Sunday, March 26, 2006

Marmalade - Part 2 ... and Dundee Cake

This posting is dedicated to my mum on Mother's Day - with lots of love.

Over the course of the 17th century the method used for producing quince marmalade was applied to other fruit, including oranges. The oranges available in Britain at this were bitter not sweet, so the combination of fruit and sugar was a good one. The earliest orange marmalades were therefore not dissimilar to the quince marmelada that I made in my previous posting.

Another fruit popular for preserves during the 17th century was the pippin (apples raised from a pip). Pippins are naturally high in pectin (as is the quince), so it was an easy fruit to work with. Although they too could be made into a set paste and boxed, they were generally made into a jelly of a beautiful golden translucency and presented in a glass to show off the colour. The pippin jelly was delicately flavoured and 17th century tastes preferred something stronger, and so additional fruit was added in the form of candied lemon or orange peel, or even whole fruit. The golden jelly held the fruit in suspended animation that looked pretty impressive, and so was a nifty number to serve to guests as part of your dessert course. The combination of pippin jelly with orange peel proved to be a popular one.

When Charles II's court returned from exile in France, they brought to England a small linguistic shift in fruit preserve terminology. In France preserved quinces were made into something that had a jellied consistency and that was potted not boxed. The French name for this was 'marmelade de coings'. The Restoration court (and therefore fashionable society) were thus in the habit of referring to this jellied substance as a 'marmalade', and so the name began to be applied to fruit preserves that did not necessarily match the appearance of the Portuguese marmelada. Fashions being what they are, the older forms of marmalade began to look old hat, and a new form of marmalade started to emerge.

At some point towards the end of the 17th century a cunning (but unknown) British housewife devised a method of producing a jellied preserve from bitter Seville oranges alone (no need for the addition of pippins). The first orange marmalades of this type were still much thicker than those served today, but they would have been potted, not boxed, and eaten with a spoon, not cut with a knife. The method of making the marmalade involved boiling the peel and pulp with sugar, and then pounding the softened fruit with in a mortar. Very labourious work. Eventually a second method evolved in which the peel was boiled separately to soften it, and then the peel was boiled again along with sugar, juice and pulp. The result was a opaque jelly with peel suspended in it. In Scotland the slices of peel within orange marmalade were known as
'chips' and so the preserve there often went under the name 'chip marmalade'.

There is a myth that Mary Queen of Scots introduced marmalade to Scotland, but I think this is down to the infamous pun derived from marrying her name to marmelada. Mary was seasick on the journey from France to Scotland, and is supposed to have asked for "marmelade pour Marie est malade" (quince marmalade was thought to be good for settling stomachs). It is possible that Mary help popularise French food tastes within Scotland, and that a consignment of marmelada travelled with her from France, but it was already known in Scotland before her arrival.

It was harder for Scottish housewives to obtain quinces, but there were plenty of other fruits available locally for preserve making. Oranges were imported into Scotland from the end of the 15th century. Three sugar boiling houses were established in Scotland between 1667 and 1701. Raw sugar was imported alongside the oranges, and so the two ingredients needed for orange marmalade making in Scotland were readily available by the end of the 1600s. It was this latter fact that led to Janet Keiller (often wrongly credited with inventing marmalade) to turning her hand to large-scale production of orange marmalade.

At an unknown date towards the end of the 17th century, Janet Keiller bought going cheap a load of oranges from a ship forced to dock in Dundee harbour due to bad weather. With sugar from her husband'’s grocery business she cannily turned the fruit into marmalade, which she then sold through Mr. Keiller's store. Janet, faced with a cargo load of oranges, chose to use the 'chip marmalade' method (slightly less work). Mrs. Keiller's marmalade proved to be a great success, and in Dundee in 1797 a full-time business was established producing marmalade, and also eventually producing jams, confectionery and Dundee cakes. The 'chip marmalade' would be known in England as 'Scotch marmalade', and eventually synonymously as 'Dundee marmalade' all thanks to the popularity of Keiller's product.

So this brings me neatly to a stopping off point for a quick bake. Keiller's quickly evolved into large-scale food producer, with the work-force and equipment to produce other goods alongside the marmalade. Dundee cake was first made by Keiller's at some point in the 19th century. They cannot take the credit for the recipe, as similar fruit cakes were made across Scotland, but they were able to produce cakes commercially which then sold across the globe as 'Dundee cake'. Dundee cakes are not so heavily fruited as some dried fruit based cakes, and the top of each cake is studded with blanched almonds. The use of almonds to decorate the cake in a distinctive way, was probably just a marketing ploy to ensure product individuality. For Keiller's cake making was also a clever way of ensuring the factory workers were kept busy when Seville oranges were out of season, and to use up any left-over peel.

Mary Queen of Scots pops up again in a legend connected to Dundee cake. The story goes that Mary didn'’t like cherries in her fruit cake, and so a Scottish baker came up with a special recipe which didn't include them (surely you just leave them out?). A 'genuine' Dundee cake should therefore not include cherries. I have to say though that in most of the recipes that I read they were included. Perhaps they were recipes devised by Mary's jealous cousin, Elizabeth I?

I followed the recipe sent to me by Eva (The Golden Shrimp). As part of her EBBP box to me she sent me key ingredients for Dundee cake -– mixed peel, raisin, sultanas, cherries (sorry Eva, I went with Mary on this one, but I'’ll find a good use for them in the near future), and a small bottle of whisky (a single malt! - I kept this for drinking with my cake, and used a more pedestrian whisky I already had). Eva's recipe was either for one large cake, or for several small ones. I decided to make miniature cakes. The recipe also included instructions for making a whisky syrup or saboyan to serve with the cakes, to turn them into a rather wonderful sounding dessert (recipe is from Gary Rhodes: At the Table).

175g butter
175g caster sugar
3 large egg, beaten
225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
2 tbsp ground almonds
175g currants
175g sultanas
50g chopped glace cherries (if you want to)
50g chopped mixed peel
finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
3-4 tbsp whisky
50g blanched almonds to decorate

1. Preheat oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Prepare your cake tins. I used three small tins approx. 10cm across by 3 cm deep, and I also filled nine muffin cases.
2. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the beaten eggs gradually.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder and spice into a bowl.
4. Put all the fruit, including the grated lemon and orange zest, into another bowl.
5. Fold the dry ingredients into the butter, sugar and egg mixture. Once well blended add the dried fruit. Finish off by adding the wet ingredients making damn sure you don’t leave out the whisky.
6. Spoon into the cake tins/cases, and place the almonds on top of the mixture in a decorative manner.
7. Gary suggests that small Dundee cakes will take about 25 minutes. I kept an eye on mine and found they took closer to 45.
8. After leaving the cakes to cool you can wrap them in greaseproof paper and store them in an airtight box. A large cake should be stored for a week before eating to improve the flavour. Me, I had a small cake (a wee morsel - see below) as soon as it was cool enough to get in my mouth. ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!

Incidentally, did you know that the Dalai Lama is very fond of Dundee cake?

Anyway, back to the marmalade tale. Keiller's success encouraged other Scottish grocer and kitchen supremo partnerships to launch rival businesses. James Robertson and his wife Marion set up their company in Paisley in 1864. Robertson's best known product is 'Golden Shred', still selling well today. Four years later, George and Margaret Baxter started their company in Morayshire. Alongside marmalade Baxters also made jams and other conserves. They are still a household name, and now produce all manner of foodstuffs. And so, with the success of these companies, and the initial commericalisation of the marmalade making process by Keillers, marmalade has a long association with Scotland which continues.

Much further south, the university town of Oxford was the site of an English firm which also had great sales success with its marmalade and other preserves. Frank Cooper and his wife (yet another grocer and talented cook combo) set up their business in 1874. Cooper's product was unique in the way that the marmalade was prepared, as after two boilings the softened orange pulp was left to mature for between 3 and 12 months. The finished marmalade was dark and contained coarse cut peel. The marmalade was enjoyed by students and dons, and visitors to the town took jars away with them. Business boomed. A large factory was built in Oxford right next to the railway station for ease of transportation. Cooper's success meant that Oxford is also forever associated with the sweet, sticky stuff. Chivers of Histon, Cambridgeshire and Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree, Essex, also put their towns on the marmalade map.

So, just one last thing to consider. Marmalade was first eaten at the end of the main evening meal as part of the range of dishes offered as dessert. The reason being was that oranges were considered comforting to the stomach; aides to digestion; and also stimulatory of warmth to the body. From Elizabethan times through to the 18th century, this continued to be the case. It was the medicinal benefits of oranges which led to the Scots first sampling marmalade as part of their first meal of the day - breakfast. The Scots had been in the habit of starting their day with a dram of whisky, followed by a bowl of ale with a toast floating in it. When tea drinking became fashionable in the early 18th century some people dropped the ale and took tea instead. Others swapped the whisky for a tot of body warming marmalade. The Presbytarians no doubt welcomed the loss of alcohol, but the Scottish breakfast evolved into a fine feast of a meal soon to be copied by those in the rest of Britain.

Golden Shred 'World's Best' Marmalade? To me this is reminiscent of the claim of one of our national tabloids to be 'The World's Greatest Newspaper'. I think I will leave that for you to decide...

My main source of information for both my postings on marmalade was 'The Book of Marmalade' by C. Anne Wilson. It also contains many historical recipes for marmalade, and ideas of foods to make with marmalade (cakes, trifles, pies etc.).

Saturday, March 25, 2006

EBBP4 - From Dundee to Ealing

Earlier this week I received my EBBP parcel from the lovely Eva of The Golden Shrimp. Eva had filled it with carefully chosen items, based on my own site and foodie interests.

First out of the box were ingredients (mixed peel, sultanas, raisins, glace cherries, whisky) for making a Dundee cake (Eva is Dutch but lives in Dundee, Scotland). This was a fantastic idea and it fits in amazingly well with the next posting that I am working on (to be revealed shortly). Eva also sent me a recipe from which to bake. I rushed off to use the said items before I had had a chance to photograph them unopened.

Next to be revealed were some Japanese rice crackers (we have both had the pleasure of visiting Japan):

Very tasty!

...and also dried mushroms and seaweed - ingredients for recipes supplied by Eva and hand-written for me. Thank you Eva, I will certainly be trying these out. I have always been very lazy and bought dashi granules, so this will encourage me to make my own:

Next, a mini vegetarian haggis from the esteemed makers of haggises - Macsweens. I love the meaty ones so it will be interesting to see how this compares tastewise. Another taste of Scotland from Eva:

Then lastly a few sweet goodies - a box of Lindt mini Easter eggs; a box of De Ruijter chocolate sprinkles (I had these many years ago in Amsterdam, so they were a real foodie blast from the past! How nice when things like this pop up unexpectedly); and a tiny little strawberry scented candle in a ceramic holder (because as Eva says, the real fruit are not available, but it is nice to be reminded that summer is not so far off now):

These to be hidden from my husband...

Thank you so much Eva.

Thank you too to Andrew from SpittoonExtra for organising this round of EBBP.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Marmalade - Part 1

Tangy with bitter-sweet orange; an amber jelly thick with petrified peel; beloved of good folks such as Paddington Bear (of COURSE he's a real person) and the cream of England's great explorers (Hillary took a jar to aid him in his climb of Everest, and Scott took a pot on his fateful trip to the South Pole). Marmalade is a dish that may be produced in kitchens all over Britain, although commercial production is associated with Oxford and Scotland. The fruit of popular choice is Seville orange, and seasonality dictates that home-made marmalade can only be produced during the first couple of months of the year. I had good intentions to make a batch at the end of this winter, but in the blink of an eye the Seville oranges that had come into the supermarkets all vanished. Rather than miss out altogether on my first foray into marmalade making, I decided instead to look into the history of the preserve. I soon discovered that the marmalade that was first produced in this country was quite different to that which graces today's breakfast table. I need to credit here 'The Book of Marmalade' by C. Anne Wilson, from which most of my factual information derives.

The fruit conserve that was to become known as marmalade first arrived on these shores in the 15th century courtesy of the Portuguese. Luxury foods such as sugars, dried fruits and sweet wines were all assured good sellers to the wealthier Tudor households, and it seems reasonable to think that some canny Portuguese trader thought it worthwhile to also bring over a few boxes of their local sweet marmelada, made of preserved marmelo (Portuguese for quince). Although Britain already had recipes (via the Romans) for preserving quinces in honey, these gave a wetter or more jellied result.

Marmelada was a preserve made of quince and sugar, set to a thick, jellied paste and contained in a wooden box rather than an earthenware pot. It was cut and served in slices. Marmelada still exists and is widely available in Portugal, and in Spain too where it goes under the name Membrillo.

The origins of marmelada reach away from the shores of the Iberian penisula, and toward ancient Persia. The Persians were the first people to make use of sugar as a foodstuff, and to use sugar to help preserve fruits for later consumption (the Romans and Greeks used honey as a sweetener, keeping sugar for medicinal purposes). With the expansion of the Persian Empire, and then the later conquest of Portugal and Spain by the Moors of North Africa, the early Persian method of preserving quinces using sugar was introduced to Western Europe.

C. Anne Wilson considers it likely that Portuguese marmelada was additionally flavoured with rosewater (betraying its Persian origins). It was the novelty of this flavouring that distinguished it from the quince preserves and jellies already available in Britain, and contributed to it becoming a must-eat foodstuff in Tudor England.

Tudor housewives taught themselves to make marmelada/marmalade at home, and the name became applied to the method of preserving fruit, and not just to one type of fruit. 16th century recipe books record cooking instructions for apple, pear and strawberry marmalades. Quinces were popular because they are naturally high in pectin, which means the fruit helps the marmalade to set readily.

I decided to try my hand at this earliest form of marmalade, working from a recipe transcribed by Hilary Spurling from 'Elinor Fettiplace's Receipt Book', which dates from the first few years of the 17th century. Lady Elinor's recipe book found its way down the family tree to Hilary. She has tested each of the recipes, and in her book gives both the original wording and her modern interpretation (book first published by Penguin in 1986). I bought the book in a charity shop and it is a real treasured find.

Lady Elinor's recipe gives instructions for either white or red quince marmalade. White marmalade is made by only cooking the quinces for a short time, boiling them fast so that the quinces don't darken to a deep red. I decided to go for the darker ruby red marmalade, although achieve this you do need to have a lot of time of your hands (7 -8 hours). If you really want to impress, make both, cut up and box checkerboard fashion.


I used two quinces, caster sugar, and water. Simple. Read below for quantities.
I boxed my marmalade into a wooden Turkish Delight box, having first consumed all the contents with indecent haste. I lined the box base and sides with greaseproof paper to preventing the marmalade from sticking to the wood.

1. Stew the whole quinces using just enough water to cover them. This will take about an hour. They are ready when the skin tears readily when prodded with a spoon handle. Remove the fruit from the water, but don't discard.
2. Let the fruit cool a little, and when you can manage it, peel, core and slice them. Now weigh them and weigh out an equal amount of sugar.
3. Return the sliced fruit to the pan of water used to stew them, and add the sugar.
4. Put the pan over a very low heat, cover, and leave for six to seven hours for the water to reduce and the quinces to darken deliciously.

After two and a half hours my quinces had taken on a more rosey hue.

An hour and a half later, the sugared water is reducing, but the quinces haven't darkened noticeably.

After six hours the quinces have turned a luscious plum port colour.

During the final half hour transfer the fruit to a pan with a larger base for maximum heat blitzing, the quince darkens further, and the mixture starts to gel. Stop boiling when the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.

At this final stage you need to be ready to get your quince paste sieved and into the waiting box pretty speedily. I sieved mine into a bowl, and as soon as the fruit hit the cold surface it began to set. Perhaps warming the bowl first would help? Once sieved transfer into your marmalade box and admire the beauty of its red-black gleaming density.

This marmalade is much darker and heavier in consistency than Portuguese marmelada and Spanish membrillo. The flavour is pretty much the same but the sensation in the mouth is quite different. It cuts easily into slices, and has a robust graininess. I dusted my marmalade with sugar prior to slicing. When the preserve was produced in 16th and 17th century Britain, it was served in delicate slices at the end of a meal, as part of the dessert course. What a fine ending to a dinner.

Not a serving suggestion - raw quince is not recommended! But what an amazing transformation of colour.

More marmalade history to follow...