This weekend I had some extra apples and a head cold, so I wanted to make something that felt cozy. Flipping through Judeth Bedingfield’s recipe book, UPenn Ms. Codex 631, I found this recipe To Make Marmalet of Pippins. Apple marmalade? I was intrigued, and I got cooking. (Which really, for me, sums up this project in a nutshell.)
As soon as I saw the cooling marmalade, I thought, wait, this looks familiar… Last December I made Pippins preserved at cristmas, from Catherine Cotton’s recipe book. This marmalade is, basically, the chopped-up version of those preserved apples, plus more lemon. These two recipe books are contemporaries, probably compiled in the 1690s and early 1700s. The similarity of the two recipes suggests that this method of cooking and preserving apples was probably fairly common at the time, which makes sense: it requires few and readily available ingredients, takes little time, and yields a dish that can be served in a variety of ways.
I also like to imagine that Judeth Bedingfield and Catherine Cotton, whose books have yielded so many recipes for this project, might have been cooking their preserved apples and marmalets around the same time – and here I am cooking them over 300 years later.
To Make Marmalet of Pippins
Take to a pound of sugar a pound & half of pippins which must be choped
with a knife & put into the sugar with a pint of water they must boile as fast as
possible & when it is allmost boiled enough put in a Little Lemon Peel which must
be first boiled in 9 or 4 waters & when its Cleer enough which will not be soe till it
hath stood off the fire a while you must put in a little Juice of Lemon after which
it may have one boile /
*halved from original
1/2 lb. (1 1/8 c.) sugar
3/4 lb. apples (about 2 small-medium apples), peeled or not, and chopped*
1/2 pint (1 c.) water
1″ wide strip of lemon peel, boiled in 4 changes of water and chopped finely**
juice of 1/2 lemon
Combine sugar, chopped apples, and water in a small saucepan. Bring to full boil and keep cooking, stirring occasionally, for 30-35 mins. (The marmalade might want to boil over near the end, so keep an eye on it.) Remove from the heat and let cool for at least 15 mins., until apples are amber-colored and clear. Add lemon juice and cook over low heat just until simmering.
*Note: I wasn’t sure whether or not to peel the apples. The recipe didn’t specify, but perhaps peeling would have been obvious to seventeenth-century marmalet makers? So I partially peeled the apples, which were originally destined for applesauce and a bit dinged up to begin with. In the finished product, the peel was barely noticeable, so next time I’ll probably skip this step. However, if you’d like a very smooth marmalade, there’s no harm in peeling the apples.
**Note: Somewhat inexplicably, the recipe suggests you boil the lemon peel in “9 or 4″ changes of water. I chose 4. And while I boiled a few strips just in case, I found that one strip about 1″ wide and 2” long provided enough lemon flavor.
While I liked the preserved apples, I liked this marmalade version even better! The slightly bitter peel cuts some of the sugar, though it’s still very sweet, and this would be lovely spread on bread, an English muffin, or (if you’re like me and make a beeline for them in Trader Joe’s) a crumpet. I was glad I halved the recipe, since it yielded enough for a half-pint jar plus a crumpet slathering; that’s more than enough for me to go through for one batch, but it would easily scale up. I will make this again, especially since a small jar would make a nice holiday gift. I might play with zesting a lemon to see if I can get the same taste without the thicker rind, or with chopping apples even more finely. (I assumed they would cook down a bit, but they largely retained their original shape.) I might also throw in a cinnamon stick or maybe some star anise while the mixture is cooling.