Doing a little different

A long while ago, canning buddy and I made a slightly caramelized marmalade with some brown sugar for colour, and whisky thrown in at the last second, supposedly for taste. But we never tried it again, for reasons I can no longer remember.

Cue this week’s experiment, an after-work celebration of the fact that the Seville oranges have finally, finally, finally made it to Toronto. Two batches, one with mostly brown sugar, one only with white, and both are pretty damn awesome. I know this because a jar of each marmalade failed to seal properly after their moment in the water bath, forcing me to open and taste both jars before storing the leftovers in the fridge. These are almost the first no-seal jars. Did I take them out of the water bath too early? Fill them too full? Not finger tighten the rings hard enough before the water bath? Who knows. It just means more marmalade to eat right now.

I’m not going to go through the recipe in detail here, because it’s basically the same as the five (!) batches of marmalade I’ve already made this month (Meyer lemon, Cara-Meyer, a mini grown-in-Ontario batch of what was probably calamondin, a mixed orange-lemon marmalade in Florida and a delicate Meyer-blood orange mix that I didn’t blog about).

The method uses equal weights of fruit, sugar and water, with a pre-boil, a slicing of the peels and then a rolling boil until it sets. It’s a method from Marisa at Food in Jars and it usually works. One of the latest batch was regular Seville orange marmalade — with a kilo of white sugar and the same weight in Seville oranges (and one lemon). For the second I used the same amount of fruit, but 650g of brown sugar and 350 of white. It very, very dark — almost a chocolate rather than an orange with a taste that’s almost burnt.

And this time, the set was just about perfect, as opposed to the slightly too runny Cara-Meyer marmalade and the rather well set Meyer lemon mix that started this year’s marmalade season.

I like.

Next up: a Daily Telegraph recipe for marmalade with the addition of black treacle (Britain’s bittersweet and gooey answer to North American molasses), and a blog on using up marmalade. There’s a lot to use.

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From tree to table, via pan and jar

Another on the road adventure, during a short trip to Florida to escape the Canadian winter. Friend here has citrus trees in her lush green yard, but in 30 (or is it 40?) years of living here, she’s never made marmalade. Cue batch no. 4 of 2017 marmalade, which I consider to be one of the best yet. A real classic marmalade, with tangy peel suspended in glorious bittersweet orange jelly. This one might win prizes at the county fair.

We went small on this one. Just two large home grown oranges and one extremely large home grown Meyer lemon, a trio that weighed in at two pounds exactly. That made the 1:1:1 fruit/sugar/water ratio an easy one to follow. Two pounds of fruit, two pounds of sugar, two pounds (or two US pints) of the glorious citrus-infused cooking water.

Orange and lemon marmalade

An equal quantity of fruit and sugar, by weight

Wash and quarter the fruit and cover with water. Bring the water to the boil, and then simmer, slowly, until the peel is really soft. It took the best part of an hour.

Allow the quarters to cool enough to handle, and then scoop out the flesh of the fruits, saving the seeds and the membrane in a cheesecloth bag, which you tie up tight with string or ribbon. It’s the pits and the white stuff that gives the marmalade it’s set, do don’t skimp that one. Measure the water, and add as much as you need to make up the same weight as the fruit – one pound of fruit means one pound (16 fl oz) of water;  a kilo of fruit means a kilo of water and so on.

Chop the peel as finely as you like it and return the peel and the flesh to the pan, along with the sugar, the liquid and the flesh of the citrus.

Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved, and then boil madly until it sets, stirring as you go so you don’t end up with something that burns or caramelizes. It took almost 15 minutes of a rolling boil, but it could be more or less, depending on far too many variables to count. I test for set using a drizzle of marmalade on a cold plate from the freezer. If you can run your finger through the blob and the liquid stays apart, it’s just about done. It’s a test that usually works.

Bottle in sterilized jars.

And that was it. Six jars of golden awesomeness, which was especially good on fresh from the oven home made bread. It’s my fourth contender of the month for the Food in Jars marmalade mastery challenge. Still waiting for the Seville oranges to make it to Toronto for contender no. 5.

 

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Cara-Meyer marmalade

For those that find regular marmalade too bitter, let me offer you this latest experiment, with a few suggestions to make it work better for you than it did for me. You see there were Meyer lemons left over from my Meyer marmalade adventure earlier this week, and there were ripe, sweet Cara Cara oranges from the same Costco expedition. Combining them produces a really pretty orange/pink marmalade, which is almost lacking that mouth-puckering bitterness I love so much. It’s a little runnier than I would have liked, but not runny enough to boil up again to try to get a firmer set. And marmalade sometimes firms up over several days, so it might be thicker by this time next week anyway. A mostly successful experiment, but I would give it a good 15 minutes of rolling boil next time (rather than 12), and perhaps a little more sugar or a little less water.

Just like last time, I (vaguely) used the Food in Jars 1:1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar to water, although I cooked the fruit before cutting it up, and also cut the sugar a smidgeon because the oranges were already pretty sweet. Possibly a mistake. Other things were different too. I had a slightly bigger batch of fruit, I cut the peel finer, and the (seedless) oranges didn’t give me as many of the pectin-rich seeds and pith as I got from the lemons, so there was less help with the set. But I love the colour, and the taste is not half bad as well. Others may love it.

Here’s the methodology and the quantities, which yielded just over 7 jars of pretty orange/pink jam:

Cara-Meyer marmalade
(Somehow Cara-Meyer sounds better than Meyer-Cara)

I used 4 Meyer lemons and 3 Cara Cara oranges, which weighed in 1.1kg, and just under 1kg of sugar.

Weigh the fruit, and set aside a roughly equal quantity of suger. Cut fruit in quarters, cover with water and simmer until the peels are butter soft. That took about 30 minutes for the lemons and 45 minutes for the oranges. Fish the fruit out of the water and allow to cool enough to handle. With the lemons you remove the seeds and as much as the white pith as you can and tie them in cheesecloth, before slicing the peel as finely as you like. The oranges were seedless, so I just scraped flesh off the peel and chopped that up, and then sliced the peels. That breaks traditional marmalade rules which say the peel should be suspended in a jelly. But I like the extra texture that chopped-up fruit offers, so I always add the fruit. Who cares about rules?

Measure the liquid you used to simmer the fruit and add enough water to top things up to the weight of your fruit or sugar (so 1 litre in my case), and then mix the chopped up fruit, sugar and water (plus cheesecloth bag of seeds) and cook, slowly until the sugar dissolves and then at a rolling boil until it sets. We boiled our mix for about 12 minutes, and we thought we had a set. Maybe 15 minutes next time? But then each lemon and each orange is different. It’s hard to be precise with things like jam.

Bottle in sterilized jars and waterbath for 10 minutes.

Et voilla. Slightly sloppy Cara-Meyer marmalade. Tastes very good with cottage cheese, and would be awesome in a marmalade cake, if anyone can ever offer me a recipe for that that works.

Anyone?

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Mmm Meyers

The plan, for what it’s worth, was to make marmalade later this month, once the Seville oranges hit the stores. But how could I resist a giant bag of Meyer lemons at suspiciously low Costco prices?

Meyer lemons make magnificent marmalade, even though I admit to some frustration in the past with recipes that tell you to prep the fruit in three different ways, and some WTF moments with a Meyer marmalade that started off like a syrup, and then set, surprisingly, two days after the canning. So this time I kept things simple, following the formula from Marissa at Food in Jars : one pound fruit, one pound sugar, one pound water.

Well actually, I used two pounds each of fruit, sugar and water, so it wasn’t exactly the smallest of small batches, but it was incredibly easy and it set incredibly fast.

Meyer lemon marmalade

2 lbs Meyer lemons
2 lbs sugar
4 cups water

Wash the lemons (my babies were not organic, sadly), slice off the ends and cut them into quarters or sixths, lengthwise. Slice off the edge piece of the membrane and fish out the seeds, keeping both in a cheesecloth bag to help the marmalade set. Then slice the peel/flesh as evenly as you can, and put it in your pot with the water.

Bring your lemons to a simmer with the little cheesecloth bag (at the top of the picture) and cook until the peels are butter soft — it took about 3o minutes — and allow the mix to cool. Then squeeze out the cheesecloth bag to get as much as the gooey pectin-rich liquid as you can, discard the bag and add the sugar. Heat, gently until the sugar dissolves, and then at a rolling boil until it sets. Some people use a thermometer for this (222F is the magic number, I am told), but I just put a blob on a cold plate, and if it looks right and stays separated when I run my finger through it, it’s done. I did my first test after 5 minutes of rolling boil, and it was still a little liquid, so I went on for another 4 minutes, which was perhaps a minute or two too long. It’s a good, firm set.

Bottle in sterilized jars and waterbath for 10 minutes. The satisfying pop of the seal came seconds after I took my lovely little jars out of the water.

Five and a half beautiful little jars of sweet-tart marmalade.

I have 8 Meyers left, plus half a bag of luscious Cara Cara oranges. Has anyone ever made a Cara-Meyer marmalade? Would it be good?

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Ontario oranges

I’ve taken my jam obsession on the road before now, making marmalade in California and golden greengage jam in Germany. But I never thought I would make marmalade from home-grown Ontario oranges. Locavore jam in January? In Northern Ontario? Madness.

Except that the spouse’s cousin, who lives up near Sault Ste Marie, is the proud owner of a waist-high indoor citrus tree, which this year was laden with a few dozen citrus somethings, a tiny tangerine style fruit, with loose, thin, sweet peel and a pucker-your-mouth inside. They were the size of a quarter (plus a few big twonies and a couple of nickels) and they were so ripe that some were falling off the tree. But they are so bitter inside that nobody wanted to eat them. My eyes lit up? Citrus-something marmalade?


Of course without knowing what the fruit was it was hard to find a recipe, but when did I ever let that get in the way of making jam? Even a worst-case scenario would create a citrus syrup for cakes or pancakes, so what did we have to lose? Here is the non-recipe for about a jar of marmalade from miniature mandarin-kumquat-orange-citrus somethings. Ten minutes prep time, an hour of sitting around time, then 25 minutes to boil and bottle the jam and clean up the kitchen.

Miniature citrus marmalade

Wash and slice the fruit (peel and all), removing any pits, and measure your chopped up fruit by  volume. We started with just under a pound of fruit, which yielded just over a cup of fruit/peel mix. We mixed that with a scant cup of sugar, and about a quarter cup of water. Then there was a pause while we went off snowshoeing for an hour, and by the time we got back, there was a bright orange goop, just waiting to be turned into a bright orange marmalade. Heat the mixture, slowly until the sugar dissolves, and then at the fastest boil your stove allows until it sets. That set took less than five minutes at a rolling boil, and that was basically it. I had optimistically sterilized three jars, which was two too many, but we divided our marmalade into two jars anyway, so that both families will get a taste. From the tiny taste we got in the clean-up, I would mark this one down as a success. It’s tart, but with an intense, orange taste and a nice, firm And the colour is beautiful too. Almost like apricot jam.

How awesome is that?

Update: This is a really nice marmalade, with a good, firm set and a taste that’s somewhere between bitter orange and sweet apricot. The peel has melted away to almost nothing, which makes it feel more like a jam than a marmalade, and I could never identify the taste. But it’s absolutely intriguing. If I ever had access to more miniature citrus somethings, I would definitely make it again. At least four out of five, plus a bonus point for sheer exotic wonderfulness.

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Mustard

I made my first mustard this month, and even sneaked the tiniest jar back home from New Jersey, given that it fell well under the 100ml gels and liquids airport restrictions. A fun and easy adventure, to be honest, and a huge money saver, given the cost of good bought mustard. Couldn’t be much easier either.

Dijon style mustard

1/4 cup black mustard seeds
1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp honey

Pour the wine and vinegar over the seeds and soak for two days to let the seeds swell up a little. Add the salt and honey and food process until it’s as smooth as you want it to be. Transfer mustard into a clean jar and seal.

Wait another two days.

Store in the fridge. And if you store it in a Dijon Mustard jar, nobody will ever know the difference.

A word of warning, and you can’t really tell what this is going to taste right after the food processing because all you get is mustard fire — the flavours need time to mellow and meld together , hence the post-processing waiting period. We ate our little bottle on burgers after a week. It was still plenty hot, and plenty tasty.

And of course given the negligible cost of mustard seeds (available in bulk from any Indian store) compared to the non-negligible cost of ready-made mustard, you can experiment with the acid and the sweetening and you can add extra ingredients at will. Agave syrup rather than honey? Lemon juice instead of wine? Throw in some (pitted) olives? Horseradish? Preserved lemons? Small quantities at the start, until you know whether you are going to like the finished product

How easy is that?

 

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Tomatoes, take two

While Toronto canning buddy and I slaved over a hot stove earlier this year to peel, crush and can tomatoes, New Jersey friend is taking a far less intensive route, squishing bits of tomatoes into jars, and leaving any cooking for further down the road. A visit to her part of the world gave me a chance to see the method in action, although I was too busy slicing and squishing to take any meaningful pictures. We had two boxes of lush field tomatoes to get into a large number of jars. Pictures would only have slowed things up.

And having seen the processing in action, I will concede that this cold pack method is simplicity itself. Wash tomatoes, cut out the woody core (and any dubious bits) and cut them in quarters or eighths, depending on the size of the tomatoes. Put a generous slosh of lemon juice into your nice, clean jars (one tablespoon for one-pint jars, two tablespoons for the quart jars), and then force as many pieces of tomato into the jars as possible, adding a sprig of basil if you have basil to hand. Seal, and waterbath, for 30-45 minutes, and allow the jars to sit in the waterbath as the water cools down a little. And then you’re done. No peeling, no heating (the waterbath does that), no pre-bottling-processing at all.

I will admit it’s far, far easier than what we’ve been doing up to now, although you have to be careful not to put cold jars into boiling water (in case they crack), and to let the jars sit as the water cools down to avoid that evil siphoning away of liquid that ruined one of our jars. So that adds time to the processing. And you do seem to end up with slightly orange tomatoes floating at the top of the jar, and a thin, orange liquid at the bottom, so it’s less beautiful than the lush, red jars we got. Will I do this one at home? I’m not quite sure. I like the fact that I can open a jar of (home-canned) tomatoes that’s almost ready to use because some of the liquid has already bubbled away. And with 64 jars from our latest tomato canning adventure, it’s not anything I’m going to have to decide right now. But it’s always good to learn new tricks.

One note. Don’t forget the lemon juice, and use a bottled variety rather than anything you squeeze yourself. Tomatoes are (perhaps surprisingly) a low-acid fruit, so you need the extra acidity that lemon juice brings to be sure that your jars won’t start growing nasty bugs that will make you ill. And there’s a consistency to the acidity levels of bottled lemon juice that you won’t get from the stuff you squeeze at home.

Besides, who has the time and patience to squeeze that many lemons.

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