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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 6 Meyer lemons (about 2 pounds)
- 1 red grapefruit (about 1/2 pound)
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 cups zest poaching liquid
- Prepare a large water bath canner and jar lids. Sanitize three clean half-pint jars by boiling the jars for 10 minutes in the canner. (I ended up with just enough marmalade to fill an additional quarter-pint jar as well.)
- Wash and dry the fruit. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the fruit in long, thin strips. Chop zest into short, thin ribbons and add to a stainless steel or enameled cast iron pot with 3 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- While the zest simmers, prepare your fruit: Slice away the top and bottom of each piece so that you can stand the fruit up straight on your cutting board. Moving a sharp paring knife from top to bottom, trim away the white pith, turning the fruit as you go until all pith is removed. Then, supreme the fruit. Over a medium bowl, take each naked fruit in your hand and make gentle cuts on either side of the membrane separating the segments, allowing the segments and juice to fall into the bowl below. Pick out any seeds stuck in the fruit.
- Once all sections have been removed, save the membranes and seeds from each piece of citrus and set aside. Tie the membranes and seeds into a secure bundle using cheesecloth.
- Put a small ceramic or glass plate in your freezer. (You'll use this to check the set of your marmalade later.)
- Drain the zest over a bowl to catch the poaching liquid. In the same pot you cooked the zest, combine drained zest, fruit segments, 2 cups of the zest poaching liquid, 3 cups sugar, and the bundle of membranes and seeds.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and let the mixture boil vigorously until it reaches 220 degrees (30-45 minutes).
- When the mixture can sustain 220 degrees for one full minute, remove the cold plate from your freezer. Dab a bit of the marmalade in the center of the plate and allow it to sit for a few moments. Poke the marmalade with your finger; if the surface of the mixture wrinkles, you've achieved the proper set. If not, wipe and return the plate to the freezer, continue cooking the marmalade, and check again in five minutes, stirring frequently to keep the mixture from burning.
- Once the marmalade passes the plate test, remove the pot from the heat. Stir the mixture gently for one minute. This will keep the solids from floating to the top of the jar.
- Fill your jars, wipe rims, apply prepared lids, and screw on bands. Lower into prepared canner and process for five minutes at a gentle boil, counting from when the pot returns to a boil.
- Remove jars to a folded dish towel on the counter and allow to cool completely. After cooling, check seals by pressing down on the top of the jar — no movement means you've got a good seal.