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Homemade marmalade
TypeFruit preserve
Place of originPortugal
Main ingredientsJuice and peel of citrus fruits, sugar, water

Marmalade (from the Portuguese marmelada)[1] is a fruit preserve made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits boiled with sugar and water. The well-known version is made from bitter orange. It is also made from lemons, limes, grapefruits, mandarins, sweet oranges, bergamots, and other citrus fruits, or a combination. Citrus is the most typical choice of fruit for marmalade, though historically the term has often been used for non-citrus preserves.[2]

One popular citrus fruit used in marmalade production is the bitter orange, Citrus aurantium var. aurantium, prized for its high pectin content, which sets readily to the thick consistency expected of marmalade. The peel imparts a bitter taste.

The Portuguese original word marmelada means made of 'quince'.

Unlike jam, a large quantity of water is added to the fruit in a marmalade, the extra liquid being set by the high pectin content of the fruit. In this respect it is like a jelly, but whereas the fruit pulp and peel are strained out of jelly to give it its characteristic clarity, it is retained in a marmalade.


Marmalade spread on bread

The Romans learned from the Greeks that quinces slowly cooked with honey would "set" when cool. The 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.[2]

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.[3]

In 1524, Henry VIII received a "box of marmalade" from Mr Hull of Exeter.[4] As it was in a box, this was probably marmelada, a solid quince paste from Portugal, still made and sold in southern Europe. "Marmalet" was served at the wedding banquet of the daughter of John Neville in Yorkshire in 1530.[5] 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".[3] It was a favourite treat of Anne Boleyn and her ladies in waiting.[citation needed]

Scottish grocer James Robertson created Golden Shred marmalade in 1864.

The English recipe book of Eliza Cholmondeley, dated from 1677 and held at the Chester Record Office in the Cheshire county archives, has one of the earliest marmalade recipes ("Marmelet of Oranges") which produced a firm, thick dark paste. 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.[6]

The first printed recipe for orange marmalade, though without the chunks typically used now, was in Mary Kettilby's 1714 cookery book, A Collection of above Three Hundred Receipts (pages 78–79).[7][8][9] Kettilby 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.[6][9] Kettilby then directs: "boil the whole pretty fast 'till it will jelly" – the first known use of the word "jelly" in marmalade making. 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, as in modern-day marmalade.[6]

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. 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. 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".[9]


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

Marmalade first appeared in the English language in 1480, borrowed from French marmelade which, in turn, came from the Galician-Portuguese word marmelada. According to José Pedro Machado's Dicionário Etimológico da Língua Portuguesa,[10] 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[11]

The extension of marmalade in the English language to refer to a preserve made from citrus fruits occurred in the 17th century, when citrus first began to be plentiful enough in England for the usage to become common.[citation needed]

Greek μελίμηλον melimēlon 'sweet apple', from μέλη 'honey' + μῆλον mēlon 'apple, round fruit', became Galician-Portuguese marmelo 'quince'.[12][13]

In Portuguese, marmelada is a preserve made from quinces, quince cheese.

There is an apocryphal story that Mary, Queen of Scots consumed marmalade as a treatment for seasickness,[14] and that the name is derived from her maids' whisper of Marie est malade ('Mary is ill'). In reality, the word's origin has nothing to do with Mary.[15]

International usage[edit]

Vihreät kuulat, green marmalade balls by Fazer

In much of Europe and Latin America, cognates for the English term marmalade are still used as a generic term for pulpy preserves of all fruits, whereas in Britain it refers solely to preserves typically of citrus peel, such as from grapefruit, orange or lemon.[6] The name originated in the 16th century from Middle French marmelade and Portuguese, where marmelada applied to quince jam.[16][17]

In Finnish, Russian and former Soviet cuisine, marmalade (Finnish: marmeladi and Russian: мармелад, marmelad) refers to a sugar-coated gummy candy made from agar and adapted from a French confectionery in the late 18th century. It is often sold in the form of marmalade slices made to resemble citrus wedges.[18] An example of marmeladi candies in Finland is Vihreät kuulat (Finnish for "green balls"), a brand of pear-flavored gummy candies created by Finnish confectioner Karl Fazer from a recipe from St. Petersburg.[19]

Legal definitions[edit]

Canadian regulations[edit]

Under the Food and Drug Regulations (C.R.C., c. 870), marmalade is a standardized food and defined as a food of jelly-like composition that consists of at least 65% water-soluble solids. The regulations permit the use of pH adjusting agents to prevent the marmalade from dehydration, antifoaming agents to prevent blemishes on surface coatings and enable efficient filling of containers, and an acid ingredient to compensate for the natural acidity of the citrus fruit used. If pectin is added, the marmalade must contain at least 27% of peel, pulp, or juice of citrus fruit. Class II preservatives may also be used.[20]

The Canadian Food and Drug Regulations (C.R.C., c. 870) specify that pineapple or fig marmalade must be of jelly-like consistency, achieved by boiling the pulp of juice of the fruit with water, and a sweetening ingredient. Pineapple or fig marmalade should contain at least 45% of the named fruit.[20]

European regulation[edit]

Since 1979, the EU directive 79/693/CEE defines marmalade as a jam made from citrus fruits. The directive was replaced on 20 December 2001 by the ruling 32001L0113.[21] The translated versions of this document keep the English definition of "marmalade" as referring to citrus fruits, even if the other languages use the corresponding word normally in the broader sense of a "jam".[citation needed]


Jars of homemade marmalade

The Scottish city of Dundee has a long association with marmalade.[22] James Keiller and his mother, Janet, ran a small sweet and preserves shop in the Seagate area of Dundee.[23] In 1797, they opened a factory to produce "Dundee Marmalade",[24] a preserve distinguished by thick chunks of bitter Seville orange rind. The business prospered, and remains a signature marmalade producer today.[25]

According to a Scottish legend, the creation of orange marmalade in Dundee occurred by accident. The legend tells of a ship carrying a cargo of oranges that broke down in the port, resulting in some ingenious locals making marmalade out of the cargo.[23][26] However, this legend was "decisively disproved by food historians", according to a New York Times report.[27]

In popular culture[edit]

John Hurt's marmalade-themed Paddington Bear statue in London, auctioned to raise funds for the NSPCC

Children's literature

  • Paddington Bear is known for his liking of marmalade, particularly in sandwiches, and kept it in his briefcase wherever he went.[28] Paddington Bear is now used on the label of the smaller peel ("shred") and clearer/milder Robertson's "Golden Shred" marmalade, in place of the previous icon, "Golliwog", which is considered racially offensive. The 2014 movie Paddington led to a slight increase in marmalade sales in the UK.[29]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ "MARMALADE | Meaning & Definition for UK English | Lexico.com". Lexico Dictionaries | English. Archived from the original on 25 February 2021. Retrieved 26 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b Maguelonne-Samat, (Anthea Bell, tr.) A History of Food 2nd ed. 2009, p. 507
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ Public Record Office, Letters and Papers, Foreign & Domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII, vol. 6 (London, 1870) p. 339, noted by Wilson 1999, p. 31f, and by other writers.
  5. ^ Francis Peck, Desiderata Curiosa, vol. 2 (London, 1779), p. 249.
  6. ^ a b c d Diana Henry (2012). "Salt Sugar Smoke: How to preserve fruit, vegetables, meat and fish". Hachette UK,
  7. ^ Bateman, Michael (3 January 1993). "Hail marmalade, great chieftain o' the jammy race: Mrs Keiller of Dundee added chunks in the 1790s, thus finally defining a uniquely British gift to gastronomy". The Independent. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  8. ^ Wilson, C. Anne (2010). The Book of Marmalade (2nd ed.). Prospect Books. (cited in The Independent)
  9. ^ a b c "Spread over centuries". The Age. No. 19 August 2003. 8 June 2015.
  10. ^ "Etymological Dictionary of the Portuguese Language"
  11. ^ 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)
  12. ^ Klein’s Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language
  13. ^ Melimelon, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek–English Lexicon, on Perseus Digital Library
  14. ^ "Marmalade myths - Recipes from Scotland - National Library of Scotland". digital.nls.uk. Retrieved 17 November 2023.
  15. ^ "Marmalade". World Wide Words. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  16. ^ 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 2000 ISBN 0-8122-1727-6
  17. ^ "Marmalade". Online Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper. 2020. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  18. ^ Malinka, Vasilisa (22 October 2019). "Lemon marmalade slices: Soviet sweets that make any tea time special". Russia Beyond. Retrieved 8 August 2022.
  19. ^ "Marmeladimakeiset - pala makeaa historiaa".
  20. ^ a b "Marmalade". Consolidated Federal Laws of Canada, Food and Drug Regulations, Government of Canada. 3 June 2019. Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  21. ^ Branch, Legislative Services (12 January 2002). "EUR-lex". eur-lex.europa.eu.
  22. ^ "Features – Scottish Food, Traditions and Customs – Dundee Marmalade". The GBK Cookbook. The British Food Trust. Archived from the original on 29 January 2008. Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  23. ^ a b "Features – Scottish Food, Traditions and Customs – Dundee Marmalade". scotsindependent.org. Archived from the original on 16 February 2017. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  24. ^ "James Keiller & Son Dundee Marmalade, Orange". wegmans.com. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011.
  25. ^ W.M. Matthew, The Keiller Dynasty 1800–1879 narrates the history of Keillers; BBC News "Legacies: Keiller's: Sticky Success": offers an abbreviated version.
  26. ^ C. Anne Wilson, The Book of Marmalade. Constable, London. 1985. ISBN 0-09-465670-3.
  27. ^ Apple Jr., R. W. (27 March 2002). "This Blessed Plot, This Realm of Tea, This Marmalade". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  28. ^ Michael Bond (2008). Paddington: My Book of Marmalade. Illustrated by Peggy Fortnum. HarperCollins Children's. ISBN 978-0-00-726946-4.
  29. ^ Davies, Caroline (24 February 2017). "Marmalade in decline as Paddington struggles to lift sales". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  30. ^ Austen, Jane (1811). Sense and Sensibility.
  31. ^ Silvia Baucekova (2015). Dining Room Detectives: Analysing Food in the Novels of Agatha Christie. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 978-1443877626.

Further reading

  • 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.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Marmalade at Wikimedia Commons