Thursday, April 23, 2009

The moral of the story is: marmalade is very cheap. In the future, buy it at the store.

So I went to the Superstition Ranch Market in Apache Junction and bought strawberries to make jam. Only, I got a little excited by the cheapness of the berries (3 pounds for buck!) and bought 25 pounds. Then I called Melanie, who told me I only need 2 pounds for a batch. Errrr....

Yeah, exactly. I started to sweat. So I stopped at the nearby Wal-Mart to get more jars and pectin, where I saw lots more people without teeth than I normally see in the general population. Then I came home and started to work.

Guess what! Canning fruit is way more fun than canning meat! There is no fleshy, bloody mess, and the cooking fruit smells hot-sugary-good like IHOP. (I know you always come here for my practical advice and insights. So there you go. Now you know.) 

And my jam was good! And so easy! And I made strawberry syrup, too. And it was good, and even easier!

So after that, I got terribly cocky. And smug. It was really unattractive. I began to think I had Martha-like-super-hero-jam-skillz. So it was in this self-righteous state of mind that I thought, I should make marmalade. 

Because I have this whole tree full of lemons. And because I found this website in England where people talk about making their marmalade, and putting it in their bread and butter puds (short for pudding, I think), and on their blueberry scones with their clotted cream, and I started to get hungry. 

Oh! And I can't forget to mention that these people are serious about their marmalade. They do not, under any circumstances, use pectin from their Sainsburys or Marks & Spencers. They wrap their pips (seeds, I think) and pith in cheesecloth and simmer it with their tiny pieces of hand cut rind for 2 hours, then squeeze the gooey mess out of the cheesecloth and into the pot to make sure there are no artificial flavors in their hoity-toity, life-changing marmalade. 

One of them even said she is the Queen's Official Marmalader. (No, I'm lying. I'm sure the Marmalader is a hereditary position, and that person would never share tips and recipes on the internets. Duh.)

Anyhow, I was totally buying the aristocratic, Euro-style jam they were selling. Course, they would never actually sell it. For money. Isn't classy. (Like the word classy isn't classy. Is fun irony, no?) 

So, everything went fairly well through the simmering, but then when I squeezed in my pithy sludge and added sugar, things went horribly wrong. They said to turn the heat up extra high for 15 minutes. But they didn't say that bits of flying lemon sugar would leap angrily from the pot like fiery projectiles of volcanic ash, burning my hands and arms, and parts of my forehead. I ran out to the garage to get safety goggles. 

And to check the recipe and comments again. Cause nobody mentioned that she got marmalade in her bangs (fringe, she might call it) when she cooked up her Seville oranges and Meyer lemons on her antique wood-burning stove in her little cottage on the sea in Cornwall, or that he got second degree burns on his knees from wearing a kilt while attempting to stir grapefruit conserves in his castle in the Scottish highlands.  

When I got back, it was burned. Lemon toffee. I canned it anyhow. 

So that when I look at it, I will remember when I tried to be a fancy Jammer, ran before I could walk, and crashed and burned (am literally burned. Is a hard lesson).

Please, people. If you can learn anything from my failure, learn this:

Just go to the Dog Track Wal-Mart* and buy some pectin. Don't get uppity. Smile wide and friendly at the people with no teeth. They know what you didn't: that pectin in boxes is a miracle of the modern world, like contact lenses and TIVO. 

I wonder if Amish people use Sure Gell?

* The Wal-Mart in Apache Junction shares its parking lot with the dog track. No, I'm not kidding.

Have you even made jam? Did it work?
What is your biggest kitchen failure?
Please share.


Hailey said...

I made homemade grape juice once. I didn't get very much, but it was good.

Also, I will need to sample some of your jam when you bring it to Utah next week!

Beeswax said...

I WILL bring you some to Utah, since you asked!

Anonymous said...

I agree completely! Canning in general is a wonderful life skill which would cause our grandmothers would turn over in their graves if we couldn't do it, but let me tell you, you can really take your life in your hands when canning takes over a kitchen!

At the risk of leaving a novel-sized comment, I'm going to blog about my jam making experience instead (although I'm sure the telling of said story will not be as entertaining to read as your story is!). I have never made jam ever again since that episode!

corrie said...

I spent all day making and canning applesauce once. It was SOOOO not fun and it is SOOOO worth it to just get it at the store. For me. That was 10 years ago. Severely damaged my canning desires. Will not.
But I love when my friend shares her home canned jam with me.
So now I spend my personal canning time make fast friends with those who do it.

Jenni said...

You're so domestic, really! Way to go on the hoards of jam. I LOVE making strawverry-blackberrt freezer jam every summer. I make enough to last the whole year...we're actually in desperate need of it right now! And I tasted Hailey's homemade grape juice that year---it was awesome!

The Fear Fam said...

I have nothing profound to say, since I have been too wussy to attempt canning, but I wanted to tell you that your blog is one of the very few that actually makes me laugh out loud. So thanks! :)

Sinclair said...

I just found you, and this is the first post I have read. I am hooked, and you made me laugh out loud!! I am familiar with AJ cuz my MIL snowbirds there.

This year will comprise my first canning endeavors. I will heed your hard won wisdom.

Claire said...

The english are so up themselves with their marmalade. I think we scots are more likely to buy the supermarket own, budget brand marmalade. Cos it's cheap. As are we Scots. Plus, we wouldn't take the time to make our own marmalade.. it would cut in to our drinking time, and interrupt us from watching daytime chat shows and eating high fat and high calorie foods.

Though I would class eating marmalade as eating one of my five a day.

Jadyn said...

You're hilarious Sister Beeson, and it's funny reading your post, because my mom and I (mostly my mom, but I'm working on it) always make strawberry and raspberry jam and it usually goes pretty darn smooth. A bit messy, though.

Lizzie said...

I just bought strawberries at the same place. But I only bought 3. and they are going bad because I decided not to make them into jam. But I already did that a couple weeks ago and it is yummy!

Shanana said...

I tried to make plum jam one time and it turned out like plum syrup. It was later I heard that plums, for some reason, don't gel up with pectin. Maybe I should have made some hoity toity lemon seed goop and suffered the burns.

You should see if you can make lemon curd (with pectin or whatever), since that doesn't sound as uppity, but is delectable on crepes or scones. It tastes like lemon meringue pie filling. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

Hilarious post, BTW!!!

Molly said...

I am dying laughing because of your stories about Wal Mart. Those are the best kind of Wal Marts out there! I know what you mean about the smell of IHOP, and I really want to try some of that strawberry syrup!

Banteringblonde said...

Ok I have to admit... i've never canned anything before but every time i see raspberries I think about it - perhaps I'll give it a go!

Melanie J said...

Butter pud sounds kinda dirty.

Yes, I AM emotionally nine years old. How did you guess?

Brett and Shireen said...

Kelly - remember the grape jelly/juice incident when we were children? The time that Julia O. cracked her head open and had to be taken for stitches?

I have been canning stuff lately, did fire roasted green chilies. I've never worked harder for 22 half pints of goodness in my life. Worked so hard that I don't want to even eat them, I just want to look at them. I burned off my fingers with those things straight off the grill. That's my cooking failure. I guess it wasn't a failure since they are delicious, but I was injured in the process. And did I mention it took me a whole day? Yeah, I'm going to be buying them at costco from now on.

val of the south said...

Next time, if there is a next time - try strawberry lime jam - it's fabulous!
I use this recipe from bitter betty

though I think it works better as a fridge or freezer jam - my canned ones turned a funky color - but that could have been my amazing canning skills!

Kellie said...

I have made jam and syrup (the syrup was supposed to be jam, it didn't work out so well). But my biggest kitchen failure is probably the fact that I have ruined two toaster ovens and a regular pop-up toaster in my lifetime. All with freezer waffles and leftover pancakes. Oh, and a bag of marshmallows.

Lynn said...

Some time when you get berries, try freezer jam. You don't have to cook it, it tastes wonderfully like fresh berries, and the recipe is usually inside the pectin box. Yumm!

Diamond in the Rough said...

Just found your blog. Your blog makes me laugh :)! I like making freezer jam the best. Apricot freezer jam is super yummy and we like raspberry peach too. I cann peaches, pears, applesauce and spaghetti sauce every year. I'll have to post the spaghetti sauce recipe on my blog.. a little time consuming but sooo yummy. Applesauce has been made easy for me cuz I bought a contraption that lets you put cooked apples (skins, seeds and all) through it and the gunk comes out one end and the applesauce out of the strainer. Add sugar and a little lemon juice and you've got amazing tasting applesauce :). I'd love a good syrup recipe.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I'm one of Jane's friends voting for you TODAY!!! I had to laugh, I did the same thing at the Ranch. After 3 batches of freezer jam I ran out of space. So I sliced and froze the rest. At the Ranch I bought about 30 lbs of apples -cost me $3 - for applesauce - yielded only 4 qts. Won't let me husband eat any of it because of his "you spent all day and that's all you made" remark!!! I'm glad there's someone else out there like me :).

The Prudent Homemaker said...

If you want something even harder, try making pomegranate jelly.

We gleaned pomegranates and after 10 1/2 hours of getting the seeds out, we had 2 cups of juice.

I made jelly with it and it is a beautiful, bright red/deep pink.

Pectin can be made from scratch, but I haven't tried it.

I've got a link to that (and canning citrus) here:

Corrie says that canning applesauce was hard. I think applesauce is one of the easiest things I've canned. It was hard when I first started out. Once I got a strainer, it became very, very easy. In fact, it was so easy that when apples went on sale for 49 cents a pound I tried again! You can see my appleasauce and how much I've canned this year here:

Canned food in our food storage has been a real blessing to us. When it's 115 outside, and you want cold fruit, and you're living on your food storage, canned fruit hits the spot.

brchbell said...

Oh my I've made marmalade for more than 30 years and never had a problem. As a new bride I was given a case of oranges and wanted to made jam out of them. Local extension service said it couldn't be done and my Mom said it could and sent me a guide from the Dept. of Agriculture on "How to make jellies, jams and preserves at home". Been using it ever since! Yes the Amish do use pectin when needed and even sell it in their shops. But of course it's not needed for marmalade! Your marmalade will be runny to start with but once it's fully cooled down it will thicken up. Will post my recipe and directions if you want it! Sure wish I had a lemon tree in my yard! I'm sitting on the MO/IA border so no citrus here unless you want to buy it!