Citrus fruit: front left, a Tahitian lime; front right, a Seville Orange; behind that a medium-sized grapefruit and a lemon. Emboldened by a successful sortie into Cumquat Marmalade making, my wife Lyn and I attempted a batch of Seville Orange Marmalade to Stephanie Alexander’s recipe. It worked beautifully, the pectin-heavy pith ensuring a rough, chunky jam of the type known as ‘Oxford Marmalade’, made in Oxford, England, by Frank Cooper, to his wife’s 1874 recipe. The marmalade was especially popular at Oxford University, hence the name. It was taken to Antarctica on Robert Falcon Scott’s expedition to the South Pole.
In Arthur Ransome’s children’s book Missee Lee, Miss Lee, the leader of the Chinese pirates, had been educated at Cambridge University but learned to enjoy Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade.
As she says ‘We always eat Oxford marmalade at Cambridge. Better scholars, better professors at Cambridge but better marmalade at Oxford.’
The Internet says that ‘A thousand or so years ago, traders brought Chinese bitter oranges to Iberia and the Mediterranean basin. By the 12th century, Spaniards in the area around Seville were actively cultivating tart oranges. For several centuries, these oranges were the only type of orange being grown in Europe. Sweeter oranges were developed long after this orange became established in Spain… [they] make the perfect base for marmalade.