Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tangerine Jamalade

Pardon for not posting for awhile. Busy, tired, under-the-weather.

One tool in the box of the frugal cook is preservation. Freezing, canning, drying... I have used all three now and then. Probably in that order.

For freezing, I often freeze surplus CSA or farmer's market finds. Fruits (strawberries, blueberries) and vegetables (steamed kale, collards, garden fresh tomatoes - use only cooked).

For drying, it is mostly herbs right now. I don't have a dehydrator (anymore anyway), so I tend to dry herbs by...letting them sit on the counter until they are dry. Very scientific. :)

For canning, my experience is limited...sort of. I grew up in the country of western PA. We had a large-ish garden and an acre. So as a pre-teen and early-teen, I spent the summers "putting up" with my mom. So much so that one summer, I had the dill pickle, green bean, and strawberry jam recipes memorized. I remember it being fun. Then again, I would help the neighbor do her laundry in a tub with a "wringer" to dry them out from wash to rinse, so take that with a grain of salt.

As an adult, I started with freezer jam. It's easy, it's good, it uses a LOT of sugar. Last year, we graduated to making strawberry jam in the water-bath canner. We only made a few pints, and they were gone lickety-split.

This year, our teeny tiny tangerine tree in the back gave us a bumper crop of tangerines. That my spouse decided to pick almost all at once, right before he left on a business trip. The thought of doing anything with them while working full time and doing double-duty at home was too much.

But then he came back. Sick. Wait a few more days. In the meantime, my boss brought a bumper crop of tangerines from his tree. I swiped a couple of pounds.

I decided to make tangerine marmalade. I looked up several recipes. The one that I liked the most was here. But I also looked here and here. I have the Ball Blue Book and the instructions that came with the pectin recipe. Which ended up being very helpful. Marmadale is not supposed to need pectin, because there is plenty of pectin in the peels of the fruit. But despite boiling our mixture for an hour and half, it wasn't "setting", so we added pectin. Which clumped. So we used the immersion blender. Which pulverized our peels. Which is why my friend Angela dubbed it "jamalade".

As much as it was a lot of work - 2.5 hours on Friday night, chopping the fruit, and 2.5 hours the next day, cooking the mixture and canning - we both felt proud of ourselves. There's some bit of satisfaction with taking food from your own tree and turning it into something yummy.

So here goes:

Tangerine Jamalade:
8 lbs tangerines: $ 0
1 grapefruit (we had it): $0
1 lemon: $0
14-16 cups sugar: $3.28
1 package Pomona pectin: $2.50

Total: $5.78 for 14 pints of jamalade, or $0.41 per pint. Plus the cost of the jars, which is about $0.90 each. You can reuse the jars, but that doesn't work if you give some of the stuff away. Which we do.

You can see that if you have a free source of fruit (or cheap in season), it can be worth it to can it. Especially if you live somewhere where produce is scarce in the winter. (I don't.)

Peel the tangerines. Dice small, painfully, so as to avoid the seeds, until you get through 8 lbs and realize that you only found 3 seeds. Promise next time you are going to use the food processor, as a couple of the recipes recommended. Slice the peel.

Place the fruit and peel with 6 cups water. No wait, that wasn't quite enough. I used closer to 8 cups of water in my largest pot. Let soak 12-18 hours.

Add sugar. Here's where it's tricky, because a lot of recipes say one cup per pint of fruit mixture. Now the original recipe said about 13 cups for 8 lbs tangerines. But I only had 7 pints of fruit mixture. Until I realized that the graduated lines on the side of my pot was for QUARTS not PINTS. Then, the 14-16 cups makes more sense.

Cook the sugar and fruit until boiling. It should get to about 220F, so it boils and starts to thicken. Ours didn't really. Some reading I've done suggests that marmalade will thicken in the jar over a few weeks. I didn't want to take that chance. So we added the pectin. The Pomona pectin recipe for marmalade actually suggests using pectin (of course it does, they are selling you pectin). Most others don't. But you are supposed to add it with the sugar. Presumably, if you do that, it won't form little dry balls of pectin. Ours did (hence the immersion blender).

Meanwhile, sterilize the jars and the lids. You don't want to boil the lids, just simmer. This is where I now remember that canning takes all four burners. One for the fruit, one for the boiling jars, one for the canner, and one for the lids.

When everything is ready, start pouring your fruit into your jars. We used a big funnel and the pyrex 2 cup measuring cup. Wipe the rim of the jar, and place the lid on top. My tweezer skills from work come in very handy here - getting the lids out of the simmering water. Screw on the top. Finger-tight. Remember to use an oven mitt, and don't forget to tighten it. We had one jar that we didn't tighten. It's runny.

Place in boiling water bath and can for 10 minutes. Remove to cool on the counter on a towel. Repeat with remaining fruit. Feel proud. Enjoy on bread.

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