Posts Tagged jam

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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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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Blue magic

One minute I had blueberries. Next minute, or so it seemed, I had jam. Perhaps the easiest jam on the planet.berries

It started with a visit to the pick-your-own farm on the way back from a bike trip this weekend, and we scooped up $10 worth of blueberries in very short order — a surprisingly large quantity.

I did look up a couple of recipes, because blueberry jam is not one of those that I make every year. But I ignored both of them in favour of a modified 6:4:2 ratio — six cups fruit, four (scant) cups sugar and the juice of two lemons. One of the recipes suggested simmering the berries in a half cup of water for 10-20 minutes, so I simmered for five minutes, and I added a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar at the end, because I thought the blueberries could use a little extra tang.

And it was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of set. First I had a blue liquid, with a few floating berries, and I thought I’d be pouring blueberry syrup on my ice cream all year. Then it boiled up, to double the starting volume, and then quite suddenly the volume went down, the liquid thickened up, and I started scraping seriously jelled jam off the sides of the preserving pan. How easy can things get?

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Blueberry balsamic jam
(makes 5 250mm jars)

6 cups blueberries
1/2 cup water
4 (scant) cups sugar
juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Wash the berries, and put them in a heavy preserving pan with a half cup of water, and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the berries start to break down a little. Add the lemon juice, and then the sugar, a little at a time, and then bring to a rolling boil. Boil hard until it sets, which took less than 5 minutes. Add balsamic, and boil for another minute or so, just for good luck.

Bottle in sterilized jars. You should then waterbath for 10 minutes (according to USDA guidelines), but I skipped that stage. The lemon juice and the balsamic should make this jam plenty acidic enough to store, and it’s only a few jars. There’s room in the fridge for that.

Eat on toast, on bagels, on muffins, on yogurt, or spoon it out of the jar. It’s good.

 

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Playing with pectin

This is the week when canning buddy and I hit the pick-your-own farm and come back in a car that smells like summer. Then we race to turn the soft fruit (usually strawberries and raspberries, sometimes currants and cherries as well) into countless jars of jam in the hope that it will remind us of summer right through a Canadian winter.

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But I’ve written about the summer can-o-rama before, and there’s a limit to how many times you I can brag about how many jars of jam we made (44 this year). I want to opine instead on the pectin problem, given that strawberries don’t have enough of it for a jam to set, and strawberry jam is up there on the list of must-have jars.

I am not a fan of how regular commercial pectin gives my jam a gelatinous feel, so I’m always in the market for a workaround. The addition of a kiwi fruit, recommended by the New York Times a few years back, produces a nice, soft strawberry jam, although you have to be careful to remove all the kiwi’s woody core, and the black seeds are mildly disconcerting, a gentle reminder that it’s not all strawberry. Other recipes suggest adding an apple (I tried that with a cherry jam one year and it ended up like cherry jam with apple sauce), and last month I hit the jackpot by adding home-made crabapple pectin to a strawberry jam, which produced a genuinely “wow” jam, which might be one of the best I’ve ever made.

But I’m out of crabapple pectin. In the course of a mad canning afternoon, we tried out four alternatives, all of which seem to work around the strawberry-set problem. I’ll add the ratings when I get round to opening the jars.

1. Strawberry jam with Pomona pectin.

I’ve read a lot about Pomona pectin on the interwebz, and fans say it offers the set without the sour, so you don’t need as much sugar and you don’t cook your jam as long. It’s a U.S. product, so I was sort of surprised to see it at the local health food store. Expensive, yes, but worth a go.

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Because it was the first time, we followed the recipe pretty slavishly for this one, mixing one of the two packets in the box to produce a calcium water, and then stirring the recommended volume of the pectin packet into the sugar before adding sugar/pectin to hot strawberries and boiling for another 1-2 minutes. It all seemed pretty vague — between 3/4 of a cup and two cups of sugar to four cups of mashed up strawberries — and Pomona said firmly that strawberries didn’t need the addition of lemon juice. But it was definitely worth a try.

It’s early days, but while the set was firm (too firm, perhaps?) I do admit the first taste was not as truly yummy as I thought it ought to be. Maybe strawberry jam needs the bitterness of lemon to bring out the strawberries? Or maybe 2-1/2 cups of sugar to 8 cups of fruit just wasn’t quite enough? We have eight jars. It’s still strawberry jam.

Second workaround was one we’ve used many times before, mixing strawberries with pectin-rich raspberries (and lemons) for glorious burst of flavour. The first taste is raspberry, but then the strawberry creeps through, and it’s always a lovely set. We make this jam each year. No reason to stop now.

Recipe number 3 swapped out raspberries for gooseberries, which have even more pectin than raspberries do. And while the strawberry-raspberry jam used 3 cups each of strawberries and raspberries, the strawberry-gooseberry one was a ratio of 5:1, with a little extra sugar to cut the gooseberry bite. Nice set. Taste rating to come.

imageThen things got a little more experimental, and if the crabapple pectin worked so well, what about making a gooseberry pectin, which meant boiling the berries up with a little water, and then straining the juice out in a jelly bag. In an ideal world I’d have left the goop to drip overnight, but we wanted now. So we added two tablespoons of gooseberry pectin to 6 generous cups of strawberries, and jammed them up with 4 scant cups of sugar and the juice of two lemons. The taste is good. The gooseberry elixir adds a bitterness which I rather like, and you don’t have to top or tail the gooseberries, a sticky, frustrating and time-consuming task.

Plus there are 10 little ice cube trays of gooseberry pectin waiting for the next jam.

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We got five jars of that jam, but one jar had an accident in the waterbath. It’s only the second time that’s ever happened. Too many jars in the canner? A flaw in the jar?

Who knows. It was almost the end of the session, so we abandoned the idea of waterbathing the last 7 jars of pure raspberry jam and retired to the Ribfest up the street.

Despite that broken jar, it was a seriously successful day.

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So very good

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Strawberry jam is always a little tricky, not the jam for a novice canner at all. Unless the fruit is seriously unripe, and hence only marginally tasty, strawberries are seriously short on pectin, which means it’s easy to make strawberry syrup, but distressingly difficult to make a strawberry jam that sets. My mother’s method was to boil stuff until the jam is almost brown, or giving up in despair and rushing out to get commercial pectin.

But I’m not a fan of commercial pectin — it adds a taste and a texture I don’t like — so I’m always looking for alternatives. For the last couple of years, I had a lot of success with the surprise addition of a kiwi fruit to a batch of jam (the little black seeds are marginally disconcerting, but you don’t taste the kiwi at all). But this year I discovered a few cubes of homemade crabapple pectin languishing in the bottom of the freezer.
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If I threw one of those into the mix toward the end of the boil, would my jam set? And what about the taste?

After three quick batches of strawberry jam, two of them with mint, I report astonishing success. This jam is deep rich red, with satisfying chunks of fruit. It mounds pleasantly on the spoon, rather than drizzling down the sides, and it tastes of summer. All I need to do is boil up more crabapple pectin later this summer, and I’m good to go.

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Strawberry jam

6 generous cups strawberries
4 slightly skimpy cups sugar
juice of 2 lemons
1-2 tbsp finely chopped mint (optional)
1 cube of crabapple pectin

Wash and hull the strawberries, and cut them into halves or quarters. Add sugar and lemon juice and allow to sit while you prepare the next batches of fruit. Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved, and then bring to a rolling boil for five minutes. Add the pectin and boil for another five minutes or so. Test for set, bottle in clean jars, waterbath for 10 minutes.

Try not to eat it all at once.

Rating: 4.999 (out of 5)

I admit I didn’t skim off all the foam, so there are little white flecks in some of the jars, which means it wouldn’t win any competitions at the Ex. But what’s a fleck or two between frends. This jam is knock your socks off awesome.

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Thought provoking yellow tomato jam

Jam2The first version of this entry described my yellow tomato ginger jam as “the strangest thing I’ve ever made”, and while that remains true, it doesn’t tell the whole story. This jam is actually rather nice. It makes me think.

The venture came in an effort to do something those with the carpet  green-to-yellow tomatoes that ended up indoors to escape the first Canadian frost. I made one small (but amazing) batch of yellow tomato sauce, but that barely made a dent in the collection. It was time for something different.

Green tomatoes

Yellow tomatoes

That led me to tomato jam, and while I’ve made sweet/tangy jammy concoctions with tomatoes before, including a tomato basil jam that won an instant 5-star rating, they weren’t real jams, to serve on toast for breakfast.

And this one is interesting. The first thing you taste is ginger, followed by a sweet citrus tang, and then a gentle tomato aftertaste, which I described in a text message to a friend as “thought-provoking.” I tried it in a sandwich with a rich, double-cream soft cheese and it was lovely, and I can also see as a glaze for salmon or chicken. An interesting, interesting jam.

My recipe came from the Joy of Cooking‘s web site, although I cut the sugar a bit and tweaked it to add orange zest as well as lemon zest. Simple enough to make, easy enough to set, and I got 3-1/2 jars, plus a little bit extra that I can eat right now.

Yellow tomato and ginger jam (makes 3-1/2 jars)

1kg yellow tomatoes, quartered, with the woody stem removed
2 cups sugar
juice of 3 lemons
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
120g fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips

Macerate the sugar and tomatoes for a few hours until the sugar has dissolved and the mix is pretty liquid. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a rolling boil. Boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and seems about to set. Bottle in sterilized jars.

I don’t always waterbath my jams, but tomatoes are funny, so I gave them 15 minutes bubbling away in the water I used to sterilize the jars.

Yellow tomatoes2Rating: 4 (out of 5)

I’m giving this four stars because it just made me think about what I was eating, and I like that one. I like the sweetness, and I like that tanginess of the citrus. And it’s a beautiful jam, with strips of ginger that make it look almost like a marmalade. It’s golden, like the autumn leaves. It’s fun.

Next up: Yellow tomato chutney, which will also use up the last of the tomatillos. We had a tomatillo glut as well this year, and I’ve been banned from growing them next year. Turns out the spouse doesn’t like them much, and I struggle to find things to make with them as well.

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Hello sweetie!

A Toronto blogging friend arranged for those nice people over at Jaffa oranges to send me a six-pack sample of something they are calling the Sweetie, which turns out to be a grapefruit-pomelo hybrid, with tough peel, sweet flesh and pith that’s almost a centimeter thick. The spouse liked them just as they are, a grapefruit without the bite, but I figured it would be far more fun to invent a marmalade and blog about that instead.

sweet2The only issue. A nibble of raw peel shows that all the bitterness migrated from fruit to rind on this baby, and that one nibble left my whole mouth atingle, in a most unpleasant way. I peeled the fruit, pared off much of the pith and boiled the peels up three times in fresh water to try to dull the bitterness (in a way that worked moderately well for the grapefruit marmalade I made a while back). But even the thrice-cooked peel tasted pretty gruesome and the spouse worried it would taint the finished product if I actually used the peel. He was probably right.

sweet3I tossed that peel, and moved the experiment in a different direction, with a three-citrus concoction: two Sweeties, two Seville oranges and two organic lemons.

Three-citrus marmalade
2 Sweeties (you could use grapefruit)
2 Seville oranges
2 lemons
800 grams sugar

Peel the Sweeties (grapefruit), tug the flesh out from the white membranes and chop it roughly. Set aside. Quarter the oranges and lemons, cover with water and simmer for 45 minutes or so, until the peel is very soft. Strain the liquid and measure out 3 cups, saving the pits that float out from the fruit in the simmer and putting them in a square of cheesecloth. Add the sugar to the liquid, and then the flesh from the oranges/lemons/Sweeties, and then the peel, sliced as finely or coarsely as you choose. Add the pits from all the fruit to your cheesecloth and tie that into a little bundle for the added pectin that that supplies. Bring to a simmer until the sugar melts, and then a rolling boil for 15-20 minutes, until it sets. Fish out the cheesecloth bag and bottle the marmalade in sterlized jars. Waterbath if you want to obey USDA guidelines.

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For a made-up recipe, with guesstimates for the amounts of fruit, sugar and water, I must say this one is surprisingly good, all six jars of it. It has a firmish set, a tangy taste and just the right amount of orange/lemon peel.

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