Sir Kenelm Digby’s 1669 Recipe for ‘Marmalute of Red Currants’

“Take some jayce of red Currants and put in to it a convenient proportion of some entire Currants cleansed from the stalks and buttons at the other end. Let these boil a little together. Have also ready some fine Sugar boiled to a candy height. Put of this to the Currants at discretion, and boil them together, till they be enough : and bruise them with the back of your spoon that they may be in the consistence of Marmulate (like that of Cherries) which put in pots, when it is cool enough. You do not stone the whole Currants put into the juyce unless you please.”

Sir Kenelm Digby, The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt. Opened (1669)

Redcurrant season is almost upon us – if the colour of the berries on the bushes at work are anything to go by, although the bushes on our allotment are still a way off ripening – and what better way to celebrate than with a classically vague, imprecise seventeenth century recipe for a ‘marmalute’, or marmalade, from polymath, courtier, Privy Councillor and cookery writer Sir Kenelm Digby.

A bit of interpretation may be required here, methinks. “Jayce of redcurrants” is obviously red currant juice, and we’re helpfully told that we’ll need “some” of it, to which we should add a “convenient proportion” of whole fruit, topped and tailed. The juice and fruit need to be boiled “a little”, and then “some” candied sugar needs to be added, and “a little” more boiling follows, “till they be enough”.

Thank you, Sir Kenelm, that’s most… helpful. Tell me though, did you perchance stick your nose around the kitchen door when your housekeeper was making up a batch of redcurrant marmalade, and just watch for a few minutes before writing up the process as if you actually had any idea what was going on? No? Really? Well, okay, if you say so. You couldn’t have noted down the quantities and timings while you were there though? Oh, I see, you have to dash for a Privy Council meeting, no time to explain properly. Fair enough.

How about you, esteemed reader? Have you made red currant ‘marmalute’ or ‘marmalade’ before? Do you like the sound of it, or would it be a bit too seedy for your taste? (Although of course, you could always instruct your housekeeper to de-stone the fruit first, eh, Sir Kenelm?) Please do let me know, via the comments.

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