Awhile ago my friend Shila, who tweets under the name “Shilantro” and who I met at the first annual Food Blogger Bake Sale last year, ended up emailing me out of the blue asking me if she could interview me for her cool start up company Foodia. Flattered, I said OF COURSE and then we proceeded to have a lovely chit chat where I then babbled about my love of the pastry chef Sherry Yard (Executive pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago and author of the amazing Secrets of Baking and my personal pastry idol) and kitchen scales. Thankfully Shila did her magical editing and made me sound somewhat normal in the interview. After it was all over with, I made her invite me to her apartment to teach me how to make preserves and properly can (yeah, I can be bossy that way). We ended up with this lovely blood orange strawberry marmalade.
The recipe comes from the gorgeous Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders. Shila and I had bantered back and forth about the book and how every single page of the book made you basically want to live and breathe fruits and preserves. I think the sentence “I want to live in this book” may have come out of my mouth when I was talking about it. So I was thrilled that Shila told me she had picked a recipe out of that book to make for our canning date.
The recipe sounds a bit complicated, but really it wasn’t too bad. It just requires some upfront prep time. Thankfully Shila had taken care of that before I arrived. She had also scavenged some rosemary from the neighborhood (there apparently was a rosemary bush near her house), I had brought some backyard lemons for the marmlade and the blood oranges and strawberries came from the farmers’ market. You really can’t get more local or organic than that right?
I’ve made jams and marmalades and curds before. In fact, one of my favorite marmalades to make is a kiwi lime marmalade (I use it to put in muffins, but truthfully it’s pretty amazing on its own, as well as on fresh cornbread) and I can make in 15 minutes with a microwave, start to finish. But I’ve never bothered to can before. It all seemed so fussy and complicated. But Shila showed me that you can use the dishwasher/oven method and it was super easy. [EDIT: I've been informed that the oven method isn't considered safe by the USDA. More on that in the notes below]. Sadly I don’t have a dishwasher at home, but with summer coming up, I might have to start figuring out a way to sterilize and can all the summer produce that is soon to arrive at the farmers’ market in basketfuls. Because I LOVE my summer fruit.
Or maybe I’ll just start hanging out with more with Shila. She’ll do the canning, I’ll just reap the benefits. I mean does she really need six cans of the same preserves in her pantry? I’m sure she won’t miss just one….
Blood Orange Strawberry Marmalade with a hint of Rosemary
Adapted from the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders. Full disclosure, Andrews McMeel sent me a review copy of the book. But I say this without any bias, it’s an amazingly beautiful cookbook. Rachel sometimes teaches classes on jam making, but if you can’t make it to any of her classes or you don’t live in San Francisco (she also sometimes travels and does workshops in other cities, so check the website), the cookbook is the next best thing.
This excellent Spring marmalade (make it now, when the citrus season is ending and the strawberry season is just taking off and the two fruits overlap) takes two days to make but don’t let that scare you off. Day one is mostly just easy prep work and is walk away time, meaning you just let the fruit cook on the stove for an hour while you do other things. By the way, a marmalade is a preserve that uses the peel of a citrus fruit. So now you know.
2 1/4 lbs halved and hulled strawberries (hulled means removing the flavorless white inside part of the strawberry attached to the cap)
1 1/2 lbs Moro blood oranges
2 sprigs of rosemary (around 8 inches in length)
2 lbs 10 ounces of white cane sugar
2 to 4 ounces of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1. Place the strawberries (and any juices that occurred while slicing and hulling them) in a medium sized non-reactive pot and add cold water to just cover the top of the fruit. Place on the stove and turn it up to high heat until boiling and then reduce to low heat, so the water is just simmering. Cover and then let it boil for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours until the strawberries look brown and start to lose their firmness and shape. The liquid should be syrupy.
2. Line a colander with cheesecloth (or use a fine mesh colander) and place in a larger heatproof bowl. Pour the strawberries and strawberry juice into the colander and then cover with plastic wrap and and refrigerate overnight to let the strawberries drain.
3. While the strawberries are simmering, cut the oranges in half lengthwise. Then place the orange half, flat side down, and slice in half again. Then cut each quarter orange into medium thin slices (we went with about 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch slices). Place the oranges in a nonreactive pot and then pour room temperature water over the oranges to about an inch above the oranges. Place the cover over the pot and let it sit overnight on the counter.
4. Place the pot of oranges and water on the stove and turn it up to high heat until boiling and then reduce to medium low heat, so the water is actively simmering. Cook the oranges until they very tender, about 30 to 60 minutes. If the water level gets too low, add a little more water.
5. While the oranges are simmering, take five small metal spoons and place them on a small plate and stick them in the freezer. You’ll need these to test the marmalade. Then rinse and pat dry the rosemary. Take out the strawberries from the fridge and discard the fruit, leaving the drained juice. Strain the strawberry juice though fresh cheesecloth if there are still solid bits in it.
6. Once the oranges are very tender, drain them and place them in a large nonreactive pot with the strawberry juice, sugar and 2 ounces of the lemon juice and stir to combine. Taste to see if you can detect the lemon juice. You want to be able to taste the lemon juice but not have it overpower the marmalade. If you can’t taste it, keep adding more lemon juice until you can. We ended up adding 4 ounces total but your taste may be different than ours.
7. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and then cook for at least 35 minutes (the book said 35 minutes, but we found it took more than an hour). As the mixture initially cooks you’ll see large bubbles. As the marmalade cooks down the bubbles will start to get smaller and it will start to foam. Don’t stir the marmalade until it starts to foam. Once it starts to foam you can gently stir it with a wooden spoon or heatproof silicon spatula every now and then. As it cooks down more, stir more frequently, increasing the stirring to once a minute or two to keep the bottom of the marmalade from burning. You can also turn down the heat to prevent scorching but, of course, this will make the cooking time longer.
8. Once the marmalade has darken in color and the bubbles are tiny, take a spoon out of the freezer and drop half a teaspoon of the marmalade onto it. Then return it to the freezer for 3 or 4 minutes. Pull it out and feel underneath the spoon. It shouldn’t be warm or cold. If it is too warm, stick it back in the freezer for another minute or two. Once you pull it out and the back of the spoon feels right, tilt the spoon and see if the marmalade is runny. If it is, then you need to cook the marmalade longer. The marmalade shouldn’t be runny and the top layer should have thickened to a jelly like consistency. We found it took over an hour (though the recipe says only 35 minute) and we never did get it to be super runny. But that’s okay. It just meant our marmalade was a little loose, which we were fine with.
9. Once the marmalade reaches the right consistency, turn off the heat but don’t stir it anymore. Take a nonreactive spoon and skim off the foam that may have formed on top of the marmalade. Then throw the rosemary into the marmalade and let it steep in there for about five minutes. You can taste the marmalade and see if you like it as is, or if you need to let the rosemary steep a little bit longer. Keep in mind, when the marmalade is cooler (like right out of the fridge – which is when you’ll probably be using it) the rosemary flavor will be more dull.
10. Once you’re happy with the flavor, pull the rosemary out with clean tongs and then spoon the marmalade into clean sterilized jars and process (instructions are below). Congratulations! You have now spent two days doing what Laura Ingalls Wilder did on Little House on the Prairie. Don’t you feel proud?
Makes about six or seven 8-ounce jars. Lasts about 1 year on the shelf.
How to Sterilize and Can Preserves
I always thought that sterilizing jars involved boiling jars in water and using sealing wax and involved crazy contraptions like magnet wands and jar grips. But the oven method is what Rachel Saunders uses and what Shila showed me. It’s super easy.
Now Shila had a dishwasher which is awesome in so many ways. First off it means she doesn’t have to do the dishes all the time, like AJ and I do. She can just load up her dishwasher and it does all the work. Secondly she can guarantee that her jars are super clean by just running them through the dishwasher first. If you don’t have a dishwasher, make sure to completely clean your jars by hand in hot soapy water and thoroughly rinse them in the hottest water you tap produces.
Then, after the jars are clean, let them dry on a clean drying rack. Preheat an oven to 250˚ for at least 15 to 20 minutes, or until you are sure the oven is at the proper temperature. If you are unsure about your oven temperature, this is the time to actually invest in those oven themometers you’ve been thinking about getting – they usually will run you about $5 or $10 and trust me, they rock.
Once the oven has preheated, move the jars, without touching the insides of the jars or the top of the jars, and place them right side up on a baking sheet. Also move an equal amount of lids and lid rims to the baking sheet as well (this where that cool magnet wand comes in handy as you don’t have to worry about touching the lids and contaminating them. Or you can just use kitchen tongs or clean gloves I guess, Shila had the cool magnet wand).
Place the baking sheet with the jars and lids and lid rings in the oven and leave them there for at least 30 minutes. Then remove them from the oven, right when you need them and fill them to 1/4 inch from the top. Wipe the rim clean with a damp clean cloth. Place the lids and rings on them and then screw them closed (but not too tight as the lids will contract when they cool and could crack the glass). Then place them back in the oven to seal for 15 more minutes.
Once they have sat in oven for 15 minutes more, pull them out and let them cool to room temperature. You hear a noticeable “ping” as the top of the jars seal shut. This means it worked. If you don’t hear the “ping” that means they haven’t sealed properly. Don’t worry. Just stick this jar in the fridge and use it first. Make sure the jars have sealed after they have cooled by feeling the top of the lid. It should be slightly depressed. If it isn’t and you can press down and pop the lid, then it hasn’t sealed and again you should stick it in the fridge and use it first.
NOTE: A reader commented below that the oven method I described was dangerous and not USDA approved. Often times home ovens are not calibrated to the right temperature (see my note above about getting an oven thermometer) and the jars don’t heat all the way through. Another problem is the glass of the jar is not designed for the dry heat of the oven, especially if they have been used before (ie you’ve been digging into your preserves with a knife, scratching the sides of the glass). Oven heated glass jars can break or (more dangerously) shatter when filling them with hot marmalade/jam.
However, when I checked with the Blue Chair Fruit Company they stated that they only use the oven method for jams and marmalades, which have a high sugar and high acid content making it inhospitable to harmful bacteria. They do not recommend it for any preserves other than jam or marmalade. That said, as it is not recommended by the USDA and there is a danger of the glass shattering due to the dry heat, use the oven method at your own risk.