Marmalad of Apricocks

Take to a pounde of Apricockes a pounde of suger wanting 3 ounces wet yor suger in water & boyle it until yt come to candy then pare the plumes and cut them in quarters so put them into yor suger let them boyle till they will cut still stiringe and breakeinge them as fast as they boyle, when yt is enough put yt in boxes but cover yt not until yt bee cold
Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book

To a pound of apricots, take a pound of sugar. Using 3 ounces of water wet your sugar and boil it until it comes to candy, then pare the fruit and cut them into quarters. put them into your sugar and let them boil until the mixture can be cut. Stir and break them as fast as they boil, and when it is done put it in boxes but do not cover it untl it is cold.

When I first read that Elizabethan marmalade was a solid jelly (Sim, 2005, 158) rather than the somewhat gloopy substance we’re used to today, I was intrigued and began to look for recipes. This recipe from Elinor Fettiplace describes how marmalade was often presented as gifts in little boxes.


450g apricots, peeled and stoned 450g fine sugar approx. 80mL water


  1. Put the sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan and add just enough water to turn the sugar into a stiff paste; how much water will depend on how hot and humid the day is.
  2. Over a low heat, dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has completely dissolved to syrup, stop stirring, and allow the syrup to reach 114ᵒ (soft ball stage).
  3. Add the apricots and stir, giving the apricots a bit of a bash. Leave the mix over a low heat and stir it well every few minutes, to make sure the apricots don’t stick to the bottom of the pan, and to break them up. Leave it like this until the apricots have completely turned to mush. This can take at least an hour- do not rush it, and do not turn the heat up, or you will burn the apricots and possibly set the marmelad before the apricots have completely broken up.
  4. When the apricots have completely broken down, turn the heat up, and stir the mix really vigorously. It will start to resist the stirring. When the mix has reached 114ᵒ again, take it off the heat and pour into an oiled pan. Leave to cool completely, then carefully cut it into squares.
  5. If storing, use a layer of parchment paper or baking paper in between each layer to prevent it sticking.


  • “Marmelade” is derived from marmelo, the Portuguese word for quince (Sim, 2005, 158-159). This recipe is the same as is used to create quince paste (that is, to preserve quinces). As the same method was applied to other fruits to produce a similar result, the name “marmalade” was also applied.
  • Marmelade was often given as gifts in little wooden boxes (Spurling, 2011, 163).
  • When making this recipe, use good quality sugar. I made it once with cheap, generic supermarket sugar, and the end result was quite grainy, even though it set properly.
  • When making this recipe, try not to do it on a very humid day. The process of turning sugar into candy relies on boiling the water out of the sugar. On a humid day, it will take a lot longer, and if the weather is too humid, it won’t set at all. If your hair is wet with sweat or your clothes are stuck to your body, it’s too hot.
  • Unlike water, sugar syrup gets to 100ᵒ and keeps on getting hotter. It is also very sticky. So be careful not to splash any on yourself – sugar syrup burns really, really hurt.


Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Sim, Alison. Fast and Feast in Tudor England. Stroud, 2005.
Spurling, Hilary. Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book. London, 2011.

2 comments on “Marmalad of Apricocks

  1. How fascinating. I didn’t realise it would end up like a sweet. Not something to spread on your toast then:)


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