Jan 17th, 2017
I’ve been busy since the last time I updated my blog: work (I helped two of my editorial clients publish new books!), travel (camping in May, our annual trip to Vermont in August), and volunteering (in addition to my long-term involvement with Amnesty International, I’m now on the board for my local CISV chapter). I’ve also done a lot of knitting (which I’ll write about another time) and a lot of canning (which I’ll write about now).
I’ve been reading Marisa McClellan’s Food in Jars blog for a few years and own her first two books, Food in Jars and Preserving by the Pint (which are both excellent!). I met Marisa at my local farmer’s market a couple of years ago, where she did a canning demo while on tour to promote Preserving by the Pint right after its publication. (She was super nice and signed my books—and also took the time to write in corrections for a few errata.) I remember thinking, “Wow, if she can make some great stuff using one skillet, one spatula, and a portable burner set up on a folding table in the middle of park, surely I can do some decent canning in my fully stocked kitchen!”
In the fall of 2015 I scored a few boxes of Roma tomatoes from a local farmer. I turned one-third of them into canned whole tomatoes (the perfect blank slate on which to build during the tomato-deficient winter months), one-third into a salsa from Food in Jars, and one-third into “Mailman Salsa” (so named because our mail carrier, Mark, gave us the recipe). Mailman Salsa was such a hit with my family (my usually tomato-hating kid loved it) that last fall, when I managed to acquire forty pounds of local Roma tomatoes, I turned them all into Mailman Salsa—over five gallons of it.
I’m pretty comfortable with my salsa-making skills but less confident in other canning domains. So when Marisa announced early this month that she’d be running a “Food in Jars Mastery Challenge” during 2017, I signed up immediately. Here’s my chance, I thought, I push myself out of my canning comfort zone and try something new.
January’s assignment got things off with a bang: marmalade. I have sampled marmalade a few times in my life and haven’t enjoyed it (even though, after reading the Paddington Bear books, I really wanted to). It was always orange marmalade, and it was always yucky (to me, at least). So I wasn’t terribly keen on making marmalade. But I didn’t want to fail the challenge right at the start!
Fortunately, Meyer lemons are in season right now—and very nice ones are available at my grocery store. Marisa has waxed rhapsodic about Meyer lemons both in her blog and in her books, so I decided to see what all the fuss is about. A few days ago, I tackled her Strawberry Meyer Lemon Marmalade in Preserving by the Pint.
First, I prepped the fruit. This took some time (partly because I am the current holder of the World’s Slowest Knife Skills in the Kitchen award). Putting the lemon’s white core and seeds in cheesecloth and extracting their pectin by adding that bundle to the soaking lemon slices is a really nifty idea. Food chemistry ftw!
Then I cooked the fruit until it lost a lost of liquid and hit 200 degrees on my cooking thermometer.
And then I processed the jars in a water bath for ten minutes. The recipe yield is three half pints, and I hit that pretty much right on the head. (I had only two half-pint jars, not three, so I substituted two half-cup jars for the third.) See that nice white powder on my jars? Oh, the joy of living in a place with super-hard water!
But I am pleased with the results! The marmalade tastes pretty good. The brightness of the strawberry tempers some of the “pointiness” (I don’t really know how else to describe it) of the lemon. My jars all set up nicely (hooray!). I’m not sure if I’ll be making a lot more marmalade in my future (that will depend on how much my family likes this), but I’m glad I’ve finally done it at least once.