3.12.2015

Strawberry Lemon Marmalade - All You'll Ever Need to Know About Making Marmalade Recipe

Strawberry Lemon Marmalade - a shot of summer to get you through the cold winter

Here is a lovely taste of spring when it seems like the snow is hanging on forever!  Sweet summer strawberries meet tart lemon juice and the slightly bitter zest in this Strawberry Lemon Marmalade.

Last winter we hosted a friend who was on her way cross country.  Indiana was a nice way point.  She left a thank you jar of homemade ginger marmalade.  It was divine.  I didn't even try to convince  Junebug to try it again when she didn't like it because of the "sticks" in it.  More for me!
Then summer came around and we found ourselves in the happy position of taking care of a neighbor's strawberry patch in the middle of the strawberry harvest.  We ate as much as we could hold and I froze three big bags of berries for winter jam making.  While looking up strawberry jam recipes I came across this one for Strawberry and Meyer Lemon Marmalade.  I pinned the recipe knowing I would have to wait until December to find organic citrus because that's when Florida and California are harvesting.

Since the peel is used in marmalade and regular lemons are treated with fungicides and other chemicals to keep them looking good in the grocery store, I knew organic would taste better and be healthier.  
December rolled around and it was busy so I figured I could put off marmalade making until January.  Then in January the grocers were constantly sold out of organic lemons.  Finally in February, I found a 2-pound bag, hallelujah!  Thank you California citrus growers.  It was jam making time.

Lemon and Strawberries make a tart and sweet strawberry lemonade marmalade

I went back and reread the recipe I had pinned only to realize I needed more information.  I wanted to know more about the time and temperature which thickened the marmalade; and how much peel to soak; and how to do the cold plate test to check to see if there is enough jell happening.

First I tried my cookbooks and the only one I found a marmalade recipe in was my Ball Blue Book of Canning and it was a very brief recipe and did not answer any of my questions.  Next I did the internet search, hunting down marmalade recipes with lots of detail.  
  • This Williams Sonoma orange marmalade recipe told me more about the cold plate test.
  • This BBC Good Food orange marmalade recipe had even more information about the cold plate test as well how to know when the zest was cooked enough and descriptions of what the marmalade should look like as it cooks.
  • This Ina Garten's orange marmalade recipe included temperatures and what to do if the marmalade gets over cooked.
  • This Alton Brown's orange marmalade recipe said to use a candy or deep fry thermometer to reach the very specific 222-223 degrees F.  
  • And lastly I followed Love and Olive Oil's link to find the original recipe at Simple Bites which was a guest post by Food in Jars.  
Then I set about making my strawberry lemon marmalade.  First thing you need to know is it takes two days.

When making marmalade create a bundle of the seeds and rinds to soak in the juice.  This draws out the pectin that will help jell the preserves.

Day 1:

On day one zest the lemons and then juice them.  Then put the zest in the juice along with a bag full of any seeds and some of the leftover rinds.  You put them in a bag so you can take them out easily since they won't be in the final marmalade.  The soaking does two things:
  1. Softens the zest so the cook time is reduced
  2. Releases pectin from the rind and seeds so that a firm jell happens when you reach the magical 222-223 degrees F. 
How to zest for marmalades - use a vegetable peeler and a paring knife to make ribbons rather than a micro-plane grater.
The micro-plane grater (left) created too fine zest that did not produce the right consistency for traditional marmalade.  I found my vegetable peeler plus paring knife (right) allowed me to make nice small ribbons of zest.  If I had a zester tool I would have used that instead.  

Also, on Day One macerate the strawberries by mixing them with half the sugar and let them sit covered overnight.  I learned from Sauver that macerating does some useful things:
  • The sugar breaks down the fruit so cooking takes less time,
  • The sugar draws the water out of the strawberries making a syrup,
  • The sugar makes the pectin stronger, and
  • The longer the fruit macerates the richer and stronger the flavors become
If you want to do everything in one day, instead of letting the juice/zest and macerated strawberries sit overnight in the fridge you can do just three hours at room temperature.

Macerated strawberries and lemon juice and zest create a sweet and tart marmalade

Day 2:

The next day make and bottle the marmalade.  First, take the bag of seeds and pith out of the lemon juice and discard them into the compost.

Before cooking started here is the mixture of the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and zest to make Strawberry Lemon Marmalade

Then add, macerated strawberries, the remaining sugar, lemon juice and zest to a wide, heavy bottomed pot on the stove.  (A wide pot increases the surface area to speed evaporation and a heavy bottom heats evenly; in case you were wondering why that specific kind of pot.)

Cook it all together until enough water evaporates, the color darkens and it reaches the magical 222-223 degrees F.

The marmalade recipes I had open all suggested that it should only take 15-30 minutes to cook the marmalade.  Well it took me a little more than an hour.  I suspect it had something to do with the slow to heat nature of the enameled, cast-iron pot I used and the extra water in the strawberries.  Traditionally marmalade is just citrus fruit.

As my marmalade cooked, I used the Cold Plate Test and a thermometer to check progress.  Once I had a nice jell, I bottled and processed the jars in a boiling-water canner.

My only regret is that this recipe just makes four half-pints.  Here's how you can make it too: 

Strawberry Marmalade AKA Strawberry Lemonade Jam

1 pound of strawberries fresh or frozen 
2 pounds of organic lemons (9 small or 5-6 large lemons)
3 cups of sugar

 Day 1:

  1. Zest all the lemons.  You can either use a zester (not a micro-plane grater) to create small ribbons of zest.  Or use a vegetable peeler to shave off the top layer of rind and then use a sharp knife to cut the shaved peel into fine ribbons.  
  2.  Juice enough of the lemons to yield one cup.  Wrap any seeds and at least a third of the rinds into a small linen or cheese-cloth sack to create a bundle; preventing any of the rind or seeds from escaping.  
  3. In a large bowl add 1 cup lemon juice, zest, and 2 cups of water.  Then submerge the bundle with the seeds and rinds in the bowl.  Cover and let set at room temperature for 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  
  4. In another large bowl, macerate the strawberries in 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Add the sugar to the strawberries and stir to coat.  Cover, then allow to set for the same amount of time as the lemon juice and zest.  You do not need to chop the strawberries, let the sugar do the work for you.  

Day 2:

  1. Sanitize your canning jars and lids.  You will need 5 half-pints or the equivalent jars.  
  2. Heat a boiling-water canner to just about boiling and keep the water levels up while the marmalade cooks so you are ready to start canning when the marmalade is ready. 
  3. Take the bundle of seeds and rinds out of the lemon juice bowl and discard them (hopefully into your compost).  In a wide, large, heavy bottomed pot combine the lemon juice, zest, macerated strawberries, and the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar.  
  4. Over medium heat bring the marmalade up to a simmer.  Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Stir every 5-10 minutes.  Once a simmer is reached cooking should take 40-60 minutes.  Use a thermometer to watch the temperature. As it approaches 222 degrees try the cold plate test to check the texture of your marmalade.  Also, visually the mixture will darken in color and the bubbles will become thicker and gloppier when the 222-223 degrees F is reached.  Here's what mine looked like when it was done cooking:
    Strawberry lemon marmalade cooked and ready to ladle into jars
  5. When you have the marmalade cooked, bring the water-bath canner up to a boil and fill the prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch head space, wipe the rims of the jars with a clean cloth before putting on the sanitized lids.  Then promptly process in the water-bath canner.  If you are using half-pints, process for 10 minutes at a boil.  
  6.  Remove the jars from the canner, let set on a towel over-night to completely cool.  Check the seals.  Any jars that have not sealed should be refrigerated and eaten in the next 3-4 weeks.  Store your sealed marmalade in a cool, dark, dry location.  
Strawberry Lemon Marmalade Recipe at FoyUpdate.blogspot.com

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