Category Archives: Jams and Jellies

Orange Marmalade to Brighten Your Day

Sometimes new is better than the tried and true older version of something.

We took a look at the long-standing original Orange Marmalade procedure in the University of Georgia’s So Easy to Preserve book and decided to make it easier (and better?). The book version has a 12 to 18 hour standing period of the fruit and water ingredients before continuing with adding sugar and cooking. We found this wait to be unnecessary in affecting the outcome of the final product so we were able to shorten the procedure. Also, the book directions have you measure the fruit and water volume in cups after this standing period and then calculate the amount of sugar to add. That was a bit messy (and dirtied more dishes to wash!), so after some repetitions to figure out a specific amount of sugar to use with each batch, we eliminated that step, too!

Of course this will not get changed in the book until there is a new edition (a totally unknown date at this time, by the way) but our National Center for Home Food Preservation website makes it possible to bring it to you right away. The recipe is posted here: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/orange_marmalade.html. We used navel oranges in our recipe development, and left all of the white albedo attached. See notes at the bottom of the recipe page.

This is still a traditionally very sweet marmalade that gels from correct cooking with the right proportions of sugar and pectin as well as acid. It is partially preserved for the recommended short canning procedure by the sugar content as well as acidic fruit, also. We recommend cutting the orange peel into very thin strips; it is “chock-full” of orange peel. However, the sweetness makes it not too bitter. (I will admit, I have never been a marmalade fan, but I do really like this one!)

The pectin comes from the citrus fruit albedo (the white pith or tissue right under the outer peel) that is included. As with all cooked jams, jellies or marmalades that gel without added purchased pectin, but only with the pectin found in the fruit, cooking to the right temperature for gelling will be a little variable depending on your actual fruit and pectin content, speed of boiling and size of cooking pot. Our yield is usually just the 7 half-pint jars or in one batch, at least another partial jar. It is important not to overcook, also, or you pass the point where the pectin will gel.

Brush up on your measurement of determining “doneness” if you need to! Temperature might work well with this one, or get a small glass plate cold in the freezer while you cook. When you are ready to test for doneness, take the plate out and drop a few drops of the marmalade onto the cold surface. It should hold its shape pretty well. If you use the Spoon Test, be sure you are capturing the jelly part of the marmalade on your spoon and not fruit or peel. You have to work  quickly with all these, and take the pan off your burner. You don’t want to overcook, either, and get a marmalade that is too stiff or gummy. This stage makes these methods a little less precise than cooking jams or marmalades with added pectin, but also makes them more special as you work to perfect your product!

If marmalade is something that can help brighten your morning or other meals with a little addition of flavor and color, enjoy!

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Why do you recommend processing jams and jellies?

puttingjarinBWBUSDA and the Cooperative Extension recommend a boiling water canning process for jams and jellies even though some entrepreneurs or small batch processors are told to just fill the jar hot and close it. Why? Some other sources say processing isn’t necessary for any home canning of jams and jellies — just fill the jar hot and close it. Some others will say to invert the jar (turn it upside down) after putting the lid on, with various numbers of minutes recommended for this inverted position. Why?

A “process authority” advising someone packing jars for sale may indeed not recommend a boiling water process, but then other controls should also be specified for the particular recipe and full preparation procedure, such as a measured minimum hot fill temperature with every batch, specific acidity levels that would allow for no process with that specific product, perhaps measured and documented water activity control or degrees Brix for each batch that allows for no processing, and/or specific processing steps that would support this recommendation. Home canning recommendations for the general public have to cover a wide variety of recipes and methods of cooking the jam or jelly.

Even with a very acid fruit jam or jelly that has good water activity control, there can be some benefits to even a short boiling water process if food safety isn’t the reason. For one thing, molds can be airborne and settle into your jars at filling. The retained heat from filling jars in many home situations may not be enough to kill airborne mold spores. The goal in this case for a boiling water process would be to minimize the risk of spoilage during storage and thereby prevent “economic loss” by product having to be thrown out. Many larger scale commercial operations, in addition to tighter batch-to-batch cooking and filling temperature controls, have equipment systems that force an injection of superhot steam into the headspace before the lid is placed on the jar. This helps with closing temperature, but also forcing air out of the headspace.

So that leads to a second benefit to the home boiling water process. With a properly applied lid, the processing helps force some of the retained air of the headspace in jar. When the jar then cools after processing, this evacuated headspace can lead to better vacuums in the sealed jars (if lids are applied correctly) than just hot filling. Not all vacuum seals are equal. A jar may seal with a weak vacuum. A weaker vacuum is related to more occluded (trapped) air, and therefore oxygen, in the headspace of sealed jars. That oxygen can lead to discoloration and possible flavor changes over time, so quality retention is often better with a processed product than one just hot filled at home.

Finally, one of the considerations discussed when USDA was making recommendations is the potential for burns or leaking jars with the inversion process vs. a boiling water process. Although not in published journals or other sources, there are documentations from some research experiences that leaking and failure to seal are higher risks with inversion than processing. I have read one journal article using inversion that caused the researchers to abandon it in their future studies because of leaking and needing better control of temperature for safety reasons with their particular recipes. Other concerns with inversion include individual variation in practicing this procedure or that unexpected interruptions can result in delays between filling jars, getting lids screwed on, and inverting the jars. If the product cools down too much, the temperature of the product can become low enough to no longer be effective in sealing jars or preventing spoilage. Not ALL jams and jellies/spreads even fit criteria for even a 5 or 10 minute boiling water process; they might need a longer process!

USDA made the decision to recommend processing for all jams and jellies and very acidic foods for reasons of preventing economic loss and physical injury from burns as well as food quality during storage, even if it might not be needed for food safety.   We in Extension consumer education firmly believe the best practice to recommend even for very high acid foods is a boiling water process vs. hot fill only and inversion even though the other may be successful and safe for some food products.

Think sunshine and oranges in winter

We do not have a lot of our home canning recommendations that call for commercially processed ingredients in the recipes. However, here is an idea that does not require the fresh tomatoes, vegetables or fruits fresh from gardens. Just in the last week, I have had two people spontaneously say how much they like this recipe; in one case, it was an educator who said her canning class liked it a lot!

Orange Jelly from Frozen Juice  calls for one
12-ounce can of frozen concentrated orange juice and 1 traditional “box” of powdered pectin and creates a delightful, flavorful orange jelly for toast or biscuits on dreary winter mornings or late afternoons. The recipe yields five or size half-pint jars (we never all seem to get the same quantity for many recipes, do we? Or a final amount that just fills all jars exactly….)

For this one, we recommend using pre-sterilized jars and a very short boiling water process time. To pre-sterilize jars, boil empty, washed and rinsed glass canning jars submerged in boiling water for 10 minutes. (That’s 10 minutes after the water comes to a boil over the jars.) The easiest way to do this is to stand empty jars upright on a rack in a clean boiling water canner filled with clean water. Keep jars hot until they are filled. Prepare lids according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Directions for cooking the jelly are specific as to when to add sugar and pectin, and how long to boil. The process time in the canner is then 5 minutes up to 1000 ft altitude (10 minutes if 1,000-6,000 ft altitude; 15 minutes if over 6,000 ft). Allow jelly to cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours and check seals. You can remove ring bands after the food has cooled if the lids are sealed.

If you don’t want to pre-sterilize your jars, wash and rinse your jars and then keep hot before filling. The process times are then 10 minutes up to 1000 ft in altitude, (15 minutes if 1,000-6,000 ft altitude; 20 minutes if over 6,000 ft).

And enjoy the flavor of your labor, even if it really doesn’t take a lot time!

Preserving Pears

Pears are a sweet treat over the holidays, some being cultivated and grown specifically for their availability this time of year. So after you’ve eaten your share of fresh pears, what can you do to preserve that special flavor?

If your canner is still accessible (and you have room in your kitchen regardless of holiday cooking!), then you may want to can pear halves. Remember that Asian pears are not as acidic as other varieties and have their own canning procedure which requires that addition of bottled lemon juice.

Pickled Pears are also an option for canning, especially if you have Seckel pears or another firmer, crisper pickling variety.

Pear Relish is another pickled pear product you could try; it includes onion, peppers, celery, and allspice. If you can also get your hands on 2 or 3 chayote, then you could make Chayote and Pear Relish, with allspice and pumpkin pie spice.

A couple of delicious sweet spread choices are available that use pears as a primary ingredient: Pear Preserves is a traditional, no-pectin-added southern-style fruit preserves made with large chunks of pear and a thickened sugar syrup (in other words, not a jam-like spread!).  Pear-Apple Jam is a sweet, gelled spread made with liquid pectin (and a touch of cinnamon!).

Finally, if you are not up for getting the canner going, then you could simply make a sugar syrup and freeze pears.