I’ve been having a bit of trouble finding inspiration for preserves this winter. I went a whole month without canning a single thing, which I think has to be a record since I started canning. I realized that the reason this had happened is that I started getting my fruit sourcing really dialed in last summer; I used mostly wild berries and plums, stone fruit from our own farm, the fall apples and quince from abandoned orchards were right on the hill where I live, I was gifted a bounty of ripe, juicy bartlett pears right from Redwood Valley. When it came to citrus season, the idea of actually having to buy fruit seemed so unappealing. In past years, I’ve gone to big farmers markets in San Francisco and bought fruit directly from the growers. I know I would have fun making the trip, and I still think this is a great way to support local farms, but…. I kept hoping some lemons would just fall into my lap.
And they did.
I’m so happy I waited. Some friends from the city brought us up a lovely shopping bag filled with meyer lemons from their tree on their last visit, and after a record breaking canning dry spell, I was back in the kitchen slicing fruit. Over the past few years, I’ve really fallen in love with the whole process of making marmalades. For my summer fruit jams, I’ve been wanting to keep them really simple: just ripe fruit, sugar, a touch of lemon juice, nothing else. Good marmalades are often the polar opposite, with ridiculously complicated multi-day instructions (if you want to read more… check out Shae’s post about Why Good Marmalade Takes Time). The thing is, it seems complicated at first, if you’re not experienced making marmalades, but the process is actually really straightforward and once you get the hang of it, I find it almost meditative — the tedious knife work to get perfectly sliced rinds, the patience involved in waiting for everything. Winter can be dark and dreary, but having the house smell like fresh citrus for several days does wonders.
This marmalade takes two days: day one is for making the quince juice and slicing the grapefruits, day two is for slicing the meyer lemons and cooking off the marmalade. Since the process might be complicated for less experienced jammers, I’m including some detailed instructions first, but scroll down to the bottom for the quick recipe with the measurements included.
Step 1: Make Quince Juice
I was lucky to still have a case of quince in my pantry that I picked all the way back in October. If you don’t have access to fresh quince or any frozen quince juice, you could substitute apple juice in its place (good quality juice, not the cheap stuff from concentrate).
To make the quince juice, first run the quince under water and scrub the gray fuzz off the outside with a clean sponge. Then remove the leaves and slice each quince into quarters. (Don’t remove the cores). Put the sliced fruit in a large pot with 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice, cover with water, and simmer for an hour or two. Drain the cooked fruit through a jelly bag for eight hours or so. The juice will freeze very well, or can be used fresh for a variety of recipes.
Step 2: Slice grapefruit for marmalade
I had a few organic grapefruits that I’d bought at the store that were so sweet, I couldn’t help throwing a few into this recpe. Oranges would work equally well, or a combination of the two.
In case you don’t know how to slice fruit for marmalade, here’s a little reminder on the method I think most people are using… (again, I have to credit Shae from Hitchhiking to Heaven for teaching me this. She is the marmalade goddess). You may notice that I’m cheating and using a serrated knife- I couldn’t find my steel for my chef’s knife, and this really doesn’t work with a dull knife. You really have to have a sharp knife to get the proper slices and not just squish everything. Serrated is a decent backup, althought it makes the process take even longer.
and then you cover the slices with water to soak overnight.
Day 2: You’ll slice the meyer lemons the same way as the grapefruit and then cook off the marmalade, then it’s into the jars…
Citrus-Quince Marmalade with Fresh Rosemary
The finished marmalade is pleasantly bitter, perfect spread on a crusty slice of whole wheat sourdough bread.
Cook Time: 2 days
Makes: about 12 1/2 pint jars
- 5 c. prepared grapefruit slices (from 5 medium grapefruits)
- 6 c. water (or quince juice)
- 3 c. prepared meyer lemon slices (from 9 meyer lemons)
- 4 c. quince juice
- 1/2 c. lemon juice
- a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 9 c. sugar
Day 1: Combine grapefruit slices and water in a nonreactive container. Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours. At the same time, make quince juice using instructions above.
Day 2: Bring boiling water canner to a boil. Prepare jars and lids.
Combine meyer lemon slices with quince juice in a medium nonreactive pot. Transfer the grapefruit slices to a large, nonreactive pot. Cook both mixtures until the slices are tender, about 15 minutes (the grapefruit slices may take a little bit longer than the lemon slices). Once both batches are tender, combine them. Add the sugar, lemon juice and rosemary sprigs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer or passes whatever gel test you like…. I still just use the spoon test, shown here.
Skim any foam off the top of the marmalade, remove the rosemary sprigs, and then ladle the hot marmalade into hot jars using 1/4″ headspace, then process for 10 minutes, remembering to adjust for altitude as necessary.
Oh, and one note: While I was cooking this batch of marmalade, I actually ended up splitting it back into two pots. I was afraid that the cooking time would be too long with this larger batch size and that the finished product would taste caramelized. You might want to do this too.