Links: Marmalade, Pickles, and Winners

Lately, I have been finding great deal of comfort in cooking and sharing food. In the last couple weeks, friends have had babies, while others have experienced the unexpected loss of loved ones. Other dear ones are feeling disheartened and angry at the policies coming out of Washington and have needed the solace of a communal meal. I’ve made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, pots of chicken soup, loaves of bread, and vast casseroles. In these times, it often feels like there’s not much we can do, but wholesome, homemade food is always healing. Now, links.

We’ve got winners in the Biscuit Press giveaway from last week! I’ll be in touch with the winners in the next day or so. If you didn’t win but loved the Biscuit Press gear, support a small business and buy a pin, patch or magnet!

And check back tomorrow, when I’ll have another tasty giveaway for you all!

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How To Check for Set With the Plate Test

One thing I heard from a bunch of folks as they made their marmalade for the Mastery Challenge was that they struggled to find the set point. And I get it. Determining when you’ve hit the set point for jams, jellies, and marmalades can be kind of tricky, particularly if you don’t have a lot of batches under your belt.

You’ve got temperature, which is reliable most of the time, except when it isn’t (thermometers aren’t perfect and often they need to be calibrated). You can watch how the preserve sheets off the spoon or spatula, but what if you don’t know what you’re looking for? If you found yourself asking these questions as your made your marmalade, the plate test is for you.

Also known as the freezer test or the saucer test, this is a method of checking for set that requires some pre-planning. You need to stash a couple small bowls, plates, or saucers in your freezer before you start cooking the marmalade, so that they’ll be nice and cold when you’re nearing the end of the cooking process.

When you hit the point when you think the marmalade is finished, you remove the pot from the heat and dollop a spoonful of marmalade onto the frozen plate. Then, you return the plate to the freezer for a few minutes. This accelerates the setting process and gives you a peek into the future of your marmalade.

After those few minutes are up, you pull that plate out of the freezer and give the dollop of marmalade a nudge with the tip of your finger. If a set has begun to form, it will wrinkle when you push it (as demonstrated in the picture above). If that’s the case, it is done. If the marmalade hasn’t set, your finger will slide right through the dollop and you’ll need to cook the marmalade a bit longer.

Do take care to pull the pot off the heat while you’re running this test. If you let the preserve continue to cook while you’re waiting to see if it’s going to set up, you run the very real risk of overcooking and scorching.

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Lemon Lime Marmalade

One more marmalade for the January challenge. This small-ish batch of lemon lime marmalade is made over the course of three days. That better allows you to fit your preserving into your busy life!

lemons and limes for lemon lime marmalade

We’re beginning to wrap up our month of marmalades in the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge and I figured the best way to celebrate was with more marmalade! Lemon lime marmalade, to be precise. This is a batch I made about a week ago, over the course of three days (because marmalades are flexible like that).

fruit in a colander for lemon lime marmalade

For this batch, I picked up two pounds of organic lemons and limes from my neighborhood Trader Joe’s. There was a lot of talk about sourcing fruit for this month, and part of my goal with this recipe is to show that you don’t have to go crazy or spend a ton of money to get good fruit for preserving. I don’t remember how much I paid for these lemons and limes, but it was well south of $5.

rinsing fruit for lemon lime marmalade

Because grocery store citrus is often waxed to help retain moisture and freshness, I always give it a rinse with boiling water if I plan on using the zest or rind. I put a colander in the sink, fill it up with the fruit, bring a kettle to a boil, and then give the fruit a scalding bath. This helps remove any surface wax and gives you a aromatic steam facial, to boot.

fruit ready to simmer for lemon lime marmalade

After rinsing the fruit, I arranged it in a pan that was wide enough to hold it in a single layer. Filled with twice as much filtered water as I needed for the recipe (to ensure that there would be enough after evaporation), it went on the stove and simmered for about 45 minutes, until the rinds could easily be pierced with a fork.

cooked citrus for lemon lime marmalade

Once the fruit was cooked through, I turned off the heat and let it sit until cool. That was the end of the day one prep. I covered the pan and let it hang out on the back of the stove until the next day.

halved citrus for lemon lime marmalade

On day two, I pulled the fruit out of the pot and set it on a cutting board with a carved groove to catch any juices. I measured out four cups of cooking water to use in the marmalade and set to work breaking down the citrus. I positioned a fine mesh sieve over a bowl. With a piece of citrus in my left hand and a paring knife in the right, I cut the fruit open over that sieve.

Once about half the fruit was cut open, I scraped all the flesh (membranes and seeds included, but not the pith) into the sieve. I set the rind aside for a moment. Then I used the sieve to work through the pulp in order to remove the seeds. Once I was certain that all the seeds were removed, I poured the pulp into the bowl below. This process was repeated until all the deseeded pulp was in the bowl.

chopped rind for lemon lime marmalade

Then I chopped the rinds into strips. I like to take a couple empty rind halves, cut them in halves or quarters, make a neat stack, and chop through them. This keeps the task from becoming too tedious (but there’s always a little tedium in making marmalade. It’s just part of the gig).

combining ingredients in the pot for lemon lime marmalade

Once all the rinds were chopped, I heaped them in a five quart pot and added the four cups of reserved cooking water, all the pulp and juices from the bowl beneath the sieve, and four cups of sugar (I know it seems like a lot, but I was working with the 1:1:1 ratio. Two pounds of fruit, two pounds water (four cups = 32 ounces = 2 pounds), and two pounds of sugar (like the water, four cups = 32 ounces = 2 pounds).

I put a cover on the pot and slid it to the back of the stove to wait until morning.

prepped fruit in a five quart pot for lemon lime marmalade

On the morning of day three of the lemon lime marmalade, I took a picture of the prepared fruit in nice light and then got to cooking. I placed the pot on the stove, set the burner to high, and brought it to a boil. Once it started to roll, it boiled steadily for 35 minutes before it started nearing the set point.

I stirred occasionally at the start of cooking and regularly towards the end. Around minute 40, it reached 220 degrees F and was able to maintain that temperature even after being stirred. I also used the saucer test and looked at how the droplets were setting up on the spatula before calling it done.

wrinkling lemon lime marmalade

This batch was so eager to set up that it started to do it in the pot while I was taking these pictures (and truly, when I take pictures of a finished preserve in the pot, it only adds a couple minutes to the workflow. This pot wasn’t off the stove long). But you can see that as I tilted the pot a little, the surface wrinkled in the same manner we look for when using the plate/saucer test to check for set. Set mission accomplished.

seven jars of lemon lime marmalade

This batch yielded six half pints and one quarter pint. It’s pleasingly bitter and bracing. I made a batch of lemon chicken the other night and used a few spoonfuls to lend flavor to the quick-cooking dish. Easy and delicious!

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Cookbooks: Eat It Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton

There is little in life I find more satisfying that making a meal that uses up things that might otherwise get thrown away. Leek tops? A batch of veggie stock, which then becomes risotto, soup, or a cooking medium for whole grains. Random, limp vegetables? Soup, fried rice, or egg scramble. Stale bread? Bread pudding, savory panade, meatball or meatloaf binder, panzanella, or toasted bread crumbs.

However, having spent some time with Sherri Brooks Vinton‘s relatively new book (it came out last June), Eat It Up!, I’ve come to realize that there’s even more I could be doing to use things up and prevent waste in my kitchen.

Sherri begins the book with an introduction that defines the problem of food waste and identifies reasons why so many are striving to reduce it. From there, she heads off into techniques and recipes for using up unloved bits and transforming scraps into delicious dishes.

In the produce section, Sherri focuses primarily on the parts that we most often toss into the trash or compost. She’s included recipes that make good use of apple peels, celery leaves, the stems from various greens, fennel fronds, and the tops of radishes, turnips and beets.

In the meat section, she shows you how to make stock, prepare bone marrow, render fat, and transform those things into tasty dishes. Hit the dairy section of the book to use up scraps of cheese, the end of a tub of yogurt, and make queso fresco. There are suggestions for the ends of condiments, leftover baguettes, and the olives that invariably remain after you’ve thrown a party.

If one of your resolutions for 2017 was to do better with food waste, I highly encourage you get yourself a copy of this book. It’s bursting with useful tips (potato peel croutons!) and is friendly, approachable, and fun.

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Giveaway: Baller Gear from Biscuit Press

Both the silhouette of a mason jar and its embossed label are instantly recognizable. And any time something has such an iconic look, it becomes a candidate for interpretation and artistry. I see reinterpretations of the canning jar’s form and branding regularly and I’m often delighted by the creativity and imagination that goes into the work.

One of my current favorite takes on the classic Ball jar comes from Austin’s Biscuit Press. The brainchild of designer and musician Dan Grissom, he uses the familiar jar shape and scrolling text to say Baller. Love. It.

You can get your Baller gear from Biscuit Press in either a iron-on patch, an enamel pin, or an enamel magnet (Dan also makes an array of other clever pins and magnets).

Thanks to Dan, I have three sets of Baller patches, pins, and magnets to give away to you guys. Use the widget below to enter the giveaway.

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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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