Tag Archives: Canning

Kumquat cinnamon marmalade

Confession time: I made this marmalade in July. And then I sat on the recipe for months, waiting for it to be citrus season. And then I forgot about it. Until now. Which is a shame, because this is a delightful batch of jam.

This was actually the thing that kick-started my canning streak last summer. I was over at a friend’s parents’ house, and discovered that they had a kumquat tree. I’d never eaten a kumquat before, but suddenly here was an enormous tree speckled with ripe orange nuggets. They were ripening and falling faster than the family could eat them, so they just stayed on the tree till the squirrels got to them. That seemed like an awful shame to me, so I grabbed a bag and plucked as many as I could reach.

It wasn’t until later, when I got them all home, that I realized I had no idea what to do with them. I consulted the internet, and got one resounding answer: marmalade. And when the internet gods call, I answer. It was a labor-intensive process, slicing and seeding several dozen kumquats, gathering the seeds into a cheesecloth bundle to add pectin to the jam, and simmering the whole business until it was thick and glossy.

But I’m glad I stuck with it, because the end result was gorgeous. Some of the kumquat slices stayed whole, like tiny pinwheels, while some unfurled into long, slightly chewy strands. The flavor itself was unmistakably orangey, very honeylike, with just a touch of bitterness. I threw in a cinnamon stick, which was an unexpectedly brilliant decision. The kicky warmth of the cinnamon played perfectly against the honeyed sweetness and slight sharpness of the kumquats. You could flavor this marmalade with a lot of other things: vanilla bean, sliced ginger, whole spices, even booze.

Oh, and as far as what to do with this marmalade, it’s an amazing partner with all sorts of dairy. I ate most of my first jar swirled into Greek yogurt, and I can’t even describe how delightful it was: cool, creamy, sweet, and tangy, with little bits of rind interrupting here and there. My next jar is definitely destined for a cheese board–I can’t wait to try it with blue cheese.

kumquat cinnamon marmalade

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Strawberry honey jam

I’ve been bitten by the canning bug.

I used to think that canning had to be a full-day affair, with pounds of fruit and showers of sugar and a clatter of specialized equipment.But lately many of my favorite food blogs have been singing the praises of small-batch canning: a pint or two at a time, perfect for using up the odd pound of fruit or experimenting with new flavor combinations. Small batches of jam also generally set beautifully without added pectin, and pectin was one of the things that put me off canning the most.

I rarely eat jam, usually just a spoonful at a time, swirled into yogurt; I have no great interest in putting up a whole larder of preserves for the winter. So a pint of jam at a time is plenty for me. And now that I’ve started, I’m totally hooked.

Part of this process has been educating myself thoroughly on the basics of canning and safety. Unlike many of the cooking projects I’m familiar with, canning requires a fair amount of precision and attention to detail. I’ve found the blog Food in Jars to be a great jumping-off point for recipe inspiration, and the USDA’s National Center for Home Food Preservation website has been a lifesaver when it comes to food safety. The New York Times has thorough instructions for canning in a water bath, which I pretty much have memorized by now. I’m very new to this, so I’m sticking to tested recipes, keeping the proportions of fruit and sugar the same, and only ever adding more acid, not less. (I’ve found that I often want more lemon juice than a recipe calls for, to cut the sticky sweetness of the jam itself.)

This particular strawberry jam recipe struck my fancy because it uses honey instead of sugar as a sweetener. As it turns out, strawberries and honey are a wonderful, slightly unexpected combination: cook them down together, and you get something rich and treacly and intense, yet with all the comforting familiarity of old-fashioned strawberry jam. I was originally going to add thyme, as per the source recipe, but the thyme in my fridge was old and furry, so I decided to skip it. The jam on its own is delightful, and I could imagine it providing an agreeable backdrop for any number of herbs. And as fabulous as it is now, in the height of summer-fruit season, I’m especially looking forward to smearing it on soda bread in the fall.

strawberry honey jam 2

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