Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Lady Marmalade

Disclaimer: this experience was much less sexy than the performance of the song Lady Marmalade from Moulin Rouge.

The jam you've all been waiting for: Clementine Marmalade!
After getting multiple requests from friends and family for photos of my sticky mishaps in the kitchen attempting to make then can this experimental citrus goop, I uploaded all the pictures (and the its corresponding story) for your viewing and reading pleasure:

Turns out that silicone-tipped tongs make great jar tongs!
No need for specialized equipment if you can't afford it.
Prepping the Jars

First, I sterilized the jars in a the biggest pot we have (a whopping 8" diameter stock pot) by boiling them in water mixed with a generous glug of vinegar. Very scientific, I know. I'd approximate a "generous glug" to be equal to about 20 mL.

After boiling for 10ish minutes, I removed them from the pot and let them dry on a kitchen towel covering my wooden cutting board. Shielding them from our cool tile countertop prevents shocking the jars.

Step 1: Boiling the Fruit and Its Goo
After boiling the fruit whole for 2ish hours and letting them cool overnight, I gently scooped out the innards and pushed them through a strainer. The rinds were left rather soft and delicate, so I carefully chopped them into tiny pieces and added a few handfuls to the pot. A true marmalade is made using the rinds of the fruit, and I wanted to be true to the name. Then, I added about half the amount of sugar that the recipe called for -- because, like all beginning canners (apparently), I looked at "7 cups of sugar" and thought "NO WAY! That'll be sickeningly sweet!"

Hindsight is 20/20. It turns out sugar is very important to the marmalade's "setting" process and its texture when cooled. More on that later.
Step 2: Filling the Jars

Using a ladle, I filled the hot, boiled jars with the orangey goop. I also made sure I got an equal amount of rind pieces in each jar. Doesn't the rind just look beautiful floating in that vibrant tangerine jelly?!?

I wiped the rims with a damp towel, applied the clean lids, and tightened the rings just until I felt some resistance. In the canning community, they call this "finger tip tight." It leaves enough room for oxygen to escape in the processing step but not enough room for water to get in. Thanks chemistry and physics!

Step 3: Processing

This is where the magic happens. I placed the filled, closed jars back into the big pot (filled with water and vinegar) on a rack of jar rings. I'm planning to get a silicone trivet to use in the future, but this worked just fine for my test run. Once the water was boiling, I let them process (sit in the boiling water) for 15 minutes exactly.

After the time was up, I turned off the burner and moved my jars back onto the towel/cutting board with those red silicone tongs. Then, the jars did the most exciting thing that jars are probably capable of: they made that beautiful "ping" as the lids sealed! I never thought I would be so happy to witness such a small victory, but there I was, dancing in the kitchen, yelling upstairs to Brandon "the jars sealed!! I did it!!"

Then the hardest part: I had to let them sit there and cool for 24 hours to find out if I did everything right.

I waited over 48 hours (just to be sure), and found that the marmalade was just a little too runny for me to be comfortable calling it a marmalade. So I bought some pectin, emptied the jars back into a saucepan, and got it boiling again.

Pomona's Universal Pectin next to a jar of 
calcium-water, made using the calcium 
supplement that came with the pectin.
I added the rest of the sugar that the recipe called for and prepped the pectin to be added. Another one of those moments where hindsight is 20/20 - this pectin was unlike most powdered fruit pectins and in that it is calcium-activated, rather than sugar-activated. In order to use it properly, I should have mixed the pectin in with the sweetener and added the calcium-water mixture to the fruit goop. What I should NOT have done (and actually did) was mix the calcium water with the pectin powder separately, then try to dissolve the activated pectin into the mix. This did not go well, and ended with me straining jelly junks out of the mixture and re-canning it with essentially the same result. 😫

So here's my first batch of "marmalade," which is really more of a rustic syrup or yogurt additive. It may not have turned out perfectly, but at least I learned a lot and still ended up with an yummy, edible product. Here's to next time coming out a little better than the last! 🍻

The final product posed in front of one of my favorite books from the library (and our tiny, fake Christmas tree).

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