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The Original Marmalade

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Marmelada is the Portuguese word derived from marmelo, describing a quince conserve.

The Origins

According to one story, the name originates from Marie malade ('Mary's ill'). This is a reference to Mary, Queen of Scots, who supposedly ate orange jam when she was unwell. The bitter orange - the skin in particular - was used medicinally as an aid to digestion.

Yet it is the quince that is marmelo and quince conserve marmelada. The root of the name of this fruit appears to be from the Latin melimelum, or honey apple. Quince was widely used as root stock for different varieties of apple and pear, which graft on to it well.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, the etymology of 'marmalade' states its origins as Portuguese and French - which could possibly be why it was associated with Mary Queen of Scots, whose preferred language was French.

The word 'marmalade' is first referred to in English documents of around 1480, which well predates Mary, Queen of Scots. This probably refers to the import of the Portuguese product, which had reached such proportions by 1495 that it was assessed for customs duty. In French etymology it is not found until 1573.

The Product

Quince conserve comes in two varieties. One is marmelada vermelha or red marmalade, sometimes also described as 'raw' marmalade (the usual type). The other is marmelada branca, or white marmalade, which is more refined and should be made from the gamboa - a specific variety of quince.

Traditional Recipes

Red Marmalade

To make red marmalade, the ingredients required are 1kg each of quince flesh and sugar.


  1. Peel the quinces and remove the seeds.

  2. Cut into quarters and bring to the boil with a little water.

  3. After about 25 minutes, when they should be half-cooked, add the sugar. Mix with a wooden spoon and maintain at the boil until the mixture reaches 'jam' - 108°C/220°F.

  4. Pour into shallow bowls and leave in the sun to dry.

  5. When cool and dry, seal with clingfilm or vegetable paper.

White Marmalade

For white marmalade, you need 1.5kg of quince and 1.2kg of refined white sugar.


  1. Wash the quince and bring to the boil from cold in some water, with the lid on the saucepan.

  2. When cooked, drain and remove the skin and pips, passing the flesh through a fine sieve.

  3. Boil the sugar in some water to 'hard ball' - 125°C/250°F. At this point add the prepared pulp to the sugar syrup and beat with a wooden spoon until completely cooled.

  4. Pour into small pottery or china bowls and leave to dry in the sun under a gauze.

  5. When dry, wrap in vegetable paper soaked in 70° spirits - brandy, rum or whisky.

Other Varieties

British marmalade is made with oranges. Usually the bitter, or Seville, variety of orange is used, replicating the flavour of the early orange. Other British marmalades can be made from the citrus fruits: lemons, grapefruit and limes. The use of the citrines is peculiar to the British.

From Brazil come marmelada varieties made from mangos and pawpaw.

Similar Portuguese products are the batada, made from sweet potatoes in the Açores and Madeira, the castanhada made from sweet chestnuts, the maçãzada made from cooking apples and the pessagada made from peaches. In each case the sweetmeat derives its name from the addition of the suffix -ada added to the Portuguese word for the fruit.

Laranjada and limonada however, are not jams or jellies but squashes and are better known to us as orangeade and lemonade.

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