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Give apples a chance! They make very fine marmalade: a cross between membrillo, the Spanish quince paste, and really thick but spreadable jam made without added pectin.
Why is marmalade the preserve made from oranges and everything else is jam? It wasn’t so in Germany and Austria for instance, where they used to call all sweet fruit preserves ‘Marmelade’ until EU regulation banged their fist on the table and decided only citrus fruit deserved to be marmeladed.
It seems that marmalade (correct British spelling, not necessarily true to the origins of the word – read further) was the original jam and quince, the gnarly green cross between apple and pear, was the original orange. The Portuguese word for quince, ‘marmelo’ (notice the ‘e’ in spelling) gave birth to marmalade and it was originally quince pulp cooked deep orange with sugar syrups and spices. Over the years – that’s still back in 16th century - citrus peel crept into the crates of quinces and gradually took over in Britain as the base for marmalade. Meanwhile, quinces stayed put in Portugal and Spain, getting cooked into membrillo, quince paste served with cheeses and for that reason perhaps also known as quince cheese.
I was raised with ‘marmolada’, the Polish preserve which differed from jam (‘dzem’) mainly in texture: very set, sliced from a large block like French fromagers do with butter and in fact resembling the French pâte de fruit more than orange or otherwise jam. It was made from mixed, often undefined fruit (we’re talking Poland under the communist rule when food wasn’t exactly plentiful or superb quality) but it was great for stuffing into doughnuts, buns and pastries because it kept the shape and stayed solid unlike jam.
That was the background to my apple marmalade project then: to make membrillo, but put it on toast not cheese; to make marmalade but not from oranges; and to prove that apples make very fine jam. Marmalade. Confiture. Whatever.
And if it’s never jam today, perhaps we can have some marmalade, eh?
apple marmaladeServings: makes 3 jarsTime: 3-4 hours
- 1 kg Bramley apples (1.5 l puree)
- 1 tbsp. chopped apricots
- 1 tbsp. raisins
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- 500g sugar
1. Wash the apples but do not peel or core them. Chop into quarters, add to a large pan with 500ml water, apricots and raisins, and bring to the boil. Cook for about 20 minutes until completely soft.
2. Pass the apples through a food mill or a sieve to puree them – check the volume, there will be about 1.5 litres. Return the puree to the pan with the lemon zest and juice, cider vinegar, cloves and sugar (there should be about a third of the volume of apples). Bring to a steady boil but watch out for splatter.
3. Cook for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally, until the apples turn dark brown, glossy and thick, reduced in volume by at least two thirds.
4. While the marmalade cooks, wash 3 jam sized jars, kilner or lidded, in hot water. Place them in an oven heated up to 120C and immediately switched off.
5. When the marmalade is ready leave it to slightly cool down, about 5 minutes. Carefully fill the jars, close them tightly and leave for at least a few days to mature before eating.