Marmalade was introduced as a commercial product at the start of the 19th century by the firm of James Keiller, Dundee, and through their efforts was sold, first, in Scotland, then in England, and subsequently, in a number of Empire markets. By the 1870s, `Dundee Marmalade` was being bought in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and China - mainly to British ex-patriate consumers. By the end of last century, its fame was global. Keillers did not invent marmalade. What they did was take one particular version - orange `chip` marmalade, increasingly favoured by domestic jam-makers in Scotland - to improve, standardise, and promote. Marmalade had been made for centuries before as a dessert food, using a wide range of fruits (initially quinces) boiled up with refined sugar. Keiller`s in fact narrowed the product, and in particular offered the peel (or `chips`) as a visible, astringent aid to breakfast digestion - the Arabs in southern Spain having grown the otherwise inedible `sours` largely for the medicinal qualities of their skins. By their selection, and their success in defining the product for two centuries ahead, Keiller`s effectively blocked the evolution of other forms of marmalade.
It is my notion now that the product is due for re-invention: not by adding endless supplemental ingredients to the Dundee prototype, but by going back to pre-Keiller times and outwards to world markets - and working forward from these new bases
In pursuit of this basic aim, I wish:
1) To see how the old marmalade markets, especially those in Commonwealth countries, have survived - not so much by statistical measurement, but by dredging for memories, likes & dislikes, anecdotes, publications, and pots; and in so doing to determine how the product has developed as a sort of British-cultural artefact around the world.
2) To find evidence of marmalade, of whatever sort, as a part-medicinal product, with documented effects.
3) To hear from individuals and companies in the trade, past and present.
4) To collect as many recipes, ancient and modern, as are available from around the world, to permit some definition, historical and current, of the product.
The spirit of the enterprise is serious, but I want it to be good fun as well. Absolutely any information would be welcome, and I would aim to re-circulate material as it came in, in sytematized or newsletter form - whatever people thought appropriate.
I only came to this subject a couple of years ago, and have approached it as a business historian rather than as a cookery expert. I do not know what fine writings exist on the various ways to prepare marmalade - and look forward to being enlightened. There are numerous short pieces on the origins of Dundee marmalade and the founding of the Keiller firm, but most of these, on close examination, turn out to be fairy stories. Three reliable books can be cited here: two by myself, based on the Keiller archive in Dundee (the second of these dealing with the firm`s Guernsey branch, which came to serve as their mid-Victorian export base).
1) C Anne Wilson, `The Book of Marmalade` (London, 1985)
2) W M Mathew, `Keiller`s of Dundee: The Rise of the Dynasty, 1800-1879` (to be published autumn 1998 by the Abertay Historical Society, Dundee)
3) W M Mathew, `The Secret History of Guernsey Marmalade: James Keiller & Son Offshore, 1857-1879 (to be published in early summer 1998 by La Societe Guernesiaise, St Peter Port, Guernsey)
Dr William M Mathew
My normal name for purposes of communication is Bill Mathew. My professional name etc (which I offer, in addition to the book-titles above, to establish my basic credentials) is Dr W M Mathew MA PhD FRHistS. Having just finished a programme of research and writing on Keillers, and with a few months free before I commence my `Keiller`s of Dundee: The Collapse of the Dynasty, 1879-1955`, I wish to pursue the objectives set out above, broaden the base of my work to the widest possible degree, and satisfy my curiosity about the range of this enduring product and the way in which it is regarded by people around the world.
I must stress, though: I am not so much seeking help, as trying to get an entertaining exchange underway. If this took off to any notable degree, with a growing (and unpredictable) agenda, I`d be very happy in the role of middleman - even if only to circulate recipes.
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