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Discovery Point, Dundee
Discovery Point, Dundee

Janet Keiller lived from about 1735 to 23 July 1813. She was a Dundee shopkeeper who came up with a new recipe for marmalade and founded a dynasty. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.

Janet Keiller, whose maiden name is apparently unknown, married John Keiller in 1762. He was a merchant and she ran a shop in Dundee's Seagate selling a variety of cakes, biscuits, jams, jellies and sweets, many home produced. They had eight children together.

Keiller's Marmalade is said to have been the world's first commercially produced marmalade. The traditional story about its origins is that John Keiller was in Dundee's docks one day when he encountered a storm-bound Spanish ship trying to offload - in every sense of the word - a cargo of Seville oranges that were too bitter to eat, and as a result proving difficult to sell. John brought them for a good price, and Janet thought it would be worth trying them in an existing recipe she had for quince jam. Recipes for marmalade, even orange marmalade, already existed, but what set Janet Keiller's apart from the rest was the inclusion of shreds of orange skin.

The product was marketed in Janet's shop as "chip marmalade" and established a considerable local following. In 1797 the Keiller's set up a factory to produce their marmalade in Dundee in the name of their son, James Keiller, and Keiller's Marmalade took off on a much wider scale, being expertly marketed on the basis that the chips of skin assisted breakfast digestion and made it a healthier product. By the end of the 1800s, Keiller's Marmalade was being shipped throughout the British Empire, doing much to help cement Dundee's reputation as the home of "jam, jute and journalism".

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