As a keen and prolific maker of preserves, I was intrigued many years ago to hear about the World’s Original Marmalade Awards, devised and organized by Jane Hassell–McCosh at Dalemain Mansion in Cumbria. This festival of homemade and artisan marmalade-making attracts entries from around the world and raises money for the hospice movement in the process. Awards are given in a number of categories, some of which are related to the product itself (for example Seville Orange Marmalade, clear or whole fruit; Dark and Chunky Marmalade; Merry Marmalade – containing alcohol) and some of which relate to the maker of the marmalade (for example Children’s Marmalade, Man Made Marmalade, Gardener’s Marmalade). I can’t remember when I first entered a jar to see how it would fare, but certainly I have entered at least one category every year since 2010. Marks are given for: presentation, appearance and colour; texture, peel size and set; flavour, aroma and harmony, up to a maximum total of 20 points. In my experience, those points have been getting harder and harder to achieve as the years have progressed and the competition has intensified! Most years my Seville Orange Marmalade has been awarded a Silver certificate (19/20), with plenty of lovely comments from the judges – but oh! that final point has always eluded me! My peel has not been quite soft enough, or sufficiently evenly sized or distributed, or my jar has not been filled high enough, or I have caught a bubble in the shoulder, and so it has gone on.
This year I was determined to try again. I devised a new way of cutting the orange peel so that the pieces were practically all the same size; bought some jazzy new lids decorated with oranges, and matching labels, and filled my jars as high as they could go with my usual delicious recipe. But there was a snag: marmalade entered into the Clear Seville Orange category has to be made with only four ingredients – oranges, sugar, water and lemon juice. I always include the lemon peel in mine, partly because it makes more, and partly because I think it improves the flavour.
What to do? I made a special batch or two without lemon peel for that category. But still, I thought my usual marmalade was better. Luckily for me there is a category entitled Campanologist’s Marmalade, for those who, like me, ring church bells (I ring at St Michael’s), and you can enter whatever recipe you like there. So I sent in my entries and waited.
What joy then, in 2023, to have been given a Gold Award for my Seville Orange Marmalade in the Campanologist’s category, with a perfect score of 20/20 at last! There are a few jars left to buy at the bargain price of £2.50 (all proceeds to the Benefice Youth Fund as usual), but I suspect they won’t be there for long, so please let me know soon if you want one. And the jar I entered into the Clear Seville category? It was awarded Silver again: clearly the peel does make a difference!