided not to let them go to waste, and cooked up a batch of a bitter-sweet orange jam, using skins, pith, and all. The marmalade was a great hit in the Keiller’s local sweet shop, and by the mid-1800’s the family business, now in its third generation, was going strong. Keiller marmalade was being sold in England as well as Scotland by then, and was doing almost as well as it had in Dundee, despite a steadily increasing number of competitors. The Keillers even set up a small operation on the island of Guernsey, where they wouldn’t be required to pay duty on imported sugar.

In the British Isles, marmalade came to refer only to the preserve made from oranges or other citric fruits, but in many other countries the word still represented any type of jam or jelly. Under British influence, the European Union has limited the sale of “marmalades” specifically to preserves made from citrus fruits.

Monte Da Quinta’s Golden Treasure

During the month of February we are busy making Marmalade at Monte da Quinta. We like to provide our homemade preserves as part of our welcome hamper given to our guests.

Here is our recipe using the very finest Lemons and Seville oranges Citrus aurantium grown in our Orange Grove at Monte da Quinta.

INGREDIENTS: 1360grms Seville Oranges (bitter), Juice of 2 Lemons, 6 Pints Water, 2720 grms Sugar

Wash the fruit, cut in half and squeeze. Slice the peel thinly, add to the pan with the orange juice, the juice of two lemons and 6 pints of water. Pips and pith should be tied in muslin and put into the pan. Simmer for 1.5 hours, until the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the muslin bag and stir in all the sugar. Boil rapidly until setting is reached (approx. 30 minutes of boiling). Leave to cool slightly, then pot into warm jars. makes approx 9 jars.   DELICIOUS!