Scenes from a Cannery

Last week we found ourselves with a bounty of gorgeous produce: a postal box overflowing with beautiful Meyer lemons sent to us directly from Santa Cruz, California, and a CSA box full of local Washington apples.
My first thought was 'Oh boy, boyfriend will probably want to make limoncello again, mmm! And I guess I can whip up a giant apple pie...hm.'
But after some careful research in my trusty Ball Book of Home Preserving, I decided we were going to have what one could refer to as an epic weekend of canning.

After gathering and organizing all the ingredients and flats of canning jars we would need, our first task was to whip up a batch of ginger lemon marmalade, recipe courtesy of our Ball book.

Never having made marmalade before, neither of us was quite sure how much work would go into the peeling and 'un-pithing' of the Meyer lemons.  Luckily, boyfriend made quick work of the lemon peeling while I was grumbling and having quite a time peeling and grating a fussy piece of ginger.

Overall, the marmalade was very simple to make. 
Peel the lemons. Cut off the pith. Dig out the seeds. Separate the fruit pulp from the membrane. 
Wince at the amount of invisible cuts you have on your hands which are now burning with pain.
Peel and grate the ginger. Cook it all up with some water and sugar and pectin.
Process your jars and voila! You have what I deemed the best thing we've ever canned, ever.

The next batch on our list was inspired by a flurry of Tweets I exchanged with the lovely Miss Sarah of the blog anonymous was a woman.
She espied my excited little Tweets about ginger lemon marmalade and suggested I also try what she was planning on making: vanilla lemon marmalade.
Yum.

After oodles and gobs of Saturday morning internet research for a proper recipe for hot water bath processing (rather than a simple freezer marmalade), I settled upon this one.
You can see that this method of dealing with the lemons is slightly different than the other.
Scrub, slice, and boil.
Very straightforward.

Sugar, water, pectin, vanilla bean scrapings.
Boil boil boil.

Our spirits were high after the successful round of ginger lemon marmalade.
We followed the directions to.the.dot.
(With the exception of the processing time: I've never processed anything in a hot water bath for less than ten minutes so the required five minute processing time made me a bit uneasy.  So we went with ten.)

 And yet somehow that is what we ended up with: half gelled marmalade.
We have no idea what went wrong.  In comparing the two recipes, they are essentially the same, save the manner in which you chop and slice the lemons.
In reviewing the comments (over and over) left concerning the vanilla lemon marmalade, I only found one person who used this particular recipe who had the same problem we have.
I frantically searched the internet for something (anything!) regarding our problem and after reading a handful of odd posts about 're-doing' your marmalade by cracking open the jars and boiling the contents with another box of pectin (no thank you), I happened to find the only reference to marmalade taking up to two weeks to set properly in the jars.
Who knew?

I woke up Sunday morning with the naggling little thought that I needed redemption.
Instant satisfaction.
More jars piled up on our counter.

So I peeled all sixteen of our apples, threw them in the pot with a healthy eight cups of cranberry juice, and made cranapple butter.
By myself.

 I've never canned by myself.  This is a big deal.
Boyfriend and I have always done our canning as a team, and it always goes very smoothly.
(Well, with the exception of our ill-fated first try, the cursed peach butter...shudder.)
But on Sunday boyfriend decided he needed to do a bit of fishing as the weather was nicer than predicted, so I was left with my own two hands to tackle yet another delicious recipe from our Ball book.

Peeling, slicing, chopping, boiling, food-milling, stirring, more stirring, wiping sticky cranapple butter off of every surface: that's what I did.

And wouldn't you know, it turned out beautifully!

So we learned a few lessons this weekend.
We both now know that we're probably never going to use a canning recipe off of the internet ever again.  And I now know that if I have the patience and the time and really want to whip up a batch of jam or apple butter or pickled what-have-you, I can do it all by myself and the kitchen won't explode.

I will keep my fellow canners updated on the progress of the un-set vanilla lemon marmalade via Twitter.
I currently have legs, fingers, arms, and hair crossed that in two weeks time we will have jars of perfectly solid marmalade to share with the world.
But I'm just not so sure...

8 comments:

  1. Stunning photos and a great post! Where do you get your jars/bottles from for your canning? I just love the silver lids and patterned glass.

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  2. I normally respond via email, but I figure this answer might be helpful to lots of people! The patterned jars we happened to find in an unopened box at a thrift. We don't come across unopened boxes at thrifts too often so we end up buying new jars locally at Fred Meyer (they seem to have a good deal). It's best not to buy used jars at the thrifts or elsewhere-you never know what may have been in those...!

    Both Ball and Kerr (same company) produce 'quilted jelly jars' in 4oz, 8oz, and 12oz sizes. The quilted jar you see in my picture is 12oz. UrbanPolyester, since you're in the other hemisphere, you can purchase them online here: http://www.freshpreservingstore.com/ Good luck with your canning!

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  3. Those lovely pictures make canning look effortless! Everything looks (potentially) delicious! Hope the marmalade ends up setting up perfectly for you!

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  4. Mmm, they really look good. I wouldn't even care if they didn't gel!

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  5. Beautiful

    I have learned some of the internet recipes are just not as good as in an old vintage cook book

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  6. Well done! I attempted my first canning-by-myself project last summer (salsa and corn relish) and was surprised at how well it went. I love those quilted jars, you are so lucky to have found some at a thrift store. They definitely take me back to canning berries and jam when I was a kid.

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  7. Gosh, thanks for all of the comments y'all! Hopefully I'll be doing much more canning as the sun starts coming out and ripening some produce up here in the PNW!

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