This is all about marmalade, which has long been a staple on British breakfast tables for spreading on toast, but I wonder how many British people know marmalade originates from Portugal? The actual word ‘marmalade’ comes from the Portuguese word marmelada, and is a delicious fruit preserve made from the juice, pulp and peel of citrus fruits boiled with sugar and water. It is normally made from oranges, but other citrus fruits can be used - lemons, limes, grapefruits, mandarins, bergamots, or any combination, but oranges are the most typical choice for a marmalade.

The preferred fruit is the Spanish Seville or bitter orange, prized for its high pectin content, which helps marmalade ‘set’ to a consistency suitable for spreading. The peel of the oranges is added to marmalade and imparts a sharp, bitter taste, which is then sweetly balanced by the addition of sugar.

So why is it called marmalade and not jam? Well there is a perfectly good explanation for this (it’s not to make it sound fancy), obviously the name as explained above is the first clue, but jam is made using just the pulp and juices of a fruit, whereas marmalade is made from the pulp, juice and peel or rind – giving it the delicious chunky bits in it that make marmalade so unique. Unlike jam, a large quantity of water is added to the fruit in a marmalade, the extra liquid being ‘set’ by the high-pectin content of the fruit.

Because we are surrounded by oranges in the Algarve, I had another go at making marmalade myself yesterday – I say another go, because every time I try to make it, it comes out differently! There are so many varied recipes for it, that it’s hard to pick the one that is going to make the perfect batch. It is basically oranges, sugar and water, but getting the right balance is the tricky bit – a lot depends on the type of oranges used, how much juice they contain, how much water is added and how many pips the oranges have (as they contain pectin, you need to use them too).

My previous attempt at making marmalade resulted in six jars of something that resembled marmalade, but was so thick you had to carve it out of the pot! Yesterday’s batch was the total opposite – it was six jars of marmalade so sloppy you could pour it out of the jar, and would have a hard time staying on your toast without sliding off onto your lap – but it tasted great (it passed the husband’s Taste Test before it was even cold) – so after researching the easiest method of thickening it up (reboiling it), I then managed to burn it as well, so I now have six jars of slightly burnt, (still) sloppy marmalade! It then took me all day to clean the pot! Well, I will persevere – next time maybe I will get it right, after all, practice makes perfect so they say!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan