Toddy Marmalade

January 14, 2013

I haven’t tried this recipe, but boiling the rinds in a few changes of water reduced the pectin along with the bitterness, which is why Mr. Bradley recommends adding the high-pectin pulp of Golden Pippins (apples) back in. By the time this recipe was published in London, the Scots had been enjoying marmalade for two hundred years or so.

The Scots certainly did not invent marmalade — Apicius included recipes for fruit preserves in the 1st century— but they were the first to eat it specifically for breakfast. The acidic citrus had a warming, invigorating effect, deemed necessary to awaken the “cold” stomach and prepare it for digesting breakfast. A slice of orange peel “condite (candied) with sugar, and taken fasting in a small quantity” was the matutinal amuse-bouche recommended by physician Sir Thomas Elyot in the early 1500s.


But this was a job that many supposed had been done perfectly fine by whiskey, thank you very much. English writer Samuel “Dr.” Johnson wrote in The Johnson Calendar (1774) that “no man is so abstemious as to refuse the morning dram.” He continued, qualifying the statement by writing that “[n]ot long after the dram may be expected the breakfast, a meal in which the Scots … must be confessed to excel us.” The Scots, like many British, also typically enjoyed a draught of ale at breakfast. When tea-drinking (and that irksome temperance) caught on in Scotland in the early 18th century, some people replaced their sturdy mug of ale with a dainty cup of tea; others replaced the dram as well, instead opting for a bit of tummy-warming candied orange peel or marmalade.

Brigadier Mackintosh of Borlum was less than pleased about this. “When I came to my friend’s house in a morning, I used to be ask’d, if I had my morning draught yet? I am now ask’d, if I have yet had my tea,” he bristled in 1729. “And in lieu of the … strong ale and toast, and after a Dram of good wholesome Scots Spirits, there is now … marmalet, cream, and cold tea.” He is positively quaking with justifiable annoyance.

Dr. Johnson had no such disdain for marmalade; rather, he mentioned it specifically as one of the delights of the Scottish breakfast table, writing that “if an epicure could remove by a wish, in quest of sensual gratifications, wherever he had supped, he would breakfast in Scotland.” Because of their habit of serving tea with “not only butter, but honey, conserves and marmalades,” Scotland, Dr. Johnson mused, had even the Mother England beat at breakfast.

The two gentlemen both raise very good points. I love nothing more than a hot English muffin spread with butter and marmalade. I get a happy tingle in my you-know-where when I think about a butter knife scraping across that toasty, lunar landscape of farinaceous delight. On the other hand, I do enjoy getting hammered in the morning. So which is it: Whiskey? Or marmalade? Unwilling to get between two very good arguments, I decided to split the difference and add whiskey to my marmalade.


With its blend of sweet lemons and woody whiskey, this marmalade is not unlike a hot toddy (another Scottish invention), in jam form. I had a few half-pints of grapefruit marmalade left over from last spring that are just too bitter to enjoy without a fair amount of honey dribbled on top, and I decided to toss in a couple of jars to add a bit of dimension to the sweet, mellow Meyer lemons. I think it’s a rather nice break from the usual. I wrote a loose recipe for marmalade awhile back, but my friend Marisa has a really good one in her book Food in Jars, and another really toddy-appropriate recipe on her beautiful blog of the same name. Just add a glug of whiskey.

Let us all be like the Scots, those masters of the breakfast table, and begin the day with a dram.

6 Responses to Toddy Marmalade

  1. January 15, 2013 at 1:29 am

    The best marmalade I ever made was well-spiked with whisky. It’s a good thing!

  2. lo
    January 15, 2013 at 9:46 am

    I love anyone who can talk about Apicius… I was obsessed with his food writings while I was a PHD student in Classics at U of I.

  3. admin
    January 15, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Alicia – I’m so delighted that others have already been enjoying it! I think it may have been a little unclear that I meant for the whiskey to be cooked into the jam (though it’d be nice just stirred in!).

    Lo – I didn’t know you were a PhD student in Classics! Fascinating! I’d love to see your academic side sometime. Talk nerdy to me.

  4. Robert Reid
    January 16, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Wow, so good to see you back. I have read about your busy life and totally understand why the blog has taken a backseat. I miss your humor and insights into daily cooking. Hang in there….

    BTW…Getting ready to make your Celeriac recipe from ONE BIG TABLE.

  5. admin
    January 18, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Aw, thanks Robert! It’s nice to be missed. xo

  6. February 27, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I have only just visited this wtbisee again and find my reply is a bit late for this year, perhaps in time for next marmelising season.My recipe is adapted from a booklet that came with my Prestige Pressure Cooker.2 lbs seville oranges2 pts waterjuice of 2 lemons4 lbs sugar (ordinary granulated)I put the washed and halved fruits into the pan with the water and cook for 10 mins under pressure. When it is COOL, I pour the contents into a large sieve over the open pan in which I will cook the marmalade.Then I chop the oranges on a big wooden board: first into quarters, then scrape out pulp and pips. I tend to separate out the pips with the tip of the knife and discard them. The pulp goes into the marmalade pot. Then I chop the peel, first into strips and then across into little cubes and add them to the pot.The beauty of chopping cooked fruit is that it is soft, which makes the work easy and fast. Next add the lemon juice and bring the fruit to boil in open pan, add the sugar (prewarmed is recommended and quicker but not essential). After stirring over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved, I boil it rapidly to setting point. A little knob of butter tends to eliminate any need forskimming. After 15 mins I test the marmalade by putting a little on a saucer that has been waiting in the freezer. After 10 mins in the fridge I would expect a skin that wrinkles slightly when the blob is pushed from one end. If it isn’t doing that, I give the pan 5 more mins boiling. Not usually bothering to test again!Letting it rest for 10 mins while heating the jars in the oven.After filling the jars I like them to get absolutely cold before I cover them. Never had any mould after a year or even more. PS I am told that the higher temperatures of pressure cooking with a lot of oxygen excluded by the steam do less damage to the nutritional values of fruit and veg than the long boiling in an open pan. ?