Friday, March 13, 2015

Would you like to try a little marmalade instead?

   "Many people
     Think that
     Is nicer.
     Would you like to try a little
– from The King's Breakfast by A.A. Milne

I made a batch of marmalade on Wednesday afternoon and it was quite nice. Peeling a bowl full of oranges and lemons and then chopping the peels into thin ribbons was both beautiful and fragrant.

On and off during the afternoon, I had flashes of déjà vu.  I think it is because my grandmother always served orange marmalade on her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (with the crust trimmed off). I don't think she make it herself, but kept a crock of Dundee Orange Marmalade in her hallway closet pantry. If I remember correctly, she would then use the empty jars to organize some of her sewing supplies. I wish I had some of her old jars. Aren't they fabulous?

Two forces came together to inspire me to make a batch of this citrus peel jam. The first was I had a very large bowl of citrus that I picked on our recent trip to the Juniper Club.

And secondly, my sister Kathy gifted me my mom's copy of A.A. Milne's "When We Were Very Young" and it features a funny poem about a King who wants a little bit of butter on his royal slice of bread.

Turns out the alderney cow didn't wish to oblige the dairymaid with cream for the butter and suggested that the king might like marmalade (thickly spread) instead. He did not. He wanted butter.  

I think marmalade doesn't get the respect it deserves in my part of the world. Grape jelly is more likely to be spread on U.S. pb&js. Marmalade is highly regarded in the British Isles and its many former colonies. Food writer Elizabeth Field wrote an extensive history of marmalade for her Master's in Gastronomy. Imagine that! 

I love to learn about the history of foods. It adds a whole other level of appreciation to my interest in all things culinary. According to Ms. Field, marmalade had its beginnings more than 2000 years ago when it was first made as a solid cooked quince and honey paste. 

The switch to orange marmalade happened in Scotland in the 1790s when imported Seville (bitter) oranges were used to produce a thinner form of marmalade, cooked for shorter time. Soon enough Scottish cookbook authors turned marmalade making into an art form, introducing the term "chips" for the shreds of orange rind that were included in the jam. Its popularity got a boost with the new Scottish pattern of serving marmalade as a breakfast and tea-time food rather than an after-dinner digestive. 

Janet Keiller, of Dundee, Scotland, was among the first of a series of late 18th and early 19th-century Scottish grocers' wives who established commercial marmalade factories. Her business prospered. In 1828 her son, James Keiller, joined the business and changed the name to James Keiller & Sons. (Seems to me he should have changed it to James Keiller & Mom, but he didn't ask me.)  It is still available today, but the jar is not nearly as coveted.

In addition to spreading on toast, I'm planning to mix my marmalade with some soy sauce and use it as a marinade for tonight's salmon dinner. Just realized it is almost 6:30, I better get cooking...

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