The World's Original Marmalade Awards

by Florence Lindeman

All images © Dalemain Estates

The World's best Marmalades

Dalemain is home to an archive of family recipes going back generations, which included an array of marmalade recipes. As an avid marmalade maker, Jane Hasell-McCosh was immediately inspired and decided to launch a competition, to be judged by official WI preserve judges, to find the world’s best marmalades.

The first competition received 60 entries, but word soon spread and year upon year the number of entries continues to grow. The Awards have gone on to generate a following far beyond Jane’s wildest expectations and have humour and a life of their own, inspiring people from all over the world to get involved. Over 3,000 entries are received each year, from over 40 countries including Japan, Australia, Lebanon, Canada, South Africa, Kenya, South Korea and Colombia.

Every year the winners come from all over the world to receive their awards and attend the receptions and activities at the Marmalade Festival. We have had guests of honour from India, Australia and Japan.

Paddington Bear is a patron, attending the Festival each year, and Fortnum & Mason co-brand the winner, selling it in their Piccadilly store, along with a selection of Artisan Gold winners.

There are a huge variety of esteemed supporters and patrons, including the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, Rathbones, the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council and the Embassy of Japan.

The main competition is the Homemade Awards, which can be entered by anyone. There are lots of categories each year, from Children’s Marmalade to Merry (with alcohol), Campanologists, Any Citrus and ‘Marmalade for a Friend’, ensuring that anyone can enter, no matter what kind of marmalade they make. The full homemade entry fee goes towards supporting Hospice care, both in the UK and around the world. Over quarter of a million pounds has so far been raised.

As well as making marmalade with interesting fruits (yuzu, kinkan, buddah’s hand), and with interesting ingredients (knotweed, gorse flowers, gold leaf, processo, carrot cake), entrants love decorating their jars and labels. The Awards have a special prize for the best label and every year hundreds of creative competitors vie for the top spot with knitted, painted and sketched works of art.

People also include letters and stories about their marmalade making, especially for competitions such as the ‘Octogenarian’s marmalade’, where entrants are encouraged to share the history of their love for marmalade making. Others cut their peel into shapes – hearts, stars and even Paddington Bears!

One family are even more inventive, sending their entries via a different hand-crafted mode of transport each year. The marmalade bus, marmalade wheelbarrow, marmalade train and marmalade horse and cart are all on display in the Marmalade Museum at Dalemain.

The other competition is the Artisan Awards, which promote small scale marmalade makers using the open-pan method. Judged by an esteemed panel, these prestigious Awards put marmalade makers on the map, and winners can display their ‘Gold’ ‘Silver’ or ‘Bronze’ Award roundel on their jars, a huge marketing gift that declares their marmalade one of the best quality preserves in the world. The winning marmalades are sold at Fortnum & Mason in their famous Piccadilly store, and at Dalemain, home of marmalade. Hundreds of Artisan marmalades from all over the world are available to taste and buy at the Festival.

The Key Objectives of the Awards & Festival are:

To champion international and national standards for the best marmalades, promoting excellence

To educate both children and adults about citrus fruits and making marmalade

To support and nurture small commercial producers of quality preserves

To support the local community and the tourism industry, especially out of season

To raise money for palliative care in the UK and worldwide

Over the years the Awards have had many exciting prizes, such as a breakfast reception at Fortnum & Mason, and many esteemed guests of honour, including HRH Prince Charles.

The local people of Penrith have joined with the Marmalade Awards to create ‘Penrith Goes Orange’ a marmalade celebration in the centre of Penrith with stalls, entertainment, a teddy bear zipline and more. The local shops were encouraged to turn their shop windows orange and did so with gusto. At Dalemain, thousands of entries are on display in the state rooms and there are a variety of workshops, Marmalade Question Times and cookery demonstrations.

After holding limited events due to the coronavirus, the organisers are delighted to hold a full Marmalade Festival on Saturday 14th May 2022. The category winners and Best in Show will be announced along with workshops, stalls, children’s activities and marmalade displays in the Mansion.

The Australian Marmalade Awards & Festival – Dalemain Down Under

Following years of British-Australian marmalade competitions as part of the Awards, with an annual ‘Marmal-Ashes’, an Australian Marmalade Festival was begun in partnership with the National Trust of South Australia. The Awards and Festival are held every September in Adelaide. The Festival was launched in 2016 at the Australian High Commission in London at the kind invitation of the Australian High Commissioner. Proceeds support the South Australian National Trust. Jane Hasell-McCosh is a head judge at the Awards and enjoys tasting marmalades from across Australia.

The Dalemain World Marmalade Awards & Festival in Japan

Owing to the huge popularity of the Marmalade Awards in Japan, and following an invitation to the Marmalade Awards, the Embassy of Japan were very keen to launch a sister event in Japan. This was launched in Yawatahama in May 2019. The Festival was launched at the Embassy of Japan in London, at the kind invitation of the Japanese Ambassador. A miniature Festival was also held at the Hankyu British Fair, where the Dalemain Marmalade range, which inspired the Awards, were sold. Over 1,600 entries were received and sponsors of the event included Fortnum & Mason, Japan Airlines, and AoHata, one of the oldest marmalade producers in Japan. The winners of The Dalemain World Marmalade Awards and Festival in Japan will be announced on the 16th and 17th of April. This year, they had a record number of entries with over 1,600 jars.

By Florence Lindeman, The World's Original Marmalade Awards, Dalemain Mansion & Historic Gardens