Three years and a day marmalade

Tulips provided by the botany of J’s desire.Yesterday J and I celebrated our three-years-together anniversary. My present to her, besides a poem I wrote for the occasion, was to not make marmalade.

My small batch marmalade (with fruit prepared earlier in the day, stewing in the fridge as directed by the recipe) didn’t seem like an entire-evening project, but I decided not to risk it. After all, me wandering around the kitchen in a minor state of panic, talking to myself (even just for an hour or two), was not what I had in mind for our anniversary evening either. Instead, we cooked dinner (J cooked, I watched and washed beets) and later danced around the house to Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton and Fiest (Kenny Rogers and the Constantines made a few duet appearances in there, too).

This is my first blog post (though not my first jam/jelly/marmalade adventure) about canning. I’ll get into more detail for all you first-timers in another post. For now, I’ve run to the wire and need to post this for the Tigress Can Jam to meet our monthly deadline. Wary, new-to-canning Jammakers please stay tuned for a series of canning & preserving basics and how-to posts, with real-deal tips since recipes never go exactly according to plan (and are never as easy as they imply.)

Three-Citrus Marmalade

using Eugenia Bone’s recipe from her book, Well-Preserved, and followed as closely as possible

I used the following ingredients:

1 grapefruit

3 organic blood oranges

4 regular (small organic) lemons—my co-op only had two bottom-of-the barrel, mushy Meyer lemons so I opted for regular ones

4 cups of sugar

1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter

Her recipe worked well, and I’m really glad I measured the pulp (like she said to do) after I food processed the fruit. I ended up with 4 cups of pulp (instead of the projected 5 cups); thus I decreased sugar to 4 cups. Citrus marmalade-ing requires a 1-to-1 ratio of pulp to sugar. Yes, this may seem like a lot of sugar, but that’s the deal. Don’t freak out. Just eat your sweet spread in moderation.

The only other real variation to Eugenia’s recipe was my letting the pulp/rind mix sit overnight instead of the two hours she directed (a relationship-saving measure).

Let me just vent for a moment my usual sticky-situations and jam-bitches:

1. Candy thermometers drive me batty in jam/jelly/marmalade making endeavors. They like for you to submerge the thermometer in like 3 or 4 inches of the liquid to get an accurate reading, for that elusive 220 degree F measurement. Well, as most of you Can Jammers know, preserves are best made in small batches (that rarely top 2 inches in the pan). Simple physics and measurement (plus the need to constantly stir, to avoid scorching your high-sugar-content liquids) will soon lead you to realize that striving to achieve accuracy in measurement might leave you at the end of your rope. I still don’t get the spoon test to measure gelling point, alas I’m a slave to the thermometer.

Today I tilted the pan, while keeping it over the flame—just after a good stir—and let Miss Thermometer get her elusive reading. This was my most successful measurement in all my sweet spread making thus far. I’ll continue to do it this way in the future unless anyone can help me figure out the damn spoon gel test (like how to do it while also continuing to stir the pot.)

2. I thought I could use a smaller canner pot since I was making such a small batch, a bunch of short jars. But the 3-inches of water needed to top the jars ended that pipe-dream. My pot would’ve been the great jacuzzi incident of 2010, bubbles erupting over my littler pot’s rim. No good. I had to lug out the big-rig canner pot. Not terrible, but next time I’ll remember that it takes AT LEAST 30 minutes for all the water needed for jar coverage in that pot to boil. I cut sterilizing the jars a little too close to marmalade jar-time and had at-temp marmalade waiting sort of patiently as I pulled the sterilized jars out of the canner. A little stressful.

I did remember to wear my industrial-strength, pretty gloves today, though. I usually always (minorly) burn myself in the canning process, so today was a pleasant exception. I don’t recommend skipping the jar lifter or anything, but at least you’re protected during the little splashes or might just grab the slippery little, sterlized jar with your hands as you pull it out of the boiling water and set it on the counter.

3. No matter how accurately you follow a recipe, how many cups of pulp and whatever you put in the thing, you will never get the right amount of half-pint/pint jar outputs as described in a recipe. ALWAYS prepare and sterilize extra jars.

I ended up with a whole pint extra today (even though I had 1 whole cup less fruit pulp). WTF, dudes? Ah, well, more for J and me (and our pancakes and concoctions!)

4. The actual canning still took 2 hours (not including fruit prep). There’s just no such thing as a quick and easy batch. Don’t delude yourself.

I did have extrememly good preparation and mise en place (shit in order BEFORE you start). So I had a rather pleasant morning marmalading experience.

Quick run-down of successful things

1. The triple-citrus loot: 1 pint already hit the fridge, and 2 half-pints, 3 quarter-pints added to the larder.

2. A happily anniversaried J

3. My Tigress Can Jam creation for the month, check.

4. My kitchen’s not sticky because I did such a good job preparing myself. Woot.