Posts Tagged lemons

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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Learning about fire

imageIndian pickles come in a jar, right? They are oily, usually spicier than I can handle and there’s a lot of salt. But making them? Not anything I’ve really thought about trying until today, when New Jersey canning aficionado invited her neighbour’s mother round to show us what to do. Shovhana showed up early in the afternoon, and within an hour we were sitting on two jars of red-brown tomato pickle, using cherry tomatoes straight from the back yard. Do I know what she did? No, not really. But I have a vague idea.

Main item was a tomato pickle, using a big bowl of cherry tomatoes from canning friend’s backyard. But it’s an art, not a science, and I’m not even going to guess at the quantities of everything we used.

To start, Shovhana washed the little tomatoes, then we dried them with paper towels, before blitzing them to pulp in the food processor. Tradition dictates days of sun drying at this stage, with salt I think. But to speed things up S cooked them down to mush, with a generous handful of salt and a large gob of pickle masala, an Indian spice mix that includes chilli, fenugreek and other stuff. She heated oil – about an inch of oil – in a frypan and then sizzled in 3 dried chillies, some brown mustard seeds, a handful of chana dal (chickpea halves),  a couple of pinches of asafoetida and a big spoon of tamarind. Hot oil went into tomato mush and she simmered the mess again until the oil separated out.

image Then we spooned the mix into a clean jar, which we covered with cheesecloth and left to dry for a few more days on a sunny windowsill.

Shovhana, who clearly usually cooks in much bigger quantities than we were offering, conceded that that big handful of salt she added may been excessive, so at her suggestion we blitzed some more tomatoes, and added them to the leftovers from the first jar to make a second, milder jar of pickles that doesn’t burn my lips the way the first batch does. I’m not a great fan of spicy food, and once it mellows, this could be rather nice.

Second item was similar to the first, except that it used salted, sun-cured lemons that canning buddy had prepared a while ago. No chana dal and a little less of the masala spice for a hot, spicy pickle with a lovely lemon tang. I’m sure Toronto’s Little India sells pickle masala. I can try this one at home.

And of course the whole house smelled of oil and curry spices. It probably still does.

 

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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.

2. Strawberry-raspberry 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.

3. Strawberry-gooseberry jam

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.

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4. Strawberry jam with gooseberry pectin

Then 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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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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When life gives you oranges

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I know the jam-making risks taking over my life when I take it with me when I go away, but what else was I to do when a California friend left me alone in her home when she upped and went to work? Friend has an orange tree in her back yard, and a nearby lemon tree was dripping with fruit as we walked past with her two well-trained pups. Marmalade, anybody? With backyard naval oranges and a lemons, fresh from the tree.

Of course I’ve never made oranges with navel oranges and the internet recipes all suggested a three-day venture, peeling the rind from the oranges and then boiling that separately from the fruit before making a marmalade on Day 2 or Day 3. I didn’t have time for that one, and I didn’t see the point either. Let’s just make things up as I go along. It’s worked before.

Navel orange marmalade
5 navel oranges
3 lemons
2 lbs sugar
an extra splash of lemon juice

Scrub the fruit and cover them with water in your largest pot (I used the pressure cooker, without the lid). Simmer for 60-90 minutes, until the fruit and peel are very, very soft. Fish out the fruit, quarter them and allow them to cool. Measure the liquid that’s left in the pot and top it up (or toss some out) to make four cups of liquid. Add the sugar.

Scoop out the flesh from the oranges and chop it roughly, and add it to the pot, and then slice the peels as thinly as you wish and add them too. Same deal for the lemons, but save the pits carefully and put them in a square of cheesecloth to add to the liquid. That’s what gives you the pectin, and it’s the pectin that gives the set.

Bring your jam to a slow simmer and stir until the sugar is dissolved, and then bring to a rolling boil and boil for about 20 minutes, stirring very frequently. It tasted a little sweeter than I wanted it to, so I added a splash of (bottled) lemon juice), and carried on with the boil. It’s done when it starts to feel sticky rather than liquid as you stir, and when a drizzle of jam sets a little when you pour it onto a cold plate. Fish out the cheesecloth of pits, allow the marmalade to cool for a couple of minutes (to help the peel settle a little) and then bottle in sterlizied jars. I flipped the jars over for a few seconds to help get a decent seal, and I didn’t waterbath them. I’m pretty sure a marmalade is acid enough that bugs won’t grow, but I suspect that breaches the USDA guidelines so not waterbathing is not a formal recommendation.

I admit this marmalade was a little runny, but it may thicken up over the next few days, and California friend can always use it over yogurt if it’s too syrupy for bread. She says she likes it, and that’s what counts.

On to the next adventure.

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More marmalade

marm1I really wasn’t planning to blog about marmalade this year, if only because I’ve written about it so many times that there may be nothing new to say.

But then this year’s batch of marmalade is shaping up to be rather nice, with the perfect set, the perfect sweetness and even the perfect peel. We (mostly) cut the peel a little more finely than in previous years, and we didn’t skimp on the sugar, which has been a mistake before. But the Seville oranges were unusually large, which meant we effectively doubled the recipe, so it took longer to set, and filled the pan alarmingly full. There were a few nervous moments as large bubbles of boiling jam spattered onto the floor, the countertop and any exposed flesh they could find.

It was worth it. There were only two jars of marmalade left in the store cupboard, and that wasn’t going to last the year, and the brief Seville orange season had just started.

Here was the rough recipe:

Seville orange marmalade
(Adapted, vaguely, from Jams, Jellies and Chutneys)

9 Seville oranges
3 regular oranges
2 lemons
2 kilos of sugar (plus a little bit)

Scrub the fruit, cover with water and simmer for about an hour until they are very soft and the pith is orange rather than white when you cut the fruit in quarters. I used two preserving kettles for this one. If you take the fruit out too early, and the pith is still white when you quarter them, just throw the quarters back in the water for another 15 minutes or so.

Take the fruit from the water, and cut them up, before fishing out the seeds and pith and slicing the peel, as thinly as you like. Let the fruit cool down a bit between the quartering and the peel-slicing. Save the seeds and pith in a cheesecloth bag – that’s what gives you the pectin, and that’s why the marmalade sets.

Meanwhile measure our the water you have left from simmering the fruit. We had eight cups of water, which seemed about right for what was (in theory) only 1.5 times the original recipe.

Add the sugar, then the fruit and the bag of seeds and pith. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, and then bring to a rolling boil until it sets, stirring frequently. Fish out the cheesecloth, squeezing it between two spoons to get out as much of the precious, pectin-rich elixir as you can. Be careful. It’s hot.

Bottle in sterilized jars. These oranges were, as I said before, unusually large, and we ended up with 17 jars.

Waterbath for 10 minutes (although I reckon this baby is probably acidic enough that bugs wouldn’t grow anyway).

Eat, on toast for breakfast, with yogurt for lunch, or (my favorite) as a peanut butter and marmalade sandwich on a bike ride or a ski trip. You can even bake with it, for a seriously yummy chocolate marmalade brownie style cake.

Enjoy.

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I now have this irresistable urge to experiment with quince orange marmalade, after spotting quinces in the market on Saturday. I only need a couple of quinces and 4-6 oranges, right? Just a small batch?

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