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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Marmelade – Marmalade in French cuisine.

Behind the French menu
Bryan G. Newman

Bitter orange marmelade
Photograph courtesy of Charlie Dave
Marmelade – Marmalade.
In France marmelade is not always made with orange and or citrus fruit jam. The French for a jam or conserve is a confiture.
Marmelade was not a French creation.
French Marmalade began in Portugal.
The French began importing quince jams, confitures de coings, from Portugal over 200 years ago Then the labels on the jars in Portuguese read marmelade. In Portuguese a quince, the fruit itself, is a marmelo and the jam or conserves made with the marmelo is marmelade. The French adopted the word marmelade and went on to use it for many other fruit jams not just quinces.

Even in Slovenia there is Quince Marmalade
N.B. A ripe quince looks somewhere between a yellow apple and a yellow pear.  While quince jams reached France via Portugal it was probably the Romans who brought the first quince trees to Portugal from Turkey or Macedonia. Roman cookbooks have left us recipes for quince jams so we know they were over 1,000 years ahead of France in using that fruit.

Ripe quince on a tree.
The confusion over the name marmalade with the name of a quince jam was not limited to France. Scotland, not France, was the birthplace of bitter orange marmalade.

Other countries, including the UK began making conserves with other fruits and also took the Portuguese word marmelade.  The French created many excellent marmalades including marmelade de ananas, pineapple marmalade, marmelade de frais, strawberry marmalade, and many more.
The European Common Market Bureaucrats step in.
In 2004 the European Union bureaucrats decided it was time to make order in the confused world of marmalade.  Ten years later 2014 became the last year for the use of the word marmalade for any jam or jelly made with a fruit other than citrus fruits in the EU. I’m not sure how the Portuguese feel about that as they owned the origins of the word, and it means a quince conserve.  Despite the EU legal ruling many French chefs with their years of schooling had learned to make marmelades long before the European laws were made. These chefs still make marmelade d'abricot, apricot marmalades and other fruit conserves and insist on using the the word marmelade. Tradition in the French kitchen is tradition, and so marmelades without citrus fruits still appears on many French menus.
Marmelade without citrus fruits on French Menus:
Filet de Biche Sauce Grand Veneur, Marmelade de Potimarron, Citron et Airelles Sauvages – A fillet of a mature female red deer. On a menu listing like this the deer will have been farm-raised or the words biche sauvage would have been noted. N.B. From from the French word biche comes the English word bitch. The fillet is served with a Grand Veneur Sauce; that is a traditional sauce for game and transalates as the sauce of a great hunter. The sauce’s recipe has changed over time and now is usually made with red wine vinegar, butter, fresh berries and crème fraîche. Accompanying the fillet on this listing is a marmelade, a jam made with pumpkin, lemon, and wild European cranberries.

Roasted Fillet of Venison, Endive, Chestnut and Quince,
Grand Veneur Sauce.

Foie Gras de Canard  Marmelade de Cerises NoiresVery lightly fried fattened duck liver served with a black cherry jam.

Foie Gras de Canard Confit,
Dattes et Marmelade de Citron Vanille, Croustillant Pain d'Ėpice
Photograph courtesy of Inspirational Food
Tartare de Noix de Saint Jacques et sa Marmelade d'Abricot à la Vanille de Madagascar A tartar made with the meat of the King Scallop and served with an apricot jam flavored with Madagascar Vanilla. Vanilla is another New World discovery that Christopher Columbus and his conquistadors in 1502 could not pronounce with the native name. The native name was tlilxochilt, and by the time the conquistadors arrived home, this herb had become vainilla in Spanish. The vanilla the conquistadors brought home was wild vanilla, and it remained wild and expensive for 400 years.  Vanilla was finally cultivated in the 19th century, but it still requires a lot of hand labor.  Today the major vanilla producers are Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico, and China.

The vanilla bean grows quickly on the vine but it is not ready for harvest until maturity
and that is approximately ten months later.
 Pavé de Saumon Marmelade d’Agrumes – A thick cut of salmon served with a grapefruit jam.  In French agrumes mean citrus fruits; however, on a menu agrumes nearly always mean grapefruit. The French word for grapefruit is Pamplemousse, but as Pamplemousse can be used in an insulting manner in French, nearly all menus will note agrumes.

My personal preference for a French orange marmalade is La Marmelade d'Oranges Amères, bitter orange marmalade. This marmalade is made with the slightly bitter Seville oranges. The first bitter orange preserves were first made in Dundee, Scotland. There are a number of stories about how Seville oranges ended up in Dundee; unfortunately they are all too long for this post.   (For more about the Seville oranges click here)

An old Scottish Dundee Marmalade jar.
The French diner knows what a non-citrus marmalade is and, as usual, ignores any interference by EU Bureaucrats in his or her diet. Dining in France, even at meals in school, is unlike dining in any other country. This is a nation that teaches children in state schools to eat correctly and slowly and also to know what they are eating. In French schools there are no sweet drinks, just water from the tap and three course lunches that are eaten over a period of half an hour to forty minutes. Twenty or more years ago a French child may have had enjoyed in school a marmelade without citrus fruits, that man or woman today will continue to accept that and ignore the EU ruling.
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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2016.

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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