I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no canning expert. I’ve dabbled in jams and jellies and I’ve put up some tomatoes and pickles, but my experience, to this point, ends there. So why on earth did I sign on for the Can Jam?
If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve been trying to eat more slowly, more locally, more sustainably. One way to do that is to can your own local, in-season ingredients to eat later when they aren’t available fresh anymore. In my last Dark Days post, I discussed how if I wanted to eat my own produce all winter, I’d have to can a lot more of it this year. I think this challenge will help me get into the habit of canning so that when things are actually in-season and local, I won’t even have to think about canning it, I just will. So, what the heck am I canning in Michigan in January?? The theme for this month’s challenge is citrus.
I wanted to make a blood orange marmalade. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find blood oranges. My friend, Angie, suggested I make lemon curd. I should have followed her advice. I’ve been researching citrus canning recipes and marmalade recipes since I discovered the Can Jam. I found this lemon marmalade recipe at Simply Recipes and decided I’d give it a go.
I scrubbed my lemons, trimmed the ends off, cut them into sections, and removed the excess membranes just like Elise suggested. I put the membranes and seeds and all the other inedible bits into a jelly bag (actually mine is a cotton mushroom bag) just like Elise told me to. I used ten lemons and when I measured them, they only yielded four cups of lemons so I figured I’d just reduce the amounts of sugar and water so that the ratios would stay constant like Elise insisted they should. I boiled the lemons and water and the bag of lemon bits that would yield pectin for 35 minutes just like the recipe said. And then . . . I read this note that I had somehow missed (or ignored) up to this point:
“Note this recipe calls for Meyer lemons, a hybrid of a regular lemon and an orange, that is thinner skinned and sweeter than a regular lemon. You cannot substitute regular lemons for Meyer lemons in this recipe.”
Hmm. This might be a problem. I used organic lemons, but they were definitely not Meyer lemons. This recipe calls for leaving the pith in unlike most other marmalade recipes. Meyer lemons are, somehow, different. The reason all the other recipes insist you remove all the white pith is because it is very bitter. I tasted my cooking lemons. They were, of course, bitter.
Now what? I started skimming peels out of the pan. I left some in because I did want it to be a marmalade, but I figured if I got many of them out it would make the jam less bitter. Then, I julienned some candied ginger and added it to the pot. I also chopped up a knob of local ginger threw that in and hoped against hope that that would mask the bitter, grapefruit-y flavor my concoction had taken on. Then I added the sugar and brought the whole mess to a boil.
Nothin’ to do now but wait. I boiled the marmalade and checked it frequently to see if it was setting up. Once the marmalade reached the jellying point, I ladled it into hot jars, added lids and bands and put them into a boiling water bath for ten minutes.
As you can see, the marmalade is lovely. And, at first taste, it’s delicious. Sweet and sour at the same time with just a hint of ginger. And then. . . the bitter hits you like a Mack truck. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat it, but I will definitely not make the same mistake again!!
If I get time, I’m going to attempt another citrus recipe this week, but we’ll see.