A fun kitchen project is precisely what a long winter break is for, right? Canning can be extremely rewarding, and starting with something like marmalade can be equally delicious.
Marmalade is basically jam, but with bits of peel from whatever fruit you are using, usually a citrus fruit. “Bits of peel? How can that be good?” Well, because we add a lot of sugar! And the peel turns into this soft, sweet and tart yummy little thing to bite down on. Marmalade is one of my favorite things to put on toast or english muffins, and is so lovely to say.
The thing about this marmalade (and lots of other canning recipes) is that you can skip the canning part and make this recipe up to the canning step and store it in jars in the fridge. It’s just as easy to give away; just advise your friends to store it in the refrigerator. I went ahead and canned this jam, so the instructions included the canning steps.
Cara cara oranges make this jam so delightful! They are juicier and have more flavor then navels, and they are in season in the winter here. You can use regular navels if you want, but do try a cara cara sometime, even if just to eat out of hand. You won’t regret it.
I love the way these are cut, it makes just the perfect size of peel in the jam. To cut, first cut off each end of the orange, then slice into quarters and cut off any pithy white part that runs down the center of the orange. Then cut each quarter into thirds, and then each third, slice crossways into little triangles.
The chili adds a little kick, but the overall tone of this jam is most definitely sweet. The chilis and oranges get cooked together and then the chili pods are taken out and the jam is canned. Then you cook the marmalade until it thickens, and the jam is at the “wrinkle stage.” The do the wrinkle test, put a teaspoon or two on a cold saucer. Place the saucer in the freezer for 5 minutes. Take it out and drag your thumb across the marmalade. If it wrinkles, it’s done.
You will see some foam after you cook it. This is fine, just skim it off before you ladle it into your prepared jars.
Some notes about canning:
You can read so much about canning and you really want to look at the resources the Ball Blue Book puts out or your local Extension office. You can also trust the National Center for Home Food Preservation. They have a lot of information here: using boiling water canners
Here’s what I do:
1. Count all your jars, rims and lids to make sure you have enough of the size you are canning (my favorite size for jam is 4oz for the two of us, which allows room for variety and is a size we can get through in a reasonable amount of time.
2. Wash all the jars, rims and lids in hot soapy water. Clear off a table or counter and line it with towels.
3. Let everything dry on clean kitchen towels while you prepare the ingredients for the recipe (cut up fruit, zest the lemon, measure out sugar, ect).
4. Prepare the water bath canner before you start the recipe. The water canner holds a large amount of water and you are going to sanitize jars in it too while you are waiting for your jam to boil/cook, so you might as well start it early. Place the canning rack in the bottom of the canner and fill the canner up halfway. Place your clean jars in the canner (empty) and let them each fill with a little water. Let the water come to a simmer until you are ready to fill the jars.
For the lids and bands: place the lids in a small pot of warm water and simmer for at least 10 minutes to soften the rubber on the lids. The rings are good to go, just make sure not to use any rusty or dented rings.
Fill a second pot full of water and get it simmering too. You’ll add this water to your canner so that the total amount of water covers the jars by at least an inch. More on that in Step 9.
5. When your jam is ready, you can dump the water out of the jar in the canner using a jar lifter (tilt it to let the water pour out in to the canner or use the handle of a wooden spoon to assist you.)
6. Place your jars on a towel lined surface- you’ll need counter space to let the jars cool anyways, so this is another thing I like to set up at the beginning of a canning session. You want to keep in mind that with canning, you don’t want any extreme changes in temperature (that’s how jars break!) so when handling hot jars, place them on the towel so they don’t come into contact with a cold counter top.
7. Fill the jars using a funnel, then be sure to wipe the rims clean. Follow directions for the amount of “headspace” to leave at the top of your jar. Headspace is the room from the top of the canning jar to where your jam starts.
8. Place the lid (from the simmering water) on top of the jar, and twist on a ring to just be “finger tight” meaning sort of loosely tightened. As you boil the jars (“process” the jars) the air inside the jar will escape, taking bacteria and other air borne critters with it, so you want to allow a little space for air bubbles to escape.
9. Use the jar lifter to take your filled and capped jars to the canner and set them in the rack. You can stack the 4oz size, one right on top of the other, or just do a single layer of larger sized jars. Fill with additional boiling water so that you cover the jars by at least one inch.
10. Process! Bring the water to a boil in the canner. You have to boil for different times depending on the recipe. For this jam recipe you process for 10 minutes. Count from the time the water comes to a full rolling boil. If at any point the water stops boiling, you have to start over. You need a CONSECUTIVE 10 minute (or what ever processing time your recipe calls for) boil.
11. After the processing time is done, remove the jars and place them on the towel lined counter. Place additional towels over the jars. This allows them to cool slowly; continuing to release air bubbles. You will start to hear little POPS as the lids invert, letting you know you have a sealed jar! It’s really a cool sound after all that hot steamy work.
If your jars don’t seal after 24 hours, store them in the fridge. You’ll know if they are sealed if the center is pulled in and doesn’t move up and down when you press on it. But don’t test that until after 24 hours, you don’t want to “press” any jar lids down either-that would create a false seal and not shelf stable food.
Canning can sound complicated at first, but don’t be intimidated. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, you’ll have tasty jam, pickles or salsa and you’ll have provided for your family and friends in a way cool old-fashioned method.
1. Set up your work area ahead of time and clean everything.
2. Don’t introduce extreme changes in temperature to your jars (hot food should be packed into hot jars, cold food into cold jars, ect)
3. When in doubt, store it in the fridge or throw it out.
If you are looking for a class on canning, check with your local extension service office. Mine offers several food preservation classes and they are usually at a very reasonable (cheap) price.
- 2 1/4 lbs cara cara oranges
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 6 cups water
- 3 dried Habeñero chili peppers (or 6 dried Colorado or New Mexico chili peppers)
- 9 cups granulated sugar
- 8 half pint (8oz) glass preserving jars with lids and bands or 16 4oz jars
- Scrub oranges well. Slice about 1/8-inch off of stem and blossom ends (discard). Slice oranges in quarters, remove the middle, pithy seam, then slice each quarter in half (or in thirds, if very large) lengthwise. Slice each section cross-wise into thin strips, transferring fruit to a large measuring cup as you go about 6 and 1/2 cups of oranges, trying to capture the juice as you go too.
- Combine oranges, lemon zest and juice and water in a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes. Add chili peppers, partially cover and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until fruit is very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard chili peppers.
- Meanwhile, prepare boiling water canner (see instructions in post). Get your canner out and place jars in it. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
- Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Maintaining boil, gradually stir in sugar. Boil hard, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches gel stage, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and test gel. If gel stage has been reached, skim off foam.
- Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
- Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.