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Taiwanese jam maker wins big at top marmalade competition in England

By Jonathan Chin  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Taiwanese jam and preserve maker Ke Ya, center, holds her Double Gold Winner certificate after winning two gold medals at the World’s Original Marmalade Awards held at the historic Dalemain Mansion and Historic Gardens in Penrith, England, on Friday last week.

Photo: CNA

Taiwanese jam and preserve maker Ke Ya (柯亞) lauded the importance of using local ingredients in cuisine, after winning top prizes in a prestigious marmalade competition in the UK on Friday last week.

Since 2005, the World’s Original Marmalade Awards have celebrated the citrus fruit preserve as a quintessentially British part of breakfast.

Ke, the founder of Keya Jams, said that she was as surprised as anyone to be going home from the competition in Penrith, England, with two gold, two silver and two bronze awards — an unprecedented honor for a Taiwanese participant.

“It is like if Taiwan held a braised pork on rice competition and some foreigner took the top prize,” she said, adding that the event this year involved close to 3,500 marmalade samples from 40 nations.

One marmalade, which uses kumquats from Yilan County as its base, with a splash of bitter orange and yellow lemon, won gold for having interesting ingredients and another because it pairs well with fish dishes, Ke said.

The company’s signature marmalade, a mandarin orange and Kavalan whiskey mix, won silver in the interesting ingredients category and another for pairing well with meat dishes, as well as bronze in the alcoholic marmalades category, she said.

The last entry, another kumquat-based recipe flavored with Earl Gray tea and white wine, won bronze for pairing well with fish dishes, Ke said.

Two other preserve makers, one based in the Netherlands and another in Syria, also went home with two gold medals, although Keya Jam’s kumquat, bitter orange and yellow lemon was the only marmalade to receive a perfect score of 20, she said.

Making jams and preserves is a passion she accidentally discovered a decade ago while recuperating from an illness at her family home in Changhua County, Ke said.

Her interest in jams and preserves was piqued when her foray into making strawberry jam from a spur-of-the-moment purchase at the local traditional market went badly, she said, adding that she had rarely cooked prior to that.

She researched seasonal fruits, experimented with tea and wine pairings and collected sugars from around the world for jam making, which turned into a career, Ke said.

Taiwanese agriculture is highly developed and the nation possess the rare ability to cultivate temperate and tropical fruits in the same soil, she said, adding that she is proud her marmalades could raise the profile of the nation’s fruits on the international stage.

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