The History of Marmalade: How It Became a British Breakfast Staple

When you think of Marmalade, you think of Paddington Bear and all things British. It is one of the breakfast staple that has been enjoyed by generations of Britons. But, do you now where this tangy, mouth watering, citrus spread can to be a loved British breakfast staple? If so and if not, we are going to explore the fascinating history of marmalade and its journey from the exotic gardens of Seville to the humble breakfast tables of the UK.

The story of marmalade begins in Seville, the sunny city, in southern Spain.

Europe and Asia were introduced to the bitter Seville orange around the 16th century. Even though the flavour was tart and bitter, plus the tough pulp, made them unsuitable for eating them raw. However, this didn't put anyone off in Spain because they began to preserve them in sugar, which created a sticky paste that they called "marmalada".

History of Marmalade: How It Became a British Breakfast Staple

The word "marmelada" comes from the Portuguese word "marmelo", which means "quince".

The original recipe for marmalade was made with quinces, which is much sweeter and softer than Seville oranges.

However, when the bitter Seville oranges were introduced, they quickly became the preferred fruit for making marmalade, thanks to their high pectin content, which helped the preserve set.

The popularity of marmalade exploded and spread beyond Spain, past Portugal. The British began importing marmalade from Portugal in the 17th century. They quickly discovered that they could make there own marmalade using the Seville oranges imported from Spain.

Marmalade's first English recipe came from Eliza Cholmondeley in around 1677, due to a cook being held at the Cheshire Record Office in the County Archives. In that recipe book it calls marmalade ("Marmelet of Oranges") which produced a firm, thick dark paste.

Marmalade was expensive to buy and was normally for the wealthier section of society.

It wasn't until the 18th and 19th centuries that marmalade really took off as a breakfast staple. This was thanks in part to the development of the steam engine, which made it easier to transport oranges from Spain to Britain. As a result, the price of oranges began to drop, making them more accessible to the average person. Additionally, the British Navy began to supply its sailors with marmalade as a source of vitamin C to prevent scurvy, and this helped to popularise the spread among the wider population.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, marmalade reached the height of its popularity in Britain. Many famous brands of marmalade, such as Robertson's and Frank Cooper's, were established during this time. Marmalade also became associated with British colonialism, as it was often served at breakfast in British colonies such as India and Australia. This association with the British Empire helped to cement marmalade's place in British culinary culture.

Want to make your own Marmalade? Follow this traditional Seville Orange Marmalade recipe.

Today, marmalade remains a beloved British breakfast staple, and it has even inspired a number of fun traditions. For example, every year in April, the town of Cumbria at Daleman Mansion, holds a "Marmalade Festival and awards.

It's amazing to see that what began as a Spanish and Portuguese delicacy, made it's way to England and became a beloved British breakfast staple. Evolving from a sweet paste mixed with quince to a tangy orange jam. Today, marmalade is enjoyed by millions of people and is firmly associated with British heritage.

One of the reasons for marmalade's enduring popularity is its versatility. While it is primarily eaten on toast or scones at breakfast, it can also be used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. For example, marmalade can be used to glaze a ham, to flavour a cake or tart, or to add a citrusy kick to a salad dressing. It can even be mixed with whiskey to make orange marmalade whiskey sour

Another reason for marmalade's popularity is its health benefits. Seville oranges, which are used to make marmalade, are high in vitamin C, fibre, and antioxidants. These nutrients can help boost the immune system, aid digestion, and protect against chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. So, while marmalade may be a sweet treat, it can also be a healthy addition to your diet.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional British foods, and marmalade has been no exception. Many artisanal producers have begun making marmalade using traditional methods, such as hand-cutting the oranges and slow-cooking the jam in copper pots. These small-batch marmalades are often more flavourful and complex than their mass-produced counterparts, and they are sought after by foodies and gourmands around the world.

In conclusion, marmalade is more than just a tasty spread for your morning toast. It is a cultural icon, a symbol of British culinary heritage, and a versatile ingredient with a rich history. Whether you prefer your marmalade thick-cut or fine-cut, tangy or sweet, there is no denying that this humble preserve has earned its place in the pantheon of great British foods. So the next time you spread some marmalade on your toast, take a moment to appreciate the history and tradition that goes into each jar, and savour the tangy, citrusy goodness that has been enjoyed by generations of Britons.

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