Marmalade is a fruit preserve, made from the juice and peel of citrus fruits, boiled with sugar and water. The traditional citrus fruit for marmalade production is the "Seville orange" from Spain, Citrus aurantium var. aurantium, thus called because it was originally only grown in Seville in Spain; it is higher in pectin than sweet oranges, and therefore gives a good set. The peel has a distinctive bitter taste which it imparts to the marmalade. Marmalade can be made from lemons, limes, grapefruits, sweet oranges or any combination thereof. For example, California-style marmalade is made from the peel of sweet oranges and consequently lacks the bitter taste of Seville orange marmalade.
In languages other than English, “marmalade” can mean preserves made with fruit other than citrus. For example, in Spanish all preserves are known generically as “mermelada” (there is no distinction made between jam, jelly, preserves or marmalade), and in Portuguese ”marmelada” applies chiefly to quince marmalade (from ”marmelo”, quince).
The recipe for marmalade includes sliced or chopped fruit peel simmered in sugar, fruit juice and water until soft; indeed marmalade is sometimes described as jam with fruit peel (although manufacturers also produce peel-free marmalade). Marmalade is often eaten on toast for breakfast.
The Romans learned from the Greeks that quinces slowly cooked with honey would "set" when cool (though they did not know about fruit pectin). Greek μελίμηλον melimēlon or "honey fruit"—for most quinces are too astringent to be used without honey, and in Greek μῆλον mēlon or "apple" stands for all globular fruits—was transformed into "marmelo." A Roman cookbook attributed to Apicius gives a recipe for preserving whole quinces, stems and leaves attached, in a bath of honey diluted with defrutum—Roman marmalade. Preserves of quince and lemon appear—along with rose, apple, plum and pear—in the Book of ceremonies of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, "a book that is not only a treatise on the etiquette of imperial banquetting in the ninth century, but a catalogue of the foods available and dishes made from them."
Medieval quince preserves, which went by the French name cotignac, produced in a clear version and a fruit pulp version, began to lose their medieval seasoning of spices in the 16th century. In the 17th century La Varenne provided recipes for both thick and clear cotignac.
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