Memories, Well Preserved – Kumquat Marmalade with Clément Créole Shrubb
With the summer harvest long past, the middle of February may seem, to many, to be an odd time to talk about preserves. But to me, this is the time of year I am most grateful for the stores of jams, jellies, and pickles that pepper our pantry shelves. Not only do homemade canned goods make excellent gifts for friends and family, but there is something so sweet about dipping into a jar of your own homemade fruit preserves. Each time I pry open a jar of jam it offers a small taste of another season, jam making not only preserves peak produce for later seasons but preserves the memories of past seasons as well. I do not mean to disenfranchise any gentlemen readers by saying this but jam-making is, to me, a beautifully feminine process. The world of jam making has such a long rich history, and like pie-baking, it has traditionally been women who have tirelessly sought to perfect this elusive culinary art form. Perhaps it is the rich sweetness of the fruit, or the glean of brilliantly ripe skins and peels, maybe it is the way the perfume of cooking fruit fills the air, or the quilted jars – daintily labeled but I find myself irresistibly drawn to the jam making process.
This Kumquat Marmalade is a great starter for anyone hesitant about the traditional rind filled confections. The preserve fits into a category of marmalade commonly referred to as “fine-cut,” meaning that the fruit has been finely sliced to the point where they may, at first glance, resemble a jelly. “Fine-cut” marmalades are time and labor intensive and are more difficult to find on the market as much of the commercially available marmalades are machine made. Marmalades differ from jams and jellies in that water is typically added to the fruit to create the “liquid” or juice needed for processing. The marmalade featured in this post requires three days to make from start to finish. While three days may sound like a ludicrously long time for making a batch of preserves, the three day duration is a critical component in creating a successful marmalade. With its relatively high proportion of fruit solids and water, the citrus needs ample time to rest in the fruit “juice” in order for its natural pectins to permeate the liquid. The presence of these natural pectins is what allows the marmalade to set without the need for any additional powdered pectin.
When approaching any canning project, cleanliness and thorough sterilization of tools, and not the recipe itself, is truly the key element in success. The boiling water method is the gold-standard when it comes to preserving highly acidic foods like pickles, jams, salsas, and tomatoes. While many other techniques exist, and have been used “successfully” for generations, water bath canning is the only method I advocate using. Even with high-sugar, high-acid jams and marmalades, other methods have a greater potential for failure, and failure, when it comes to canning, can mean botulism. When it comes to canning, botulism is the big 800-lb gorilla lurking in the corner of the room, it is a downright frightening food borne illness that can thrive in improperly canned foods. Botulism spores exist naturally in the air and are not, themselves, harmful. But when botulism spores develop into botulism toxin, you have a literal recipe for disaster. Using proper canning technique and time tested recipes with a pre-established acidity level can easily prevent botulism toxin from taking root in your canned goods.
This jam requires a few hours of work over the course of three consecutive days to prepare properly. It may sound like an insurmountable task but the rewards are well worth the time investment. In fact, I actually appreciate that the work is spread over the course of a few days as it make the process easier to fit into a busy schedule. The preparation of the kumquats requires a solid chunk of time. It is a lovely project to take on with a friend or a few family members as the slicing and dicing process is fairly monotonous and quite conducive to conversation and with good company, the task will fly by in no time.
Kumquat Marmalade – Adapted Slightly from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders. For anyone not familiar with this cookbook, it is a beautifully written and wonderfully produced resource for truly special and simply stunning jam, jelly, and marmalade recipes.
2 Pounds 10 Ounces Meyer Lemons, Cut into Eighths
1 Pound Kumquats, Halved
1 Pound 3 Ounces Kumquats, Seeded, Cut Crosswise into Halves (so that you have two long halves) Halves Cut into Quarters (you want to create long slivers), and Then Sliced Thinly into Itty-Bitty Pieces
5 1/4 Pounds of Organic White Sugar
5 Ounces Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice, Strained
1 Ounce Clément Créole Shrubb or Other Lightly Spiced Rum
Additional Equipment Needed 1 11-12 Quart Copper Preserving Pan or Wide Non-Reactive Kettle of Similar Volume
2 Large Saucepans
1 Large Canner or Very Deep Stock Pot for Processing Jars
Large Colander or Chinois for Draining the Lemon-Kumquat Juice
Fine Mesh Sieve or Strainer for Straining the Juice
12 Clean 1/2 Pint Mason Jars with Screw Bands and New Lids
1 Canning Insert – Jar Rack
Day Two – Start by preparing the kumkuat-lemon “juice.” Place the pan with the lemon eighths and kumquat halves over high heat and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. As the fruit cooks you will need to press down on it periodically to encourage it to release juices (tread lightly – you don’t want to break up the pulp into the juice), a wooden spoon or spatula works well for this task, alternatively you can use a potato masher. If the water level starts to dip you can add more water in increments to ensure that the fruit remains submerged during the cooking process. You will know the juice is ready when the fruit has become very soft and the liquid takes on a slightly syrupy consistency.
While the lemons and kumquats simmer place the saucepan containing the sliced kumquats over high heat an being to a boil. Decrease the heat to medium and allow it to simmer for about 1/2-hour or until the fruit slices are quite tender. remove the pan from the heat, place a lid on it, and leave to rest overnight at room temperature.
When the lemon -kumquat juice is ready, place a large bowl beneath a fine strainer or chinois and strain the juice into the bowl. Leave the fruit suspended over the bowl to drain overnight at room temperature.
Day Three – Fill your canner with water, set the insert into the canner, place the jars (without the lids or bands) in the pot, and set over high heat to bring to a boil. This will take a good chunk of time so it is best to start well in advance, you can always lower the heat to keep the water near boiling and at the ready if the water heats well before the marmalade is ready.
Place five teaspoons on a plate on a flat surface in the freezer, you will need to have these well chilled for testing the marmalade.
Strain the lemon-kumquat juice through a fine mesh strainer into the preserving pan. Add the kumquat pieces, lemon juice, and sugar to the juice and stir well to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. During the initial bubbling process leave the mixture alone and resist the temptation to stir it. Once the mixture begins to foam stir it gently, repeating every few minutes to keep it from burning on the bottom of the pan. As the jam nears setting point you may need to lower the heat slightly to keep the mixture from sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan. Allow the marmalade to bubble away over high heat until it reaches the setting point. This process may take anywhere from 1/2-hour to an hour. Certain telltale signs will signal that the mixture is nearly ready, the color will deepen and the bubbles will reduce in size. Once this happens begin testing to avoid over-setting (I like a jam that is set, and spreadable, but
To test the marmalade for doneness, remove the preserving pan from the heat. I typically place a layer or two of kitchen towels on top of a cutting board to act as a buffer between the hot pan and counter and remove the pan to this area while testing. Spoon out a small glob of jam with one of the frozen spoons and place it back on the plate in the freezer for 3-4 minutes. Remove the spoon and feel the underside, if its cool but not cold its ready to test. Tilt the spoon vertically to see if the marmalade runs. If it runs, return the pan to the heat and continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes before retesting. If the marmalade has sufficiently solidified, leave the pan off the heat. With a broad wooden or metal spoon, skim any white foam from the top of the marmalade, being careful not to stir any into the mixture.
See notes above for details on the canning process. This recipe should make enough marmalade to fill 10-12 half pint jars. Even if you only “need” 10, make and process 12, on occasion a jar or two will not seal and you just might have to suck it up, pop it in the fridge and start chipping away at a jar yourself (oh the woes we must endure.) My canning rack holds 7 half pint jars but I typically process 5-6 at a time to give myself a bit of wiggle room in maneuvering the jars in and out of the boiling water. For this recipe I processed the jars for 10 minutes before removing them to a kitchen towel lined jelly roll pan for cooling. Let them really cool, completely, don’t poke at them, or try to remove the screw bands, or try to dry them off, or test the buttons on the top, leave them alone. If you need to, drape them with a kitchen towel to assist you in resisting the temptation to pester them. After a solid 18-24 hours remove the screw bands and check the button to ensure that the lids are solidly sealed. If any are not sealed you can either return the contents to the heat, and then reprocess, or place in the fridge.