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This article is about the fruit preserve. For other uses, see Marmalade (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with the Haitian town of Marmelade.
Homemade marmalade, England.jpg
Homemade English marmalade
Type Fruit preserve
Place of origin Great Britain
Main ingredients Juice and peel of citrus fruits, sugar, water
Cookbook: Marmalade  Media: Marmalade

Marmalade is a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits boiled with sugar and water. It can be produced from kumquats, lemons, limes, grapefruits, mandarins, sweet oranges, bergamots and other citrus fruits, or any combination thereof.

The benchmark citrus fruit for marmalade production in Britain is the Spanish Seville orange, Citrus aurantium var. aurantium, prized for its high pectin content, which gives a good set. The peel has a distinctive bitter taste which it imparts to the marmalade.

Marmalade is generally distinguished from jam by its fruit peel. It may also be distinguished from jam by the fruits used.


The Romans learned from the Greeks that quinces slowly cooked with honey would "set" when cool (though they did not know about fruit pectin). Greek μελίμηλον (melimēlon, "honey fruit") transformed into Portuguese "marmelo"—for in Greek μῆλον (mēlon, "apple") stood for all globular fruits, and most quinces are too astringent to be used without honey. A Roman cookbook attributed to Apicius gives a recipe for preserving whole quinces, stems and leaves attached, in a bath of honey diluted with defrutum—Roman marmalade. Preserves of quince and lemon appear—along with rose, apple, plum and pear—in the Book of ceremonies of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, "a book that is not only a treatise on the etiquette of imperial banquetting in the ninth century, but a catalogue of the foods available and dishes made from them."[1]

Medieval quince preserves, which went by the French name cotignac, produced in a clear version and a fruit pulp version, began to lose their medieval seasoning of spices in the 16th century. In the 17th century, La Varenne provided recipes for both thick and clear cotignac.[2]

In 1524, Henry VIII received a "box of marmalade" from Mr Hull of Exeter.[3] As it was in a box, this was likely to have been marmelada, a solid quince paste from Portugal, still made and sold in southern Europe. Its Portuguese origins can be detected in the remarks in letters to Lord Lisle, from William Grett, 12 May 1534, "I have sent to your lordship a box of marmaladoo, and another unto my good lady your wife" and from Richard Lee, 14 December 1536, "He most heartily thanketh her Ladyship for her marmalado".[2]

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.[4] 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.[4] The first printed recipe for modern marmalade is from Mary Kettilby's cookbook, A Collection of Above Three Hundred Receipts in Cookery, Physick and Surgery, published in London in 1714.[5] Kettibly's formula called for whole oranges, lemon juice and sugar, with the acid in the lemon juice helping to create the pectin set of marmalade, by boiling the lemon and orange juice with the pulp.[4][5] Kettibly then states: “boil the whole pretty fast until it will jelly” – the first known use of the word ‘jelly’ in marmalade making.[4] Kettilby then instructs that the mixture is then poured into glasses, covered and left until set. As the acid would create a jelly, this meant that the mixture could be pulled from the heat before it had turned to a paste, keeping the marmalade much brighter and the appearance more translucent, which is very similar to modern day marmalade.[4]

The Scots moved marmalade to the breakfast table, and in the 19th century the English followed the Scottish example and abandoned the eating of marmalade in the evening.[5] Marmalade's place in British life appears in literature. James Boswell remarks that he and Samuel Johnson were offered it at breakfast in Scotland in 1773.[5] 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".[5]


Antique marmalade cutter, used to cut citrus fruit peel into thin slices

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "marmalade" appeared in the English language in 1480, borrowed from French marmelade which, in turn, came from the Portuguese language marmelada. According to José Pedro Machado’s Dicionário Etimológico da Língua Portuguesa,[6] the oldest known document where this Portuguese word is to be found is Gil Vicente’s play Comédia de Rubena, written in 1521:

Temos tanta marmelada
Que a minha mãe vai me dar um pouco[7]

The extension of "marmalade" in the English language to refer to citrus fruits was made in the 17th century, when citrus first began to be plentiful enough in England for the usage to become common.

In Portuguese, according to the root of the word, which is marmelo, "quince", marmelada is a preserve made from quinces, quince cheese. Marmelo in turn derives from Latin melimelum, "honey apple",[8] which in turn comes from the earlier Greek μελίμηλον (melímēlon),[9] from "μέλι" (meli), "honey"[10] + "μήλον" (mēlon), "apple".[11]

International usage of the term[edit]

Marmalade spread on bread

In much of Europe, the term “marmalade” and its variations is still used as a generic term, whereas in Britain it has been redefined solely to a citrus preserve.[4] The name originates in Portuguese, where marmelada applies exclusively to quince jam (from "marmelo", the Portuguese for quince).[12][13] In Spanish the term usually refers to what in English is called jam (and jalea is similar to the American English jelly). In Italian too, marmellata means every jam and marmalade.

In some continental European languages, Polish for instance, a word sharing a root with "marmalade" refers to all gelled fruit conserves, and those derived from citrus fruits merit no special word of their own. Due to British influence, however, only citrus products may be sold as "marmalade" in the European Union (with certain exceptions[clarification needed]), which has led to considerable complaints from those countries.[citation needed]

In some German speaking areas Marmelade is the traditional designation for any kind of jam and marmalade (especially smooth jam without visible pieces of fruit) regardless of fruit base, and remains so in everyday language despite EU regulation which limit the term Marmelade to citrus-based preserves to minimise international confusion. Because of the persisting traditional usage and given that the alternative term Konfitüre (originally used specifically for jam with visible pieces of fruit) is foreign to Austrian German, a special exception has been granted for Austria where non-citrus-based preserves may continue to be marketed regionally as Marmelade.[citation needed]

Dundee Marmalade[edit]

Jars of marmalade

The Scottish city of Dundee has a long association with marmalade.[14][15] James Keiller and his wife Janet ran a small sweet and preserves shop in the Seagate section of Dundee.[15] In 1797, they opened a factory to produce "Dundee Marmalade",[16] a preserve distinguished by thick chunks of bitter Seville orange rind. The business prospered, and remains a signature marmalade producer today.[17]

Scots legend[edit]

According to a Scottish legend, 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.[15][18]

In children's books[edit]

Paddington Bear, a fictional character in children's books, is renowned for his particular liking for marmalade, particularly in sandwiches.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maguelonne -Samat, (Anthea Bell, tr.) A History of Food 2nd ed. 2009, p. 507
  2. ^ a b C. Anne Wilson, The Book of Marmalade: its Antecedents, Its History, and Its Role in the World Today, revised ed., 1999, p.32 & others
  3. ^ Public Record Office, Letters and Papers, Foreign & Domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII, vol. VI (1870) p.339, noted by Wilson 1999, p. 31f, and by other writers.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Diana Henry (2012). "Salt Sugar Smoke: How to preserve fruit, vegetables, meat and fish". Hachette UK,
  5. ^ a b c d e "Spread over centuries" (19 August 2003). The Age. 8 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "Etymological Dictionary of the Portuguese Language"
  7. ^ Translation: We have so much quince jelly/ That my mother will give me some. Maria João Amaral, ed. Gil Vicente, Rubena (Lisbon:Quimera) 1961 (e-book)
  8. ^ Klein’s Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language
  9. ^ Melimelon, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  10. ^ μέλι, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  11. ^ μήλον, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  12. ^ Wilson, C. Anne. The Book of Marmalade: Its Antecedents, Its History and Its Role in the World Today (Together with a Collection of Recipes for Marmalades and Marmalade Cookery), University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. Revised Edition 1999. ISBN 0-8122-1727-6
  13. ^ "Marmalade" in Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2001 Douglas Harper apud
  14. ^ "Account Suspended". 
  15. ^ a b c "Features - Scottish Food, Traditions and Customs - Dundee Marmalade". 
  16. ^ "James Keiller & Son Dundee Marmalade, Orange". 
  17. ^ W.M. Matthew, The Keiller Dynasty 1800-1879 narrates the history of Keillers; BBC News "Legacies: Keiller's: Sticky Success": offers an abbreviated version.
  18. ^ C. Anne Wilson, The Book of Marmalade. Constable, London. 1985. ISBN 0-09-465670-3.
  19. ^ "Paddington: My Book of Marmalade: Michael Bond, Peggy Fortnum: 9780007269464: Books". 

Further reading[edit]

  • Allen, Brigid (1989). Cooper's Oxford: A history of Frank Cooper Limited. 
  • Mathew, W. M. Keiller's Of Dundee: The Rise of the Marmalade Dynasty 1800-1879. 
  • Mathew, W. M. The Secret History of Guernsey Marmalade. 
  • Wilson, C. Anne (1985). The Book of Marmalade: its antecedents, its history and its rôle in the world today together with a collection of recipes for marmalades & marmalade cookery. Constable. ISBN 0-09-465670-3.