Sir Hugh Plat, on Making ‘Marmelade of Quinces or Damsons’

"When you have boiled your Quinces or Damsons sufficiently, straine them : then dry the pulp in a pan on the fire; and when you see there is no water in it, but that it beginneth to bee stiffe, then mixe two pound of sugar with three pound of pulp : this Marmelade will bee white Marmelade : and if you desire to have it looke with an high colour : put your sugar and your pulp together so soone as your pulp is drawne, and let them both boil together, and so it will looke of the colour of ordinary marmelade, like unto a stewed warden; but if you dry your pulp first, it will look white, and take less sugar : you shall know when it is thick enough by putting a little into a sawcer, letting it coole before you boxe it."

Sir Hugh Plat, Delights for Ladies, 1636

Here’s an interesting variation on a classic marmalade recipe. “White marmelade” presumably refers to a much clearer, paler fruit jelly, rather than the “ordinary” version, which would have been “like unto a stewed warden” in colour; wardens being cooking pears that tend to turn reddish when cooked.

According to Sir Hugh, it can be made by drying out the strained fruit pulp before adding the sugar, rather than by boiling pulp and sugar together. Although, having cooked quite a few damsons recently, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how damson pulp would turn out to be anything other than a glorious, deep purple colour.

As it typical for preserves and fruit pastes of the time, the finished product is stored in a “boxe” – glass jars not being an option until towards the end of the nineteenth century[1]. I wonder what type of box would have been used, and how it would have been sealed? If anyone knows, please do leave a comment below.

How about you? Do you prefer a “white marmelade” clear fruit jelly, or are you more a fan of a bright, colourful version? What’s your favourite quince and/or damson preserve? Please do let me know, via the comments.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 At least, according to the online sources I’ve been able to find, although if anyone has an earlier date for the use of glass jars and can point me at a reference source, I’d be intrigued to learn more

4 comments

  1. I suspect this isn’t marmalade as we think of marmalade today, but rather a thick, set confection, so it would be kept in a wooden box like medieval confections were: those such as ‘gingerbrade’ and the others with the -ade suffix (there’s citrinade, pinionade, festudade, too).

    Interestingly, when I cooked quinces for a medieval dish called connate (the same -ade/ate suffix, again), the quinces were fried in lard, and the colour stayed pale — though not white — rather than turn the strong orange colour of quince jelly. It must be something to do with the amount of water – or lack of it, that results in ‘white’ quince confection. I’d need to experiment more to find out.

    If Sir Hugh’s marmalade was meant to be pourable, there would have been no problem with storing it in a ceramic pot. He wouldn’t have needed glass. Medieval cooks stored ‘compost’ (chutney) in ‘a pot of erth’, an earthenware pot, so I’m sure in the 17th century they would still be using these for soft-set conserves.

    1. Thank you very much indeed Christopher. I should have known that you’d be the man with the answers 🙂

      And I remember your connate as well. Our quinces should be ready in a month or two, so I might just be giving that one a go.

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