How one woman’s mission to preserve the art of marmalade making has turned into a glorious annual festival held in her Cumbrian home.
In the short days of winter the sight of the first Seville oranges arriving in the shops means one thing – the ritual of marmalade making, the shredded bitter peel transformed by sugar and heat into something delicious. Marmalade, until recently, was old school, elbowed off the breakfast table by pastries containing sexy exotics, such as almonds, apricots and dark chocolate. Meanwhile, Spanish orchards growing Seville oranges were being grubbed up for watermelon fields. But a quest bordering on obsession by a Cumbrian gardener, cook and historian is reviving its status, propelling it from the back of the cupboard to the shelves of luxury delicatessens.
Marmalade has a surprisingly long association with this country. It was originally made with quinces (the Portuguese word for quince is marmelo), until Arab traders brought Seville oranges to Europe in medieval times. One of the earliest English recipes dates from 1587, and the Georgians were crazy for it, serving it as a pudding, a confectionary and even a digestif. Then in the 20th century mass-produced blandness saw its popularity decline.
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