Tag Archives | marmalade

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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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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How to Make Small Batch Marmalade

Are you participating in the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge? This small batch marmalade recipe is just the thing to get you started!

small batch marmalade yields just four half pints - Food in Jars

Okay folks. Let’s walk through how to make a batch of marmalade. I’m using a small batch as an example for this post, because marmalade is an energy-intensive preserve and so making a relatively petite batch makes it feel a little less overwhelming.

one pound Seville oranges for small batch marmalade - Food in Jars

Whether you’re making a small batch or a large one, marmalade making uses a ratio of 1:1:1. The easiest way to calculate that and ensure that the ingredients stay in consistent relationship to one another is measure by weight. In this batch, I used 1 pound of Seville oranges (about 2 1/2 oranges), 1 pound of sugar (2 cups), and 1 pound of the orange cooking water (also known as 2 cups).

simmered Seville oranges for small batch marmalade - Food in Jars

Place the fruit in a saucepan with a lid and add water. Use more than you’ll need to account for evaporation. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the oranges are completely tender and collapse in on themselves (this typically takes between 45-55 minutes).

Turn off the heat and let the oranges cool completely.

tender orange insides for small batch marmalade - Food in Jars

Once the oranges are cool enough to handle, remove them from the pot (remembering to save the cooking water). Position a fine mesh sieve over a bowl. Cut an orange in half. Hold one half over the sieve and use a spoon to scoop out the interior of the orange into the sieve. Search the pulp in the sieve for any seeds.

Once you’re sure it is seed-free, put the pulp into the bowl with the juices. Repeat this with all the orange halves.

sliced Seville oranges for small batch marmalade - Food in Jars

Once all the pulp is in the bowl, it’s time to slice the rinds. Cut each rind half into 4 wedges and then cut those wedges into thin strips. You can cut them as thinly or thickly as you desire. Once all the rind wedges have been sliced, you can either add them to the bowl with the pulp or send them on to the pot in which you will cook the marmalade.

simmering small batch marmalade - Food in Jars

Combine the reserved cooking water with the orange rind slices, orange pulp, and sugar in a saucepan. You’ll notice that I changed saucepans halfway through the making of this batch. I did this because I realized that I was not going to have enough volume in the wider pot to give me a true reading on an instant read thermometer (there’s more detail on using a thermometer to achieve set in this post).

small batch marmalade in jars - Food in Jars

The reason marmalade sets up so well is that the sugar elevates in temperature as you boil the contents of the pot. As it elevates, the sugar begins to thicken and it creates a bond with the natural pectins in the fruit. The fact that oranges also contain a goodly amount of acid also helps with the set.

finished small batch marmalade close - Food in Jars

Once you’ve determined that your marmalade is finished, funnel it into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes (don’t know how to do the boiling water bath process? Read this post). When the time is up, remove the jars from the canner and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool.

When the jars have cooled enough that you can comfortable handle them, check the seals (more details on checking seals here). Sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.

I hope this post helps you feel a little more comfortable with the process of making marmalade. Oh, and one last thing. If you’re struggling to find Seville oranges, using a combination of juicing oranges and lemons creates a similar flavor profile.

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How to Make Marmalade for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge

Tips, tricks, insights, and resources that should help show you how to make marmalade for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge.

Welcome to everyone who has signed up to participate in the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge! For this first month, we’re going to focus in on marmalade and how to make it.

First, let’s define our terms. The word marmalade can stretch to mean a whole number of jams, reductions, and sauces, but for our purposes, I’m going to use the word marmalade to mean a sweetened citrus preserve that consists of bits of peel, suspended in jelly. It uses the entire fruit (or, at least, darned near all of it). You can include other fruit in your marmalade, but citrus should make up at least half of the total volume of fruit in your finished batch.

As you choose the marmalade recipe you’re going to make for this challenge, pick something that you and your household will enjoy. I am not prescribing a single recipe or approach for this challenge and instead am charging you to pick something you like (or at least, you think you might enjoy).

Choosing Your Fruit

Any time you use the exterior of a lemon, orange or grapefruit, your best choice is unsprayed fruit. For those of you who live down south, this may mean begging or trading for a friend or neighbor’s backyard fruit. For those of us up north, more often, this means buying through a reputable orchardist who grows using organic practices. Some grocery stores have gotten wise and stock organic specialty citrus this time of year. Buy from them, if you can.

If you have the privilege of hand-picking the citrus you’re using to make marmalade, choose fruit that feels heavy for its size and that seems fairly unmarred (not always possible with homegrown fruit, but small bumps and scrapes can always be cut away during prep).

Another option is ordering by mail. I adore Karen Morss and her Lemon Ladies Orchard for Meyer lemons and often buy bitter Seville oranges through The Orange Shop.

Once you’ve got your fruit in hand, you have to determine the style of marmalade you want to make.

Style, Taste, and Texture

Whole Fruit – As you may have guessed, this method uses the whole citrus. Traditionally, it’s made with one part fruit, one part sugar, and one part water (by weight).

When tackling a whole fruit marmalade, the fruit has to be significantly softened before you add the sugar and begin the marmalade cooking process. This can be done by boiling the whole fruit (and chopping once cool), or by slicing the fruit into small pieces and then soaking for a period of time (this is a good example of that approach). In either case, you can choose whether you cut the rind into chunks, bits or slivers (this depends entirely on your texture preference).

Because this method includes the pith of the fruit, it is typically the most bitter of the all the marmalade varieties. If you like bitter flavors, this is a plus. If you shy away from things like coffee, black tea, minimally sweetened chocolate, and dark beer, this style is not for you.

Cut Rind – In this method, you slice away the outer zest for use in the marmalade, cut away the pith and then either segment or juice the inner flesh (much like what’s documented in this post). When making marmalades in this fashion, I like to cut the zest into very fine ribbons, so that they nearly melt into the jelly.

This is a good starter marmalade, because the absence of the pith means that it is less bitter than the whole fruit version. However, because citrus pith contains so much pectin, this variety can be a little more troublesome when it comes time to set, particularly if you’ve not saved and bundled up your pith in a pectin boosting bundle of seeds and membrane.

Ensuring Set

As is true with other jams and jellies, you’ll get the best and most consistent set from a small batch of marmalade (no more than three to four pounds of fruit to start with) made in a low, wide pan. In most cases, adding commercial pectin to marmalades (and citrus jams) is unnecessary. The amount of acid and pectin that is naturally in citrus should offer enough to get your preserve to gel.

When you make a whole fruit marmalade, often there’s not much extra that you need to do to extract the pectin from the fruit because the only bit you discard is the seeds (and after you’ve simmered them inside the fruit for an hour or two).

In batches of cut rind marmalade, I like to save all the seeds, pith and membrane, bundle it all up in a length of cheesecloth and leave it with the fruit through the soaking and cooking stages. If you can do so without burning your fingers, squeeze that pectin bundle well over the cooking pot before discarding it.

There are some exceptions. If you’re working with hybrid fruit like blood oranges or cara cara oranges, they are often seed-free and have very thin layers of pith. I will sometimes stash lemon seeds in my freezer and bundle them up for marmalades made with these low pectin varieties, in order to help with the set. I am also not above adding a tablespoon of powdered pectin to a batch of marmalade that seems to be struggling.

In most cases, recipes for marmalade will tell you to cook it to 220 degrees F in order to achieve set. This often works, but there are rare cases where a marmalade resists setting, even when cooked to 222F or higher (Kaela wrote about just such an experience). I find that it’s important to test for set at least two ways when making marmalade, to double check your work as it were. I always monitor the temperature and use the frozen plate test (detailed here).

Resources

There are a number of marmalade recipes in my books that would make able starting points (the Strawberry Meyer Lemon Marmalade in Preserving by the Pint is a particularly nice one). I also recommend the following books.

Marmalade: Sweet and Savory Spreads for a Sophisticated Taste by Elizabeth Field (I made a number of recipes from this book for the photo shoot and know it to be reliable and easy to work with.)

Marmalade: A Bittersweet Cookbook by Sarah Randell (This book is an import from England and truly, no one knows marmalade better than the Brits.)

The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders (Rachel is the proprietor of The Blue Chair Fruit Company and knows her way around a lemon. If you want to see how she does it, her Craftsy class is a good investment of time and resources.)

Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber by Christine Ferber (First published in English 15 years ago, this book is a fundamental volume in my library.)

Some of my favorite bloggers also have a deep backlist of marmalade recipes, ripe for the picking. I suggest checking out Local Kitchen, Hitchhiking to Heaven, Autumn Makes and Does, Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking, Doris and Jilly Cook, Punk Domestics, Mrs. Wheelbarrow, Cakewalk and Linda Ziedrich.

Check back tomorrow when I’ll have a recipe up showing you how to make a small batch of whole fruit Seville orange marmalade.

Oh, and one last thing. I’ll be doing a Facebook Live video on Thursday night (January 5, 2017) from 9-10 pm Eastern Time to answer all your marmalade questions!

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Links: Ginger Pear Butter, Giveaways, and Winners

fermented wax beans

About a week ago, our under sink water filter sprang a leak, causing a great deal of mess and upheaval. We’re all cleaned up now, with a new filter that’s better than the old one, but it took a goodly amount of mopping, sorting, trashing, and general disruption to get back to normal. The whole experience feels like it’s an allegory for life. There’s turmoil, mess, and recovery, but in the end, you wind up in a situation that’s better than before.

assorted mason jar accessories 1 - Food in Jars

The two winners in my Mason Jar Accessories giveaway are #332/Maria C. and #452/Beth. Congratulations to the winners! The giveaway is taking a short break this week, but will be back next week. And thanks to everyone who shared dinner ideas and suggestions. It was most inspiring to read about the things you’ve been cooking lately!

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