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.
What's the difference between marmalade and jam?
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.
In the beginning was the marmelade
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.
My early marmalade days
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.
So what is my apple marmalade like?
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?