Oh, my god, I made lemon marmalade! And it came out SO WELL. And it was SO EASY. I am MARM-ELATED.
And I have spent almost eight years in this house with a marmalade lemon tree that never stops producing, and the fruit just falls to the ground. We use a lot for cooking and every once in a while we make lemonade, but up till now that was all we did.
Those days are over, my friends.
Avoid the strange looking ones.
I thought I’d give you a simple breakdown of what I did for two reasons: 1) so I can find it later and 2) because I read about four million recipes out there and they were all soooo different and all of them were missing crucial elements necessary for the newbie (and nervous) first-time canner. I’d never sealed jars before. Now I have and it’s not hard. It’s a bit scary at first, but it’s also fun and overall, easy.
Things you’ll need to buy for canning if you ain't got 'em already:
Nonreactive pot to make the marmalade in (it should hold twice as much jam as you want to make) (I bet you have one. Your soup pot will work, probably).
Pot for boiling the jars – I got this el cheapo one with a jar rack at my Ace Hardware which had EVERYTHING I needed for canning. Like, you could go to your Ace right now and get this stuff. Right NOW.*
Canning tongs and funnel – get these. You will regret not getting these.
Piece of cheesecloth or piece of old, clean T-shirt, piece of string
Jars! Use the half pint size! A whole pint is nutty! Get a box of 12 (comes with jars, lids, and bands)
Ingredients in a 1:1:1 ratio:
Lemons – get some, any kind.
Sugar – have some
Water – you’re good
Who knew? You don't even need pectin, because lemons have enough of their own! (You knew this? Okay. Your recipe is probably better, too. But mine is EASY.)
For my marmalade, I used about ten lemons from the tree in the backyard. This made a lot, about 12 half pints. Use two lemons for practice! Make a lil bit just for fun!
I spent a long time researching how to pith, deseed, dress, slice, whap, and dice those babies. I did it carefully and beautifully for ONE lemon and then my hands notified me that I had four cuts, a burn, and two hangnails I hadn’t noticed. Lemon juice is painful. Screw that (unless you don’t have a food processor or Vitamix, in which case, I’m sorry, and wear gloves).
Put on some good tunes or a podcast you’ve been dying to listen to. Wear your cutest apron (I’m reminding you, because you always forget to wear it, I know you do).
Put some small plates in the freezer. You’ll need those later to test doneness.
Wash and dry your jars, lids, and bands with warm soapy water. Put them on a cookie sheet or two in the oven at 225F for 10 minutes. When they’re cooked just let ‘em sit in the stove till you’re ready to fill them. It’s okay if they go cold again.
Fill that big old pot up with water and set it to boiling. It will take forever, so start now. When it hits a boil, you can turn it off until you need to use it.
Wash the lemons. This is nice to do for everyone, including the lemon.
Slice off the ends. Then cut the lemons in half. Try your best to wrangle out that white pith that runs up and down the middle of the lemon — use your hands, feel free to mash it around. Try to get the seeds out. Mine didn’t have many. Put the lemon halves into your food processor or Vitamix or whatnot. Put the piths and seeds into that little bit of cheesecloth and tie it up (this gives it more natural pectin).
I used my Vitamix, filled it with lemon halves, and then covered the lemons with water. Then I chopped ‘em up. You want them in small pieces, big enough to suit your bite need in your marmalade. Don’t puree them. Dump this into a colander. Then, when drained, dump into your nonreactive pot using a measuring cup. NOTE HOW MANY CUPS OF LEMON YOU HAVE. Add the bag of pith/seeds and exactly the same number cups of water (see how you could make a lot or a little and not worry about amounts?).
Bring to boil then keep at high simmer for 2ish hours until peels are soft. Water will boil away, maybe half of it? That’s okay. Add the same number of cups sugar, bring to a boil and stir occasionally, boil for 10-20 minutes, checking setting point.
Get out a cold plate from the freezer, drizzle some marmalade on it. Give it a minute or two to set. Run your finger through it. If it wrinkles, you’re done. If it’s still runny, boil some more.
NOTE: This is where I panicked. Mine never set right. I boiled for almost an hour, and that stuff stayed runny (I think I hadn’t boiled it long enough in the first cooking without sugar). I read enough on the internet to panic, learning that I could over-boil it and then when it cooled it would turn to rock, so I put it in jars, hoping for the best and expecting the worst, but the next morning, IT WAS MARMALADE! It had marmelled! It was marmellous! So I’m saying to trust your gut here.
Turn the burner on under the big pot of water again. You’ll need it boiling soon.
Putting it in jars! The fun part!
Using your favorite soup ladle and the canning funnel, ladle into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of room at the top. Put on a lid and secure the lid with a band (the outer ringy thingy). Only tighten until you feel resistance, do NOT torque the band on tight. Just lightly, till it stops twisting. Then using your tongs, which you were clever enough to buy, lower the jars into the pot of hot water and onto the jar rack. Once all the jars are in the water and the water has hit a boil, boil for another 10-15 minutes. Turn off the gas or move the pot carefully off the hot part of the stove. Using tongs, remove jars to cool, placing them on a cloth (important because the cold counter touching the glass jars can cause breakage).
You’ll hear pings and pops, and that’s good and magical, because they’re SEALING. You’re totally DOING THIS.
Leave ‘em there.
Take pictures. Instagram them. You totally should. They’re so PRETTY. In the morning, remove the bands, test them for seal by lifting them an inch or two (briefly!) by the lids. They should stick together. If one hasn't sealed right, put that one in the fridge and eat it first! Decorate! Give away! Or keep them all for yourself. But you won’t be able to. I’d gave my first away while it was still warm to these pretty ladies who stopped by and got covered with every animal we own:
** the links are affiliates, not the women. KiraK and RachelD are just awesome. My extra sisters.
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