What fun! I’m participating in the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge this year, hosted by Marisa McClellan, whose books about small batch preserving (check them out here!) gave me the courage to take the step from refrigerating or freezing my jams to actually processing them in a water bath so they can be stored in the cupboard. Every time I pick one I end up writing several different recipes into my planner so I remember to try them when the fruits or vegetables are in season. Of course, I don’t always get around to making them, and I’m excited that each month she’ll be giving us a different method of preserving to try…along with posts with hints and troubleshooting tips to reference in addition to her wonderful books. And I’m hoping that the challenges and some advance planning for seasonal canning will keep me on track for gift-making this year too.
January’s challenge is marmalade, which differs from jam in that it is typically made with citrus and has chunks of rind, which adds texture and tartness. Marisa gave us great tips on making Small Batch Marmalade on her blog. I read the recipes in her books, and also consulted America’s Test Kitchen Foolproof Preserving . This book is another wonderful resource of recipes and important information about canning and preserving. It’s vital that you adhere to the instructions for heating the jars, leaving the correct amount of headspace at the top of the jar, and process and set for the specified amount of time (even the altitude you’re cooking at affects processing time!).
I used the recipe for Blood Orange Marmalade in Foolproof Preserving as a jumping off point. I had some figs in the freezer and decided to add a pound (defrosted) to the oranges.
Both this recipe and the one Marisa provided instruct us to simmer the citrus until it is very tender, then to cool it completely. I loved this process, as it makes quick work of scraping the pulp from the peel, and takes away much of the bitterness. Simmering also makes the rinds very soft, and I much prefer that texture to tougher chewy pieces in the finished marmalade.
The pulp and seeds are simmered briefly with the cooking water.
While the mixture was simmering I chopped the figs, leaving some larger chunks, and stirred them together with the sugar and the chopped citrus rinds.
After simmering, the water is pressed through a strainer into a Dutch oven and the pulp and seeds discarded. I added the fig/sugar/rind mixture to the water and stirred over medium-high heat. When the mixture came to a boil, I added some cinnamon (it just felt like the right thing to do!).
Because of the extra volume and water in the figs, my mixture took a bit longer to reach the correct temperature and thickness – a little more than 30 minutes versus the Blood Orange Marmalade recipe’s 20-25.
Using the thermometer to ensure the mixture was at 220F and the frozen plate test (instructions are in the recipe link above) helped ensure I cooked the marmalade for the right amount of time.
Once the mixture was ready, I ladled it into 8 oz. jars that had been heating in a water bath, leaving 1/4″ of headspace at the top; then I placed the lids and rings onto the jars. Into the water bath they went, boiling for 10 minutes and setting in the water (with the heat off) for an additional 5 minutes after that. I carefully lifted the jars out and set them on a dish towel on the counter, where they sat for 24 hours. I know they’ve sealed because I heard the welcome little “pop” after they came out of the water bath, but I also checked to make sure the seals were holding at the 24 hour mark. (If the jars hadn’t sealed, I would be storing them in the refrigerator – they won’t last as long as they would in the cupboard but they certainly won’t go to waste!)
I’ll be honest, y’all, even small batch canning takes time and work – but for me it is a labor of love. Step by step I am completely focused on the task at hand, and when I can open a jar of jam or marmalade (or salsa or sauce…) – or better yet, share a jar with a dear one – the feeling is amazing!
If you’d like to learn more about canning and preserving, the Food In Jars website is a great place to start. Enjoy! Happiness is like jam, you can’t spread even a little without getting some on yourself. Anonymous