I’ll admit it. The first time I tried Marmite, it was because I am a bit of an Anglophile and I’d read about it in a book. I had no idea what it was supposed to taste like, but I knew I wanted to try it just because the characters had. When I saw it in the jams and jellies section at Cost Plus, I debated for the longest time. What if I didn’t like it, and then I was out five dollars? What the heck is yeast extract anyway? And the ingredients list is not very appealing: Yeast Extract, Salt, Carrot and Onion Extracts, Spice Extracts– along with some Niacin and B12 tossed in there.
Nerdy thing that I am, I put the Marmite back and went home to research it. Normally when I’m faced with something I haven’t eaten before, I just buy it and try it– but because this is a processed food I was being more skeptical than usual. Buddha’s hand? I’m on it! Tongue tacos? Just give me extra hot sauce. Strange spread for my toast? Well, hold on now, let’s not get crazy!
But as soon as I read that Marmite originally used yeast extracts from the sludgy bottoms of Bass beer barrels, they had me. I went back immediately and bought it because BEER JAM. Do you really need another reason?
It’s been a few years, and I’ve gone through countless little amber jars of the stuff. I can’t bring myself to recycle the jars, since they’re kind of cute in a retro way, so I use them to hold buttons, beads, spices, and cupcake sprinkles. I’ve got quite the collection going, and I think I’d like to start branching out and getting some different flavors or collector’s editions. There’s even a Guinness Marmite, and Marmite crisps. I’ll take ’em all, thank you very much!
While I’ve heard of people using it as a broth base or even drinking it mixed in to hot water, my preferred vehicle is sourdough toast. If I’ve made a soft boiled egg, I use it on my toast soldiers, and if I’ve made a hard boiled egg, I slice the egg up and put it on top of the Marmite toast.
What does it taste like? Well, to be honest, it doesn’t really taste like beer jam. It is about as umami-laden as a food can be, super salty and almost tangy. It’s almost like a bouillon. I’ve been known to lick bouillon cubes when I’ve got a salt craving– but who hasn’t occasionally licked the MSG flavor packet from infant ramen, or the cheese powder from a macaroni and cheese pouch? If you ever find yourself doing any of these things, you and Marmite will probably get on like a house on fire.
The only thing regrettable about my Marmite experience is that I regret introducing my husband to it. He usually has an aversion to condiments that aren’t hot sauce (he’s one of the Sriracha-loving millions but won’t even kiss me if I’ve eaten something with mayonnaise) but when I told him it was beer jam his interest was piqued. At first he feared it was like bacon jam, which I think is a great idea because it’s spreadable bacon, but I got him to try one of my Marmite toast soldiers and then he was a goner. Now I have to share my tiny jar of Marmite with him, and it doesn’t last nearly as long as it used to. To make it even worse, my daughter wants to see what we’re squabbling over in the morning over breakfast, and I just know she’s going to be a chip off both of the old blocks.