Land of Fruits and Nuts – Preserving the Harvest – Day 2 – Orange & Whiskey Marmalade

Calamondin Citrus OrangesSo, having successfully made and canned strawberry jam (see my blog post on Day 1), I was ready to move on and try something to preserve the actual harvest. And boy do we have oranges. There are many mature orange trees on the Land of Fruits and Nuts. I don’t know what kind of oranges, but we have tons. And I was told you must remove all the fruit from the tree each spring so I figured I would tackle one tree, harvest the fruit and do some pruning. And then can the harvest.

Well, the harvest netted bags and bags of oranges – most of which were taken by a friend to be donated to a food bank. But I kept some of the oranges to try my hand at making marmalade.

I really wanted to make a whiskey marmalade. I have quite a fondness for whiskey – American whiskey to be frank. My current favorite is Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach Whiskey (YUM!) (although I am also stuck on Apple Pie Moonshine). I wanted to mellow out the marmalade with whiskey but I couldn’t find a recipe designed for whiskey until I hit upon one in Preserve It!.  The recipe was for “Clementine and Whiskey Marmalade” and while I don’t know whether or not I had clementines, I just used the oranges I had picked. I am pretty sure that they were NOT clementines.

It came out okay, but I found the recipe instructions to be a bit confusing and incomplete. For example, if you read the recipe literally, it doesn’t tell you to put the lids on until after you have processed the jars in the water bath. That would be a complete and utter disaster! Also, you are supposed to juice the oranges before cutting the peel, and then use water to cover the orange pieces. Seems to me you should use the juice and I’m going to try that. In any event, here is the recipe:

  • 2 lbs (900 g) organic clementines, scrubbed, rinsed, halved, seeds removed
  • juice of 2 large lemons
  • 4 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 to 2 tbsp whiskey (I used Leopold Bros. Georgia Peach)
  1. Prepare your jars for water bath canning. I made 4 1/2 pint jars with this recipe. The recipe says it makes about 3 medium jars or 2 and 1/4 pounds. If you need help on prepping, see my Day 1 post.
  2. Either juice the clementines and then shred the skins with a sharp knife or put in food processor and chop until shredded but not mush. I started by juicing and making nice slivers with my sharp knife, but quickly gave up and stuck in the food processor.
  3. Place chopped fruit in a preserving pan and add 3 cups of water, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook gently until rind has softened (30 minutes or more). Next time I am going to use any juice (assuming I juice first as opposed to using the food processor).
  4. Add lemon juice and sugar. Cook over low heat, continuously stirring, until sugar is dissolved.
  5. Turn the heat up to bring to a boil. Keep at rolling boil, stirring constantly, until gel point is reached. This took my stovetop FOREVER – really, 40 minutes I think.
  6. Take off of heat and stir in whiskey. I added 2 to 3 tbsp, but hey, that’s me!
  7. Place into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Add lids (that have been properly warmed) and screw tops (finger tighten). Place and process in water bath for 5 minutes. Remove and place on towel. Let sit for 24 hours and check seal.

This is a more traditional marmalade as my mom says, with the bitterness of the orange present. I am going to try adding whiskey to a sweet marmalade for my next batch of oranges. I only have 6 more trees at least to depopulate of fruit – lots of opportunities for experimenting.

 

 

Land of Fruits and Nuts – Preserving the Harvest – Day 1 – Strawberry Jam

bigstock-Breakfast-of-raspberry-jam-on--16477550Well, we’ve finally reached the beginning of the harvest so to speak here at the aptly named Land of Fruits and Nuts. Yep, we’ve named the “farm” the Land of Fruits and Nuts . . . we actually went through a bunch of names, the top runner being 1 Bullet, 2 Squirrels after my sister-in-law’s adventures on her spread, but the reference to guns was too polarizing for our farm (and grand plans of turning it into something). So, the Land of Fruits and Nuts it is, which seems appropriate for an urban farm in Southern California, right?

In any event, I am looking forward to and dreading at the same time the abundance we shall harvest. So I’ve been getting prepared by brushing up on my preserving skills. My mom used to can and dry and bake the harvest, and I remember some of it but not all. So I decided to start by making strawberry jam. And then I realized I should at least blog about it. And then I figured I would blog about the entire adventure. So this is my official day 1, which started on May 2, 2013.

First, this recipe is for strawberry jam, without added pectin, and processed by water bath. If you aren’t familiar with water bath processing, it is used to allow storage without refrigeration to preserve foods.  Boiling water canning is appropriate for most fruits because they have enough acidity to prevent growth of Clostridium bacteria, which can result in botulism.

Second, there are a number of recipes that have been tested to ensure food safety. This recipe is from the Institute of Domestic Technology which adapted it from  Saving the Season: A Cook’s Guide to Home Canning, Pickling, and Preserving by Kevin West. Always make sure you are using a tested recipe to prevent foodborne botulism and that you are following safe preservation techniques.

So, the recipe calls for 3 pounds of prepped fruit. I used strawberries, and I want substance to my strawberries in jam, so I washed them, cut off the tops, and cut them into quarters. I tried to keep the quarters even in size, so the smaller strawberries may have been cut into thirds or halves, depending.

I placed the cut strawberries into a stainless steel bowl and added 3 cups of sugar and 2 tablespoons of organic lemon juice. I gently combined and let macerate for 30 minutes, covered with a towel.

While the fruit was macerating, I made sure my jars were prepared. This recipe makes 2 and 1/2 pints, or five 1/2 pint jars. To prepare, wash the jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. You can use a dishwasher, but I usually hand wash. Then place the jars in the rack in the pan you are using for the water bath, and keep at a simmer at medium heat, but don’t boil. Depending on the size of your water bath pot, you may need to start this well before – you are going to have to get it up to a boil eventually, and if it is a lot of water, it may take some time. The water should cover the jars with at least an inch above the tops.

Leave the screw bands near your work area. The lids will need to be in a saucepan and cover with water. You will bring this to just a simmer but not yet – you do this to soften the material on the lid to form a good seal, but you have time.

I then placed the mixture into my jam pot. Now, you can use almost any non-reactive pot – meaning you cannot use pots made from aluminum or untreated cast iron – but hot jam is really  hot, and can splatter, so if you have any interest in canning, I highly recommend a pan designed for canning. I have a Kilner jam pan from Williams and Sonoma because I had a gift card there. I love it, but I absolutely lust after the Mauviel copper pans which just seem, so, well stunning (although to be honest, I’m usually not that into copper . . . ).  But you judge for yourself: Mauviel Copper 15-3/4-Inch Jam Pan

So, put your mixture into the preserving pan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring regularly. Once it reaches a full rolling boil, reduce the heat and stir as it boils, until it reaches the gel point (which is 8 degrees above boiling). Again, this depends on the strength of the heat source and the shape and size of your pan. Sometime before it reaches the full rolling boil, turn on the sauce pan with the lids so they are ready to go.

There are three ways to check the gel point – I prefer to place spoons in the freezer before I get started, and then dip into the mixture and see if the jam drips or sheets off (sheeting means it has reached the gel point). Until you are used to it, you may want to use a thermometer . . . .

Once the gel point is reached, take off the heat and skim if necessary. Put the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Now, to get the jars out of the water bath, a jar lifter is extremely nifty and useful. To measure the headspace until you are used to it, a bubble popper and measurer is useful too – although you can certainly make your own. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp towel if needed, and place the lids on the jars. This is where one of those handy, dandy magnetic wands comes in handy to lift the lids out of the hot water.

Finger tighten the screw tops. Place in the water canning bath and process for 10 minutes, measured from when the last jar is in and the water has reached a boil.

Once the processing time is completed, remove the jars with your jar lifter and place on towel. Let sit for 24 hours without disturbing and check the seals. The tops should be indented (concave) and shouldn’t move when you push on them. Remove the screw bands and store for up to a year in a cool, dry place. Oh, and don’t forget to label.

If you are buying equipment, I don’t recommend many of the canning accessory kits because the funnels are usually plastic. If you want a wide mouth canning funnel, get a stainless steel one so you don’t have to worry about plastic stuff leaching into your food or the plastic melting or staining. You can get a jar lifter and a magnetic wand separately from the kits.