Toast to Scots marmalade judged the world’s best
WHILE aficionados are chewing over the question of whether marmalade was invented north or south of the Border, a toast is being raised for the Scottish version of the breakfast preserve that has just been officially crowned the best in the world.
Shona Leckie from Angus beat competition from a record 30 countries to lift the highest accolade at this year’s World Marmalade Awards in Cumbria. The appeal of marmalade is spreading, judge and patron Dan Lepard said, with the largest number of entries this year from Japan, USA, Australia alongside Scotland and England, while new countries represented are Columbia, Lebanon, Bhutan, South Korea, The Bahamas, and Cyprus.
Lepard said: “This year we’ve had a record number of entries, over 2,000 jars and a huge increase in the number of small producers taking part.
“People are setting up new preserving companies around the world and want recognition.”
The Best in Show award for 2017 put Scotland at the top of the marmalade-making game, with Leckie scooping the coveted prize for the best homemade marmalade yesterday.
Her treacle marmalade was entered in the Quirky Marmalade with a Twist category, and will be produced and sold by Fortnum & Mason, with 50p from each jar going to charity. Leckie said: “As a farmer’s daughter I have been making marmalade and jam for a number of years, and have had a degree of success in local competitions.
“I won a silver award in my first attempt at Dalemain [the country house where the competition is held], and a gold award the following year – which was very pleasing. But I did not expect ever to be declared the overall winner.
“The class I entered required innovation, so I adjusted a family recipe to intensify the flavour of orange yet retain the soft texture of the peel. So I am surprised, delighted and really quite taken aback by this unexpected accolade.”
Lepard said while the worldwide market is growing and the UK base increasing to the extent that marmalade could take over from jam as Britain’s favourite breakfast preserve, the European industry faces challenges. “Brexit is a concern for two reasons,” he said. “First it is simply a worry over the exchange rate. As much as we imagine that hardcore marmalade fans will fight on for their favourite preserve, if the price is too high for them it’s toast for UK companies.
“The other concern is the image that Britain exports have with consumers in Europe. As we’re a world-focused awards we’ll do everything we can at the Marmalade Awards to fly the flag for British produce in Europe.
“Marmalade could become Britain’s best-selling breakfast preserve. All it needs is Nicola Sturgeon to put marmalade making on the school curriculum. Another of our judges, restaurateur Shirley Spear at The Three Chimneys at Skye [a Sunday Herald columnist], is adamant that we only build a strong future where food traditions are upheld if children learn about them at school.”
Lepard also revealed the secret to a winner: “Good marmalade should have a sweetness that doesn’t overpower the natural zest and sparkle of the citrus fruit, enough acidity to brighten the flavour without dominating, and a gentle set from the pectin so it’s jelly-like rather than firm and pasty.
“The colour should represent the fruit that’s used and the peel should have an enjoyable soft bite to it. But really, when it’s good, you should want to eat the whole jarful.”
The question over who first created marmalade remains unsettled, after the widely perceived view that the inventor was Janet Keiller – who made the preserve from a bargain shipload of bitter Seville oranges at Dundee harbour in the early 18th century – was challenged by an English academic who said it was recorded in the 17th century south of the Border.
Shona Leckie from Angus lifted Best in Show at the World Marmalade Awards in Cumbria yesterday