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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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The Food in Jars Mastery Challenge

Join the Food in Jars community for a year-long food preservation mastery challenge. Each month brings a different skill on which to focus and explore!

Happy New Year, friends! And welcome to the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge!

Back in 2010, the blogger we all knew as Tigress hosted a year-long canning challenge known as the Can Jam. Each month, she’d announce a new category of ingredients and we’d all head out and make a preserve featuring that particular food. It was fun to be pushed to try new things and I so loved the sense of community that the Can Jam created.

There have been other challenges in more recent years (Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Charcutepalooza is one such memorable project) and after much pondering, I’ve decided to host one in 2017.

This challenge will be skill-based. Each month, we’ll all focus on a different pickling or preserving skill, with the intention that we end this calendar year with a greater level of expertise and comfort with a wide range of food preservation techniques than when we started.

At the beginning of each month, I’ll publish a blog post sharing tips on how to be successful with that skill and then will ask you to go forth and try it out. We’ll be talking in greater depth about each challenge in the Food in Jars Community on Facebook and I’ll be popping in regularly to answer questions.

If you have a blog or an Instagram account, I invite you to post the results of your project by the 25th of the month so that I can include it in a round-up (I’ll provide a monthly Google Forms link that you can use to submit your name and URL). However, you don’t have to have any kind of blog or social presence to participate. This challenge is about learning and sharing above all else.

Calendar of Preserving Skills
January – Marmalade
February – Salt Preserving
March – Jelly OR Shrubs
April – Quick Pickles
May – Cold Pack Preserving
June – Jam
July – Hot Pack Preserving
August – Low Temperature Pasteurization OR Steam Canning
September – Fruit Butter
October – Drying and Dehydration OR Pressure Canning
November – Fermentation
December – Fruit Pastes

If you’d like to join the challenge, please use the form below to sign up for the email list. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll try to be quick with my replies. Oh, and if you post to Instagram or tweet about the challenge, please use the hashtag #fijchallenge

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