Poor old marmalade. It’s suffered an image crisis in recent years. Not only did Theresa May take Donald Trump a jar as a present shortly after his inauguration, but then came a report declaring that marmalade was nearing extinction. It was less popular than other jams and spreads, said the sad report, because millennials don’t like ‘bits’ on their toast.
Thick slices of peel were out; avocados were in. No matter how hard Paddington Bear tried, marmalade seemed doomed as the preserve of oldies, an unfashionable item on the breakfast table that smacked of Brexit and the Empire, of kippers and pince-nez, of village fetes and the Women’s Institute.
Except quietly, ignoring these slurs, the marmalade scene in Britain has been undergoing a renaissance. Just look to Dalemain in Penrith, a pale pink Georgian house which hosts the World Marmalade Awards every spring and now attracts over 3,000 jars from amateur and professional marmalade fans across Britain and, indeed, the world. This year, entries have included marmalades containing sake, cumin, coriander and — slightly alarmingly — carrot cake.
I have to declare a bias here. My mother has been making jars of the sticky stuff since I was small, and I’ve grown up smoothing it over buttery slabs of farmhouse loaves. No watery jam for me, please. I like a full spoon of marmalade in the morning — packed with Vitamin C so I won’t get scurvy.
The ideal jar, says Mum, should be slightly tart, not too sweet, with a firm set. ‘Runny is hopeless.’ You can buy a jar if you like, since Mum’s started making it professionally. Although I should point out that other marmalades are available so I’ve included five other top jars on the current market. The fightback starts now.
Lucy Marmalade, for homemade goodness
Straight in at number one and absolute favouritism because Lucy’s my mum. She makes six different flavours from her kitchen in West Sussex — Seville, Dark Orange, Orange and Ginger, Pink Grapefruit, Lime and Orange, Lemon and Earl Grey.
I love them all equally. Excellent on toast, on oatcakes and also with sausages. Yes, sausages. We are quite weird about marmalade in my family.
Lucy Lemon & Earl Grey Marmalade
Melrose & Morgan Marmalade, for a trendy preserve
If you’re worried about having a jar of marmalade in your Dalston flat, fearing that our friends will judge you for it, then this is a safe bet. An old-fashioned recipe with smoky undertones, but from the North London deli which means it comes in a jar with a label so trendy your mates might even assume it’s a jam. Phew.
Melrose and Morgan Seville and Whisky Marmalade
Fortnum & Mason, for a classic vintage marmalade
You find this Sir Nigel’s Vintage Marmalade Amphora in Fortnum’s. They’ve been making it since the 1920s when the actor and manager of Hammersmith’s Lyric Theatre, Sir Nigel Playfair, demanded a bitter and thick-cut marmalade to pep up his mornings.
If you know a marmalade fetishist, Fortnum’s is a good place to shop since they flog dozens of varieties. Champagne marmalade, glittery marmalade (I think this is odd, imagine the bathroom trip afterwards), cardamom marmalade, Royal blood orange marmalade from Highgrove and so on. A marmalade emporium for proper, diehard fans.
Sir Nigel's Vintage Marmalade Amphora
Frank Cooper's, for Royal Warrant marmalade
In From Russia with Love, Ian Fleming revealed that James Bond spreads Frank Cooper’s on his toast in the morning. A much-needed sugar-hit after the night before, one presumes. These days, they also make a ‘no peel’ version for you wimpy millennials.
Frank Coopers’s Oxford Marmalade
Marks and Spencer, for simple traditional marmalade
This squeaks on to the list for the simple reason my aunt likes it and she has extremely exacting taste. It’s medium cut so not too chewy and has the perfect, slightly wobbly consistency. A simple British classic. And cheap.
Marks and Spencer's Seville Orange
On the hunt for more gentlemanly condiments? Here, we fight mustard’s corner…