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Monday, May 3, 2010

~Orange you glad I didn't say Rhubarb?~ A little spin for some great seasonal canning

So I've never canned anything in my life before but I though this year I would jump on the ol' band waggon (I can't figure out the etymology there though) with one of my favorite variations on marmalade.  In cake based culinary adventures I've made something similar for a cake filling but always just a few ounces, not enough to can.
I have a huge heirloom rhubarb just now coming into its harvestable life and blood oranges coming in to my favorite local market so I though this would be a good a time as any to try making this recipe for some seasonal, local canning!

~Organic Blood Orange/Rhubarb Marmalade~
2 or 3 Large organic Blood Oranges (depending on size)
Zest of 2 Oranges
4 C Sliced organic Rhubarb
2 C organic cane Sugar + 0.5 C Vanilla Sugar
3.25 Teaspoons Calcium Water
3 C Purified Water
3 Tablespoons Lime Juice

Special Tools:  Canning Utensil Kit including:
                             Jar Lifter Tongs
                             Head Room Measuring Stick
                             Lid Magnet Wand
                             Canning Funnel 
                             XL Pot for boiling 

Yield: 8 8oz Jars

After talking to my friends who do a lot of home canning I decided on a universal pectin and activator combo.  The recipe I used is a slightly altered version from the Pomona's Universal Pectin instruction sheet, taking into account the moisture and enzymes in the rhubarb.  What is important in this recipe is the fruit to water ratio.  Most pectin packaging gives a recipe for pectin to fruit ratios so if you use a different brand or type, follow the manufacturers instruction sheet and all will be well!  The Calcium water (as an activator in low sugar or honey based recipes) in this recipe can be made quite simply by following the instructions but I will rewrite them as it may be easily overlooked in the sheet:

Calcium Water:
Dissolve 0.5 teaspoons in 0.5 C of water in a small, sealable jar.  Can be stored in the fridge for some time but toss out if the sediment discolors or gets moldy.  Shake well before using.

Now lets get started!  Start by thoroughly washing your jars and lid disks and placing them in a large pot of just simmering water until you need them.  DO NOT BOIL as boiling can cause the seals on the lids to distort and form poor seals.  Thoroughly wash your rhubarb, slice in into 3/4" slices and place in the fridge.

For the oranges, you'll want to take a Citrus Zester and remove the zest from 2 oranges.  If you don't have a specialized zester tool, this can be done with a very sharp paring knife.  If you do it this way, be sure to scrape all the white pith off with the edge of your knife as it can make your jam too bitter.  Carefully slice the skins then the fruit segments from the oranges via the Supreme method and place them in a large sauce or stock pot with a lid along with water, lime juice, rhubarb, and calcium water.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 22 minutes.  Stir sparingly as over mixing can cause all the fruit to become too soft and less "marmalade-y." 

In a separate bowl combine sugars and pectin powder and whisk until thoroughly blended.  This is to keep your pectin powder from clumping and ALSO brings us to...



When we add pectin to the juices to thicken it up, we are counting on a process called Gelatinization.  When we add the pectin (in this Case a specialized, "low ester" pectin) in a low sugar formula like this one, the calcium water involved comes into play as ions and facilitates the creation of weak bonds (calcium ionic bridges) between the molecules of pectin.  This creates a semi cohesive (from the word cohere, and from the Latin cohaerere "stick together") structure like a 3D netting or mesh holding the liquids and semi solids of the juice in place.

*whew*  always found that part heady.  If you can get through it, congrats!

For the second half, I want to talk about why we mix the pectin powder with sugars.  When we add any powdered gelling agent with liquids, we want each tiny particle of the powder to absorb the liquids evenly and equally.  When we add dry powders to hot liquids, if the dry particles are too close together, clumps can form.

Big, fat liquid-filled particles expand so fast due to the excess heat that they begin pressing and squeezing tiny clusters of dry particles together and surrounding them so no liquid can get in.  The wet bits cling to the dry because the dry clumpy cores want to steal water from the surrounding environment.  All this comes together to form gross, lumpy gravy, pudding, ice creams, and jellies and jams and an all around unpleasant result.  When we mix the pectin powder with the sugars, we ensure that the particles are spread out and evenly distributed so that very few are touching and able to bully each other.  Other ways to ensure even absorption and dissolution include mixing dry with icy water or a fat like butter or oil.  Simple and elegant solution to an age old problem!  Nice smooth Jellies and Jams due to dry particle distribution and ionic calcium bridges!  Science!!  Thanks for bearing with me this weeks, folks!


Remove your cooked fruit liquid and let cool 1 minute.  Stir in your sugar/pectin mix and return to heat to simmer an additional 3 - 5 minutes.  Before heating again I added a n extra 1/2 of a thin orange slice per jar just for some extra orangey flavor and color.

Drain your Jars and tins and get them ready to fill.  If you added the extra orange slices, fork them out into the bottom of each jar.  Fill your jars up to 1/4" head space, wipe the rims, and press the lids down snug.  Screw on your rings finger tight and place in your boiling pot to boil 12 minutes.  Remove from the pot, tighten the rings, and cool.


If the seal doesn't form, either toss out or use immediately as bacteria and oxygen and all kinds of things you don't want inside can get in there and ruin your week...  seriously.  Although the relatively high sugar levels in most jams and jellies prove a rather inhospitable environment for many microbes, things can still grow so watch out.

So I ended up with 8 jars of delicious Rhubarb-Orange Marmalade!  Yum!  As I write this I've given 5 of 8 away and have been told it fared well at discerning family taste tests.  This spread will keep for months in a cool, dark place and will keep up to 3 weeks in the fridge once opened.  If you don't plane to give this away, keep in in the back of your pantry away from the stove.  Although light and heat will often do little more that discolor the fruit, you want to keep that pretty color vibrant as long as possible, right?  Happy Canning!


1 comment:

Erin said...

Yum! I love the flavor combo. And your photos are looking great.
You are on a roll!!!