Regency Refreshments: Marmalade
I love historical cookery, and recently I made my first (but certainly not my last!) batch of marmalade. A chef friend showed up to dinner lugging a box of small, ugly oranges which she handed to me with a smile of delight. “They’re Seville oranges! I saved you some.” I had no idea why this was cause for joy, but I trusted her enough to go spend $100 on canning supplies the next day.
The recipe I used was David Lebovitz’s, with one addition: After juicing the oranges, I boiled the half rinds for 20 minutes and scraped out the pith with a spoon and discarded it. I’ve made it two ways now: once with beautifully sliced rind and once with randomly chopped rind (hello, food processor!). Both were equally tasty and absolutely delightful on a real English muffin hot from the pan.
When I was researching recipes, I found myself reading snatches of history as well (as you do). Marmalade was originally quince butter (which I’ve had plenty of, as my friends in Italy make it every year) called Marmelos. Outside of English speaking countries, “marmalade” is still often just another synonym for jam and can apparently be made from any fruit. But as we Anglophiles know, in Britain, it’s a citrus based preserve, historically made with bitter, Seville oranges.
There’s an apocryphal story about a storm and a hold full of oranges sold off cheaply, but recipes for “Marmelet of Oranges” predate the 18th century tale by more than two hundred years (1677 is the oldest documented recipe). James Keiller did however create the first commercially available marmalade, so he and his brand are rightfully famous (you’ll often hear of Dundee marmalade because Dundee is the Scottish town where Keiller opened his factory in 1797). I grew up on “Dundee” preserves in their white jar, and I fully admit to wanting an antique crock for my kitchen.
The recipe in my go-to 18th century cookery book, Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy (1784 edition), is short and to the point (and once you’ve followed the far more complicated “idiot-proof” modern ones, make perfect sense).