Toast to Scots mar­malade judged the world’s best

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 NEWS - BY BRIAN DONNELLY

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.

Pho­to­graph: PA

Shona Leckie from An­gus lifted Best in Show at the World Mar­malade Awards in Cum­bria yes­ter­day

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