Food in Jars Mastery Challenge: Marmalade

Throughout 2017 Marisa McClellan, author of the blog Food in Jars, is runnning a series of monthly canning and preserving challenges. I decided to participate in order to learn some new skills and make some recipes I might not normally gravitate towards. 

January’s challenge was marmalade. This might seem like it’s not really a separate type of preserving from, say, making jam, but it’s different enough that it makes sense on its own. There are two methods to making marmalade – using the whole fruit, or cutting off parts of the rind – and she walked through them and some other tips in an initial post.

Marmalade is interesting in that you don’t need to add any additional pectin to help it set – citrus has enough of its own that, when cooked down properly, it will set itself. The fruit prep is also a bit more precise. When making jam I don’t really worry to much about the size of the pieces I’m cutting (I like the texture of somethign that’s been crushed with a potato masher better than something full of precise cubes), but with marmalade you want to consider the thickness of the pieces of rind. They soften, but this is a case where thinner is better. 


I had never made marmalade before, and it’s something I really only use if it happens to be on the breakfast table at a restaurant, a rare occurrence. Not because I don’t like it, just because I don’t think of it. (Probably because I don’t live ina. place where it appears at teh farmers market.) If nothing else, I knew marmalade would be great to bake with — a bitter filing inside a sweet pastry can be a nice combo. 


I decided to make Marisa’s Small Batch Blood Orange Marmalade. I like making small batches with just 1 or 2 pounds of fruit, as it allows me to make more different preserves. I was also attracted to this recipie because it uses a variation of the whole fruit method where you prep the citrus and then let it soak in water overnight to start softening and releasing pectin. This meant I could easily spread the work over two evenings, which I find makes it easier to fit canning in during the workweek. 


The prep was easy and while the cooking took a while, it wasn’t taxing. I got exactly the amount of marmalade the recipie is supposed to yield, which is always nice (it’s not unusual to be over or under, based on differences in things like the size and amount of fruit used, how much evaporated during cooking, etc). In the jar, the set looks pretty firm, though I won’t know how firm it is until I open the first one. Having read her post on troubleshooting marmalade, I’m expecting a hard set. It was difficult to feel confident in my temperature readings as the level of marmalade in the pan was pretty low.

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