As essential elements of British life, Fortnum’s and marmalade pretty much go hand in hand. In fact, any mention of Fortnum’s and marmalade usually recalls the fact that Edward VIII asked Fortnum’s to ship marmalade (and kippers) to Paris for his wedding breakfast. Apart from proving that Fortnum's marmalade was fit for a king’s breakfast, it also shows that by 1936 even royalty was not above eating ‘bought’ marmalade rather than the homemade kind – which was quite a leap forward in the history of marmalade.
Bought versus homemade
For much of its early history, Fortnum’s sold very little ready-made marmalade, and even then it was almost entirely for the overseas market. For many customers (particularly the well-heeled kind), ready-made marmalade was bought only when the homemade stocks ran out. Film fans will remember this exact crisis in Gosford Park, as Maggie Smith’s Countess peers suspiciously at her breakfast and says, ‘Bought marmalade? Dear me, I call that very feeble.’ But times change, and as the 20th century got underway – particularly after WWI, when far fewer people had cooks and servants – ‘bought’ marmalade became increasingly popular in England. Always with an eye to customer demand, Fortnum’s began to expand its range, experimenting with exotic fruit marmalades as well as many variations on the classic Seville orange recipe.
A glance at Fortnum’s marmalade archives shows that it had designs on the marmalade market even earlier than this; in 1849, its catalogues featured Dundee and Orange marmalades as well as Keiller’s, a well-known brand that was sold alongside its own. By 1914 it was selling Green Fig, Lemon Marmalade and Homemade Orange Marmalade under the Fortnum & Mason label, as well as Cooper’s and Cairn’s. As the years progressed, the names became more inventive – Piccadilly (1926), Breakfast Sweet & Light (1931) and Royal Marmalade (1931) were just a few of the more interesting titles.
Over the years, Fortnum’s has developed a huge range of marmalades, some of which have survived and some not, reflecting changes in taste and fashion. What happened, we wonder to Special Tonic Marmalade (1914), Ladies’ Marmalade (1926), Palace Marmalade (1931) and Dower House Marmalade (1935)? Others fared better; Sir Nigel’s Marmalade (1931) is still on sale, as are Hunt Marmalade (1926) and Grapefruit Marmalade (1931). All the marmalades are regularly and rigorously tested to ensure they are up to scratch, no matter how historic the recipe.
Fortnum’s Library of Preserves
Speaking of Sir Nigel’s Marmalade, this has a special place in Fortnum’s heart, as it is No. 1 in Fortnum’s Library of Preserves. In the 1920s, Fortnum’s produced a special marmalade at the request of Sir Nigel Playfair, an actor-manager, who asked for a bitter, thick-cut preserve to remind him of his childhood. This classic gentleman’s marmalade first appeared in Fortnum’s catalogues in 1931 and, when it was decided to catalogue all the preserves by giving each a number, Sir Nigel was given the honour of being No. 1.
Made by hand
When it comes to marmalade, Fortnum’s favours the artisan producer, as marmalade is best when it has been lovingly made by hand, with great attention paid to quality control. In fact, the secret to Fortnum’s marmalade is that it is still, effectively, handmade. The marmalade is no longer made on the premises, as it was until 1939 (after which it was made for some time at the company’s chocolate factory in Soho), but neither is it made in a large and faceless factory. Instead, Fortnum’s marmalade makers are small concerns that produce the preserves in the traditional way, in open copper ‘kettles’ or preserving pans, made and stirred by hand in small batches. It is this expert eye, watching over each pot, that produces a consistently good result.
Fortnum’s also insists, where alcohol is an ingredient, on using named spirits, often its own, such as Fortnum’s Champagne or Pusser’s Navy Rum. These superior spirits impart a far better flavour and aroma than inferior alcohols, which tend to be used elsewhere. Others would think these fine alcohols far too good for marmalade; but they produce a superb result.
The qualities of marmalade
Fortnum’s love of homemade, hand-stirred marmalade also explains why the store has allied its forces with the World’s Original Marmalade Awards, held at Dalemain in Cumbria since 2006. Fortnum’s takes part in the judging of the awards and sells the winning marmalades at its Piccadilly store. The qualities that the judges look for in each entry are the same as for Fortnum’s own marmalades: things such as a good colour, clarity, the right level of acidity and sweetness, an evenness in the cut and distribution of the peel, and, most importantly, a clear taste of the key ingredient. The best marmalades allow the orange, grapefruit, kumquat or other flavour to shine through the sugar, leaving you in no doubt as to which fruit was used.
Below are revealed the secrets to all of Fortnum’s current marmalades, which cover every possibility from the classic, fine-cut Burlington Breakfast Marmalade to the more exotic Sicilian Blood Orange Marmalade and the somewhat decadent Orange & Fortnum’s Champagne Marmalade. The sheer variety of the range is typical of Fortnum’s approach; while never abandoning the basic formula for good marmalade, Fortnum’s loves to explore its infinite variety.
FORTNUM’S MARMALADE TASTING NOTES
Sir Nigel’s Vintage Marmalade (No. 1)
This classic vintage marmalade was made by Fortnum’s in the 1920s for actor-manager Sir Nigel Playfair, who asked for a bitter, thick-cut preserve for his toast, as it reminded him of his childhood. We met his request with this – a strong, substantial marmalade with a deep flavour and lots of chewy peel. The colour of dark marmalade is often achieved by cooking the sugar for longer; but we make it with two sorts of brown sugar instead, to give colour without overcooking. The result is a rich, citrussy, not-too-sweet flavour.
Monarch Full-bodied Marmalade
This is a recent addition to our collection, designed to add a regal touch to the breakfast table. This full-bodied, vintage marmalade is made with soft brown cane sugar and Seville oranges to create a wonderfully satisfying preserve. This is a classic in every way.
Orange Marmalade with Fortnum’s Cognac (No. 65)
This medium-cut marmalade is made with a generous helping of Fortnum’s own cognac, which is stirred in after cooking to preserve the flavour. Containing sweet oranges and pure cane sugar, it’s a fine English preserve with a splash of France.
Orange Marmalade with Fortnum’s Whisky (No. 64)
This medium-cut marmalade benefits from a generous dash of Fortnum’s best whisky, added at the end of the cooking, so the whisky aroma is entirely preserved. Made with sweet oranges and pure cane sugar, this is a classic among marmalades and very fortifying at breakfast.
Orange Marmalade with Ginger (No. 102)
Fresh Chinese ginger gives quite a kick to our traditional orange marmalade, transforming this sweet, tart preserve into something altogether more warm and invigorating. Orange and ginger has long been a good culinary match and the happy couple will add spice and variety to your breakfast table.
Pale Lime Marmalade (No. 81)
A fresh, summery preserve with a loose texture that spreads deliciously thinly on any edible surface. The very fine cut of the lime peel and the pure cane sugar gives this marmalade a superb aroma, a full flavour and a pale and refined hue. Wonderful on wholemeal toast or sourdough bread and, if slightly warmed, as a topping for ice cream or for sorbets based on gin and vodka.
Dark Lime Marmalade (No. 82)
The dark sugars used to make this marmalade lend depth and richness to the scented lime flavour. The combination offers a caramelly depth and mysterious intensity that makes it the ideal cooking ingredient as well as superb on toast. The difference between this and the Pale Lime Marmalade is as night is to day. Try a dollop in the pan when you are next glazing some carrots and be amazed at the results.
Pale Navy Orange Marmalade with Rum (No. 4)
Made to celebrate Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar, this magnificent marmalade recreates the naval tradition of a daily tot of rum. A helping of Pusser’s Rum is added to the jar after cooking and stirred gently through the pale jelly and medium-cut peel to create a memorable flavour.
Dark Navy Orange Marmalade with Rum (No. 5)
An interesting contrast to its partner, Pale Navy Orange Marmalade, this also contains a helping of Pusser’s Rum but features a darker jelly, created by judicious use of brown sugars in the recipe. Strong and stimulating, this is the kind of marmalade that builds character.
Sicilian Blood Orange Marmalade (No. 37)
The blood red oranges used to make this marmalade will add a touch of drama to your morning toast. The peel is cut by hand to just the right size to give a sharp-sweet, medium-cut marmalade.
Nonpareil Marmalade (No. 40)
As its name suggests, this marmalade has no equal, and is made not just the flesh but also the juice of the Valencian orange. Its loose, almost fluid, set suits warmer weather and therefore goes better with something less firm than toast. Made with light sugars to reveal the full flavour, this is not unlike actually eating an orange. When you’re eating your croissant on the Promenade d’Anglais, this is the marmalade to go with it.
Non-Pareil Marmalade with Muscat de Beaume de Venises (No. 39)
Two superb ingredients in one, this marmalade combines a divine dessert wine with the sweetness of Valencian oranges to create a very heady and decadent preserve. This is a gentle marmalade that is even more delicious when chilled and is particularly suited to the summer months.
Old English Hunt Marmalade (No. 2)
If out hunting, one would need something fortifying to last the day. Allegedly created for the long-established Pytchley Hunt, this substantial marmalade is just the job, as its medium-cut peel and well-developed flavour make for a lasting experience. In fact it’s so good that we’ve baked it into our Old English Hunt Marmalade Biscuits.
Burlington Breakfast Marmalade (No. 3)
The Earl of Burlington knew a good thing when he saw it – namely the classical architecture of 16th century Italy. It was he who built Burlington House – now the Royal Academy - in the classical understated Palladian style that he helped to make popular in 18th-century Britain. Mellow with only a pleasing shimmer of bitterness in the aftertaste, this beautifully balanced marmalade shows a harmony of form and function that would have delighted the Earl.
Grapefruit Marmalade (No. 101)
Elegantly tart and memorably sharp, this fine-cut marmalade is made with lighter sugars to maintain the wonderful grapefruit flavour. A refreshing alternative to one’s usual orange preserve.
Lemon Marmalade (No. 100)
For those who like their marmalade sharp and citrussy, this lemon variety is full of zest. Exceedingly sharp, it is made with light cane sugar to add sweetness without overwhelming the lemon. Guaranteed to wake you up at breakfast time.
Orange & Fortnum’s Champagne Marmalade (No. 63)
What better thing to do with a peerless jar of marmalade than to add a dash of champagne? This preserve contains a generous helping of both champagne and Marc de Champagne, stirred gently into each jar after cooking so as not to diminish their effect. Made with sweet rather than Seville oranges, this luxurious marmalade will give your breakfast toast a bit of a lift.
Sicilian Blood Orange No Peel Marmalade (No. 36)
For those who like their marmalade uninterrupted by peel, this sharp-sweet marmalade has a glorious colour as well as flavour.