Tag Archives | Mastery Challenge

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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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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Giveaway: Smooth Sided and Mini Jars from Ball Canning

Ponder your goals for the 2017 canning season and enter to win new storage and canning jars from Ball Canning!

Already today, we’ve talked a little bit about some of the canning and preserving we’re going to be doing together in the coming year (have you signed up for the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge yet?). Now, let’s talk in more detail about how we’re going to do it.

It takes thought and preparation to expand skill set and I find that there’s no better time to do a little planning for learning and growth than at the very start of fresh new year. Whether you’re a goal setter or a resolution maker, now is the time to start lining up our intentions.

Here are a few questions to start with as you dream up what you want to get out of your food preservation practice this year and how you want to shape the Mastery Challenge to work for you.

How does my family currently eat? Try starting with some small changes that will allow you to incorporate more homemade foods into your current habits and patterns.

What’s something I buy regularly from the store? If you find yourself picking up barbecue sauce or strawberry jam, consider setting a goal of making enough to get you through the year!

Is there something that scares me about food preservation? What can you do to release those fears?

What brings me joy in the kitchen? Not every goal has to be about pushing forward. Sometimes it’s enough to make time and space simply to do the things you already love.

How can I make my food preservation habit flow better? Sometimes all you need to do it put your gear in a more accessible part of your kitchen. Or perhaps you need to keep an eye out for a different canning pot. Knowing what you need is so much of the battle!

What do I want my kitchen life to look like this time next year? Sometimes the best way to set a goal is to look at where you want to end up and then plot a course that gets you there (or at least, that gets you closer).

Now, most food preservation goals will, at some point, arrive at the topic of jars. And it just happens that our friends at Ball Canning have recently added some new jars to their product line. In the spirit of helping a few Food in Jars readers further their food preservation goals, I’m giving away some of these new, lovely jars.

Three winners will each get a set of the new Ball Mini Storage Jars (these sweet little jars hold 4 ounces and sport 1-piece lids), a case of the new Ball Smooth-Sided Regular Mouth Pints, and a case of the Ball Smooth-Sided Regular Mouth Quarts.

Use the widget to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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
April – Quick Pickles
May – Cold Pack Preserving
June – Jam
July – Hot Pack Preserving
August – Low Temperature Pasteurization
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. 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

Updated to add: I’ve removed the registration form as the sign-ups were slowing. If you’re still interested in participating in the challenge, you are absolutely welcome to join us. Just drop me a note so that I can get you subscribed to the challenge email list!

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