Mastery Challenge: Meyer Lemon Grapefruit Marmalade

Hey folks! Let’s welcome Alex Jones to the blog. She’s a friend and fellow Philadelphian who is coming on board as a regular contributor to Food in Jars (you’ll see her posts a couple times a month). She’ll be participating in the Mastery Challenge and will be sharing preserving tips and recipes from her West Philly kitchen. She’s kicking things off with a batch of Meyer Lemon Grapefruit Marmalade! ~Marisa

four small open jars of meyer lemon grapefruit marmalade

Hello fellow canners! I’m Alex Jones, your new FIJ contributor. I write about and work with local foods, farmers, and makers in the Philadelphia area. Over the past several years, I’ve learned to preserve thanks in large part to Marisa’s blog, books, and classes, so it’s especially exciting to lend my voice to the blog.

For January’s Mastery Challenge, I knew I’d be incorporating some of my Lemon Ladies Meyer lemons, which have become a permanent line item on my Christmas wish list. After slicing and drying half my stash, turning some into thick, sliceable fruit cheese, and squeezing a few over seared day boat scallops, I had half a dozen lemons left to make into marmalade.

To fill out the recipe and add a rosy glow to the finished product, I grabbed an organic grapefruit that had been hanging out on my counter. In total, I had a little over two pounds of fruit, just enough to halve Marisa’s Three-Citrus Marmalade recipe and transform it into a batch of Meyer Lemon Grapefruit Marmalade.

I grabbed my peeler and my paring knife and got to work. The methodical process of zesting, trimming, supreme-ing, and chopping my lemons and grapefruit, as the canning pot warmed my kitchen and episodes of Scandal hummed in the background, was the perfect way to spend a cold January morning.

Ingredients in the pot for a batch of meyer lemon grapefruit marmalade

I followed Marisa’s recipe as closely as possible — something I admit I don’t always do when in the throes of bulk fruit season — and for the most part, my results corresponded closely with her version. The main difference was around what for me is the most challenging aspect of making fruit preserves like this: achieving set.

I shy away from jam recipes that include store-bought pectin, as I often end up with an unappetizing, too-firm preserve, rather than the desired substantial-yet-stirrable set. But this marmalade recipe makes use of discarded bits of citrus — the seeds and membranes from the sections — as a gentle thickener.

Bubbles on the surface of meyer lemon grapefruit marmalade as it cooks down

My Meyer lemon-grapefruit marmalade, cooked over medium-high gas heat in a 4-quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven, took 45 minutes to get to 220 degrees, at which point I began testing the set. It took another 17 minutes and 5 degrees before the marmalade passed the plate test. Constant stirring and testing every 5 minutes helped me avoid scorching the marmalade, another potential pitfall.

Four open jars of meyer lemon grapefruit marmalade from the top

Before canning, I took care to remove the pot from the heat and stir for a full minute to keep the zest from floating at the top of the jar, a tip I somehow missed till now. It’s already paying off to revisit these techniques with intention!

After the processed jars had some time to cool off, I couldn’t resist popping open a quarter pint jar to check set and flavor. The texture was lovely — standing up on my knife but easy to spread — with tender bits of zest throughout. It tasted bright, sweet and sunny, with a hint of bitterness from the grapefruit to balance.

Finished jars of meyer lemon grapefruit marmalade

I might have to reconsider my usual policy of making fruit preserves for gifts only and allocate a jar or three of this Meyer Lemon Grapefruit Marmalade for my own use. That definitely makes the first month of the Mastery Challenge a success.

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How to Submit Your Marmalade for the January #fijchallenge

We are nearly done with the second week of marmalade making for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge. So many people have already shared their finished projects with me on Facebook and Instagram and it’s been so fun to see them all. It seems high time to put up a Google form so that I can start collecting details on who made marmalade as part of the challenge this month.

There are only two required fields on this form. Your name and the name of your marmalade. That’s all I need to count you among the participants. However, more fields do exist on the form. There’s a space to share a link to your marmalade. That link can go to a blog post, specific picture on Instagram, a Facebook update, a post on Tumblr, or to a picture on Flickr or Google Photos. Just remember that you need to set your privacy settings so that wherever your post is, it is publicly available.

With more than 1,400 people signed up for this challenge, I can already see that I’m not going to be able to do a comprehensive round-up every month. I will do my best to link out to as many people as I can, though. And I’ve also asked for some demographic data on the form so that I can share some general details about everyone who is participating.

Please remember that the deadline to submit your marmalade in order to be counted in the monthly total is Wednesday, January 25.

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Marmalade Troubleshooting

Looking to better understand why your marmalade turned out the way it did? Let’s walk through some marmalade troubleshooting!

You’ve made your first batch of marmalade for the Mastery Challenge and it didn’t turn out as well as you’d hoped. Perhaps it was a little runnier that you wanted it to be. Or maybe it set up so firmly that you can barely slip the knife in. Did your batch yield a whole lot less than you thought it should? Let’s talk through some of these issues.

Let’s start at the top of the list. Your marmalade is sloshy rather than spreadable. When did you make the marmalade? It can sometimes take 24-48 hours for a batch to finish setting up. If your marm is still just an hour or two out of the canner and you’re worried about the set, walk away. Stop thinking about it for a little while. Check it again tomorrow.

So. You let the jars rest for a couple days and the marmalade still totally saucy. Next question. Did you follow a recipe or ratio? Marmalade is by its nature a high sugar preserve. When you reduce the sugar or use a natural sweetener, achieving set can be harder, because there may not be enough sugar present in the preserve to elevate the temperature to the 220F set point.

Did you check for set while the marmalade was cooking? Any time a recipe gives you a cooking time, it is only a general range. During cooking, you also need to be checking for signs of set. You do this by using the frozen plate test, watching how the marmalade sheets off the spatula, paying attention to how much it has reduced, and taking the temperature as it cooks.

What kind of pot did you cook the marmalade in? Like most sweet preserves, marmalades like to be cooked in low, wide pans. High sided pans with narrow openings will trap evaporating water and make it harder for the fruit to reduce. For small batches, try your biggest frying pan rather than a saucepan.

Let’s visit the other side of the coin. Do you feel like your marmalade is too firm? If it’s more candy than spread, chances are good that you overcooked it. If you were using a thermometer to monitor the cooking temperature and you never managed to get to 220F, but it bounces like a rubber ball, the thermometer might be to blame. If you think this is your problem, read this post.

Are you disappointed with your yield? Marmalade is labor intensive, so I understand how frustrating it can be when you yield less that you’d hoped. Know first that it’s totally normal for the same recipe to shift its yield about a cup in either direction every time you make it.

To help prevent short yields in the future, make sure that you’re monitoring the set, so that you can take the pot off the heat as soon as it becomes clear that your marmalade is going to set up. The longer you cook, the more product is evaporating away. Overcooked preserves yield less, so if you are a chronic underyielder, longer cook times could be your issue.

Other things that lead to short yields are reduced sugar, overzealous trimming (if you discard a goodly amount of your fruit while preparing it for cooking, you’re whittling down your yield), shorting your measurements, and aggressive tasting.

Let me know if you’ve had other issues as you worked through this first #fijchallenge. I’d be happy to do another one of these troubleshooting posts if you’re having issues I didn’t hit on here.

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January Sponsors: Cuppow, Fillmore Container, EcoJarz, iLids, MightyNest, and Mason Jar Lifestyle

I feel like it was just New Year’s Day and now we’re nearly two weeks into 2017. How did that happen? It is WELL past time to thank the people and businesses that help keep this site afloat, but late or not, I’m here to thank them nonetheless! Please do tell them that you appreciate their support of my work with a purchase or a social follow!

In the top spot are our friends at Cuppow. They are the creators of the original mason jar travel mug topper and the BNTO, a small plastic cup that transforms a canning jar into a snack or lunch box. Parents and kids love their EIO set, with its grippy silicone sleeve and a lid that makes for easy sipping. And make sure to check out their Cup Club, to see if using a mason jar and cuppow can earn you free coffee at a shop near you!

Lancaster, PA-based and family-owned Fillmore Container are next! They sell all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear. As always, their blog is an amazing resource for all things jar-related. If you’re a parent looking for a new baby bottle or sippy cup option, check out their line of Mason Bottles! And if you’re looking for a fermentation solution, they just added the new reCAP Fermenter to their stock!

Our friends over at EcoJarz are back again this month. They make an array of products designed to fit on top of mason jars, including cheese graters, coffee brewers, and stainless steel storage lids. I’m a huge fan of their PopTop lid, because it makes it easy to take smoothies and iced coffee on the road.

iLids is a Seattle-based small business that makes both storage and drink lids in both regular and wide mouth sizes for mason jars. Their storage lids are water tight and the drink lids can accommodate a straw. Best of all, their lids come in a whole bunch of different colors, so there’s something for everyone!

MightyNest is an amazing resource for non-toxic, natural, and organic products for homes and families. I’m a big fan of the MightyFix, their monthly product subscription program. Right now, you can get a year’s subscription to the MightyFix for just $99 (it regularly costs $10 a month, so that’s a great deal). Best of all, if you’re a new subscriber, you can get the first month for just $1.

Mason Jar Lifestyle is a one-stop shopping site for all the jar lovers out there. They sell all manner of mason jar accessories and adaptors. If you’re in the market for lids, straws, and cozies to transform your mason jars into travel mugs, make sure to check them out!

If your company or small business is interested in becoming a sponsor, you can find more details here. I offer discounts for multiple month purchases and am always happy to work with your budget. Leave a comment on this post or drop me a note to learn more!

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Links: Pickles, Trifles, and Winners

Oh friends, I can’t tell you how much fun I’m already having with the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge. I’m floored by how many people are participating and it’s been so fun to see all the marmalades you’ve been making!

I’m a bit later than usual with these links and winners. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them nonetheless.

It was so much fun to read about your canning goals last week in the giveaway of the smooth-sided and mini jars from Ball Canning. Here are the winners.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Duralex Snack Set from the MightyFix by MightyNest

Thanks to the arrival of this fresh, new year, we’ve been talking a lot about challenges, resolutions, and goals here at Food in Jars HQ. I’ve loved reading about your canning and preserving goals here and on the FIJ FB Community page and hearing your responses to the cooking resolutions Joy and I shared on Local Mouthful this week.

Before all this productive intention setting energy escapes us entirely, let’s talk about another set of healthy habits that I’m trying to build in this new year. Yes, that’s right. I want to be a better packer of snacks in 2017.

In my adult life, I’ve never been great at being prepared for those moments when hunger strikes and I’m out in the world. Most of the time, this lack of preparation results in a large bag of cheesy popcorn finding its way into my grocery cart or basket. I then inhale half the bag while driving home.

However, I’m ready to change all that and thanks to my friends at the MightFix, I have the world’s most charming containers to tempt me into tucking small snacks into my bag. These adorable Duralex containers can hold a few nuts, some dried fruit, or even some sliced up vegetables and they’re so cute that I WANT to fish them out of my tote instead of springing for the popcorn.

You might be thinking to yourself that I’m crazy to use glass containers, but Duralex containers are made from tough tempered glass that is 5x times sturdier than typical glass. And if you choose to tuck leftovers into these containers rather than an emergency snack pack, know that they’re safe for the microwave, dishwasher, or freezer.

For the rest of this month, new subscribers to the MightyFix will get these sweet Duralex containers as their first month  of the FIX. And it will only cost you a buck. $1. That’s right, a single dollar will bring you the tools to help create healthy habits all year long. And if you get yourself a yearlong subscription, each month of 2017 will bring a little treat in the mail.

You might get a set of wool dryer balls to replace your dryer sheets. Or a new water bottle so that you can ditch single-use plastic bottles forever. Perhaps a set of Bee’s Wrap, might help you finally kick the plastic wrap habit.

To sign up for a full year of the MightyFix for just $99, head this way. Offer expires January 31, 2017! MightyFix is currently available to US customers with free shipping. Canadian and Australian MightyFixes ship for a small fee. Full shipping details here.

When you follow this link, the discount will be automatically applied. You should see a note at the top of the page when you click over that says that the promo code has already been applied. However, if you don’t see that, you can also use the code FIJDURALEXFIX.

Here’s to healthy habits in 2017!

 

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