strawberry-blood orange marmalade

Okay you guys. Get out your canning jars. I’ve got a treat for you. For months, I’d been meaning to make a batch of marmalade, it just never happened. On multiple occasions I went out and bought all of the ingredients, only to realize that I didn’t have quite enough time to devote to a two day project. I also didn’t really feel like dealing with my canner. And now that citrus at the market is becoming less abundant with every passing week, I figured that I had missed my marmalade-making window for the year. This made me sad.

And then something fantastic happened. While I was at the market on Saturday, I picked up my usual kale and carrots and few baskets of strawberries. My original plan for the strawberries was a roasted strawberry balsamic ice cream. But as I was making the rounds, I noticed that one of the vendors had blood oranges, which was surprising considering how late in the season it is. Almost immediately, my wheels started turning and a recipe from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook popped into my head: late season blood oranges + early season strawberries = strawberry blood orange marmalade. I couldn’t wait to go home and get started.

I’ve got nothing but love for the The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. I’ve been a fan of Blue Chair Fruit Company ever since the first time I stopped by their booth at the Grand Lake farmers’ market. I think it might’ve been the vintage scalloped cake stands on which they display their jams that first caught my attention, but their unique flavor combinations is what won me over. The book is chock full of gorgeous photos and important jam-making information. Just about every single recipe sounds too good to resist, like rhubarb-kumquat jam and fig jam with sherry & fennel. And there are more than a dozen different marmalade variations to choose from.

What literally sealed the deal for me was the book’s recommended oven processing. No ginormous kettles of boiling water required. Just a warm oven and a stash of jars is all you need to get your jam on. And a really excellent recipe doesn’t hurt either.

This is the prettiest batch of preserves I have ever made. The combination of strawberry juice and blood orange pulp produces the most beautiful garnet hued marmalade. Imagine your favorite orange marmalade and your favorite strawberry jam hooking up. It’s everything you love about the two – sweet strawberry jelly and that sticky, chewy, slightly bitter orange peel goodness. And there’s a hint of rosemary, which makes it extra special.

strawberry-blood orange marmalade

from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders

makes six or seven 8-ounce jars

2-1/4 pounds hulled strawberries

1-1/2 pounds seeded Moro blood oranges, halved crosswise, each half cut into quarters lengthwise and sliced crosswise medium-thin

2 sprigs rosemary, 8-inches long 

2 pounds 10 ounces white cane sugar

2 to 4 ounces strained freshly squeezed lemon juice

Day 1

First, prepare the strawberry juice: Place the strawberries in a medium stainless-steel kettle and add enough water to just cover the tops of the fruit. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook the fruit for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until the berries are brown and shapeless and the liquid has become syrupy.

Strain the strawberry juice by pouring the hot fruit and liquid into a medium-fine-mesh strainer suspended over a heatproof storage container or nonreactive saucepan. Cover the entire setup well with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to drip overnight.

While the strawberries are cooking, place the orange slices in a separate nonreactive saucepan with water to reach 1 inch above the tops. Cover tightly and let rest overnight at room temperature.

Day 2

Place a saucer with five metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer for testing the marmalade later. Rinse the rosemary under cold water, pat dry between two clean kitchen towels, and set aside.

Bring the pan with the orange slices to a boil over high heat, decrease the heat to medium, and cook, covered, at a lively simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, or until the fruit is very tender. If necessary, add more water during cooking; the fruit should remain submerged throughout the cooking process.

While the orange slices are cooking, remove the plastic wrap from the stawberries and their juice and discard the berries. Strain the juice well through a very fine-mesh strainer to remove any lingering solids.

When the orange slices are ready, place them in a large mixing bowl with the sugar, cooked strawberry juice, and 2 ounces lemon juice, stirring well. Taste, and slowly add a little more lemon juice if necessary. You should be able to taste the lemon juice, but it should not be overpowering. Keep adding lemon juice only until you are just able to detect its tartness in the mixture. Transfer the mixture to an 11- or 12-quart copper preserving pan or a wide nonreactive kettle. If your kettle is smaller than 11 quarts, cook the mixture in two batches.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cook at a rapid boil until the setting point is reached; this will take a minimum of 35 minutes, but may take longer depending on your individual stove and pan. Initially, the mixture will bubble gently for several minutes; then, as more moisture cooks out of it and its sugar concentration increases, it will begin foaming. Do not stir it at all during the initial bubbling; then, once is starts to foam, stir it gently every few minutes with a heatproof rubber spatula. As it gets close to being done, stir it slowly every minute or two to prevent burning, decreasing the heat a tiny bit if necessary. The marmalade is ready for testing when its color darkens and its bubbles become very small.

To test the marmalade for doneness, remove it from the heat and carefully transfer a small half-spoonful to one of your frozen spoons. It should look shiny, with tiny bubbles throughout. Replace the spoon in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove and carefully feel the underside of the spoon. It should neither be warm nor cold; if still warm, return it to the freezer for a moment. Tilt the spoon vertically to see whether the marmalade runs; if it does not run, and if its top layer has thickened to a jelly consistency, it is done. If it runs, cook it for another few minutes, stirring, and test again as needed.

When the marmalade has finished cooking, turn off the heat but do not stir. Using a stainless steel spoon, skim off any surface foam and discard. Place the rosemary into the mixture and let it steep for a few minutes off the heat. Stir and carefully taste the marmalade. Remove the sprigs or leave them in for another moment or two, keeping in mind that their flavor will be slightly milder once the marmalade has cooled. Using tongs, discard the rosemary. Pour the marmalade into sterilized jars and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Shelf life – 1 year.

To process jars in the oven:

Place clean jars upright and clean unused lids on a baking sheet in a preheated 250F oven. Leave in the oven for a minimum of 30 minutes to ensure that they are heated through. Remove them from the oven right when you need to fill them. After filling the jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace, wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth . put the lids on, being careful to screw the rings on just until they are snug. Place the jars back in the oven for 15 minutes to ensure that they are completely sterilized. They will seal as they cool.

Upon removing your filled jars from the oven, place them 1-inch apart on a drying rack to set overnight at room temperature. Do not jiggle or disturb them during this time. As the preserves cool, you may hear a few little pops as the lids seal. Before putting your preserves away, be sure to feel the top of each lid to verify that it has sealed; it should be curving in very slightly in the middle. If any jars have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator for safekeeping.

vanilla quince jam

As of today, just one day until Christmas, I have made 2 pounds of granola, canned 18 jars of apple butter, and individually wrapped 64 salted caramels for the holidays. And it’s only just begun.

There are pies to be made. A playlist is in the works. Did I mention that I have yet to wrap a single gift?

The one thing I did manage to take care of in advance was preserving. I’ve decided that preserves are my gift of choice this year. I am 100% ready to distribute some jam. If you’re looking for last minute gift ideas, I’ve got just the thing for you.

Quince jam. Quince has become one of those things I’ve become obsessed with in recent years. It started with the quince paste, otherwise known as membrillo, that I used to buy from the cheese section at Bi-Rite market. It was such a great addition to any cheese plate; I was inspired me to make my own.

I’ll never forget the first time I bought quince. It was just days before Christmas and I had planned to make membrillo. I woke up Christmas Eve morning, ready to make quince paste only to discover that my bag of quince was nowhere to be found. Because someone, who shall remain unnamed, had mistaken my bruised quince for rotting fruit and threw them away. A tantrum ensued, followed by a begrudged trek out to Rainbow Grocery to buy more quince (for some reason, Berkeley Bowl had stopped carrying quince that Christmas). It was a rough scene that Christmas Eve morning. But the membrillo was a hit.

This year, instead of making membrillo, I thought I’d make quince jam since it’s easier to divvy up. As it cooks, the pale flesh of the quince becomes a gorgeous rosy color and fills your kitchen with the most incredible aroma – sweet, amazingly floral, a hint of citrus. As with most jams, this particular jam is really nice spread on toast, but it’s even better with a thin slice of manchego. And if you really feel like living on the edge this holiday season, you can slather it on one side of a grilled cheese sandwich. Merriest of holidays to you and yours!

vanilla quince jam

adapted from Simply Recipes

makes about 5 half pints

6 cups packed, grated quince, (discard cores, leave peel on), about 2 lbs of quince (about 5 quince)

4-1/4 cups water

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 Tbsp lemon zest

1 vanilla bean, split

4 cups sugar

Prepare the quince by washing and cutting in half. Working around the core, grate the quince flesh (including the peel) with a cheese grater, until you have about 6 cups of grated quince.

Put water in a large, wide, thick-bottomed saucepan (6-8 quarts) and bring to a boil. Add the grated quince, lemon juice and lemon. Reduce heat and simmer until the quince is soft, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and carefully ladle the quince into a food mill to puree. Return the processed quince to the saucepan.

Add the sugar and vanilla bean and bring to a boil again. Stir to dissolve all of the sugar. Lower the heat to medium high. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until quince jam turns pink and thickens to desired consistency, about 30-50 minutes.

Fill your your biggest, deepest pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. The water level will need to cover the jars.

Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars* and seal. Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids. Place a dry lid on each jar and close tightly.

To sterilize the jars, rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.

Using tongs place each of the jars in the boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars and leave undisturbed for at least 8 hours.

cherry plum jam

Last weekend was one of the most fun, love-filled weekends of my adult life. One of those weekends that you replay in your head over and over again. The kind of weekend that sort of changes something inside of you. After nearly a year of planning and plotting all the fine details, one of my very dearest friends, Trang and her fiancé, Kempton, tied the knot on July 3rd. I had the honor of being a part of their wedding party, along with five other gorgeous ladies, the groom’s three very handsome brothers and three closest buddies.

To say that the wedding was perfect feels almost like an understatement. It was an extremely beautiful celebration, not to mention an over-the-top party. My favorite part was the photo booth, the old school kind that prints four-frame, black and white strips. And the giant school bus that shuttled us to and from the venue was pretty fantastic too. Did I mention Jägerbomb hour? Yes, you read that correctly – there was an official Jägerbomb hour from 9-10pm, AND the bar ran out of Jägermeister, which is a pretty clear indication that people were serious about getting their Jägerbombs on. Which I think resulted in the bride and groom extending the party an extra hour since we were all having such a grand time. I couldn’t be more happy for these two lovebirds. The whole day was so memorable, and was made even more incredible by the fact that I was surrounded by some of the greatest loves of my life – my three best girlfriends, my sister, my Edwin (who did an amazing job on my hair that morning), and Evelyn, the coolest of the moms, who came all the way from Portland, OR to be there.

Because I had been actively helping the bride throughout the planning process, I had a feeling that things might get pretty hectic right before the wedding, so I spent the Sunday prior trying to relax the best way I know how – I cooked, rather I preserved. I decided it was time to make jam, even though I’ve never made jam in my life, nor did I have any canning equipment. But I did have plums. Trees full of little cherry plums that were just begging to be picked and turned into jam. I had to make it happen.

Cherry plums are tiny plums about the size of a giant gumball. They have a tart skin, but their flesh is sweet and juicy. There are actually two different trees in my backyard; one produces red plums, the other a yellow variety, which is a bit more mellow in flavor. For one reason or another, I’ve neglected these trees for years, and it wasn’t until I was tending to my tomatoes that I realized I had some serious fruit bearers on my hands. And since I am not the kind of girl to let good fruit go to waste, I spent a portion of the afternoon picking plums, on a ladder, sweating it out in my backyard. There is something very rewarding, maybe even calming, about picking and eating fruit while it is still warm from the sun. I felt very connected.

Finding a recipe, however, was more difficult than I had anticipated. I stopped by the library earlier that afternoon and picked up a few books on canning and preserving, hoping that I would find a recipe for plum jam. And there were plenty of recipes, but none of them called for cherry plums, so I improvised. I wanted to maintain the tartness of the plums instead of masking it with sweetness, so I purposely added less sugar than what most recipes suggested. The result was a nicely balanced, sweet-tart jam almost reminiscent of tamarind. I’ve been eating it on everything – on toast with peanut butter, on English muffins with butter. I even did a little savory/sweet experimenting and plan to have it with buttermilk biscuits and ham very soon. Now that I’m a jam maker, I can’t wait to play around with other fruit combinations. Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas this year!

Cherry Plum Jam

adapted very loosely from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine

makes 8 half-pint jars

16 cups cherry plums

4 cups sugar

1 cup water

special equipment:

boiling water canner with rack

8 half-pint canning jars with metal lids and rings

wide- mouth funnel

jar lifter

non-metallic spatula

Wash jars, lids and screw bands in hot, soapy water. Place a rack in the bottom of a boiling water canner, then place the jars on the rack. Cover the canner and bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. Keep jars hot until you are ready to use them. Set screw bands aside. Place lids in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Keep lids hot until you are ready to use them. Go here for a step-by-step guide to canning.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine plums and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove pits from the fruit and transfer to a food mill or press pulp through a fine sieve. Transfer pulp back to saucepan and add sugar, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Boil, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours.

The mixture is ready when it has reached the gel stage.  To test the gel, dip a cold metal spoon into the boiling jam. Lift the spoon and hold it horizontally and edge down so that the syrup runs off the edge. As the mixture cooks, the drops will become heavier and will drop off the spoon separately but two at a time. When the two drops join together and “sheet” off the spoon, the gel stage has been reached. If gel stage has been reached, skim off foam.

Working with one jar at a time, remove a jar from the canner, pouring hot water back into canner. Place funnel in jar. Ladle hot jam into hot jar, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles by running a non-metallic spatula down between the food and the inside of the jar two or three times. Adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot jam. With a clean damp cloth or paper towel, wipe jar rim and threads. Lift a hot lid from the water and place it on the jar, centering the sealing compound on the rim of the jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, lifting them without tilting them. Do not dry lids or jars at this point. You do not want to disturb the lids while the seal is being formed. Place the jars upright on a towel in a draft-free place and let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours.

When jars have cooled for 24 hours, check lids for seal. With your fingers, press down on the center of each lid. Sealed lids will be concave and will show no movement when pressed. Jars that have not sealed properly must be refrigerated or reprocessed immediately. Jars that have good seals can be wiped down thoroughly with a damp cloth and stored in a cool, dark place. For best quality, use within 1 year.