Sunday was the second time my house has been converged upon by friends with the intent of learning how to jam. Jam may not be a proper verb technically, but I have to say, we jammed the heck out of Sunday.
It would be impossible to express here just how much fun working with this group of people is. I am an intensely introverted person. I prefer solitude to crowds and generally handle one or two people at a time rather than ten. At its fullest, my very tiny home had fifteen people in it, seven of those people crowded about my stove. And I was okay with that. Not just okay with it, I was utterly pleased and gratified by these amazing people in my life. Seriously, everyone there enriched everything about it, and I am so incredibly lucky to have such fantastic friends.
We didn’t take pictures at the first session and I regretted it. My only regret this time around is that we didn’t get (good) pictures of everyone or one of the group. Next time we will.
Originally, this Jam Session was meant to focus on learning how to make quick marmalade. Quick marmalade removes the bitter pith from the citrus fruit and often needs to have commercial pectin added to achieve a set. Opposed to traditional marmalades, which can take as much as three days of soaking time (and always overnight), quick marmalades tend to produce a different textured and flavoured product. I have come to really love my traditional marmalades over the quick versions, but the necessity of having to be done in a few hours but wanting everyone to be part of all aspects of the preserve made a quick marmalade the right choice.
Of course, I say quick marmalade, but that just means ‘quicker’. The process of zesting, slicing up the zest, and supreming the citrus can take one person an afternoon for a large batch. Fortunately, with many hands at the task, we made short work of those lemons.
We ended up not really making a straight marmalade, depending on your definition. After some discussion, the fruits that everyone agreed would taste awesome and wanted to work with were pears, cranberries and lemons. The resulting preserve is more like a compote than a true marmalade. Something between a marm and a rustic jam. It’s chunky, toothsome, tart, sweet and very slightly bitter.
It’s sweet enough to stand with the other jellies on a shelf, but with enough depth and body for more varied uses. It would work well brushed on to meat or stirred in to hot cereal. It was fantastic on champange cheddar off the cheese board, and all I keep thinking about is making baked brie with it. Mostly though, we attacked the jamming pan with spoons after we filled our jars, and during cooking I kept hearing calls of “so can we taste it again yet? Doesn’t it need to be tasted again? Cause, you know, we can do that. Tasting it that is.”
The recipe below makes about 10 half pint jars, but could easily be halved for a smaller batch. This recipe uses the natural pectin in the cranberries, pears and lemon pith/seeds to achieve a set. If you don’t like the bitterness of marmalade at all (the bitterness here is nice and pretty mild), you could leave out using the pith and seeds in a bundle and substitute a couple tablespoons of commercial pectin, added in with the bulk of the sugar. But I think the slight bitterness here is an important part of the flavor balance. We used the sorrento lemons I had for this, but meyer or regular eureka lemons would work too.
Pear, Cranberry, Lemon Compote
makes 10 half pints
7-8 lemons (to yield a little over 1 cup of zest and 2 cups of fruit/juice)
5 pears (8 cups chopped fruit)
2 cups cranberries
2 cups water
10 cups sugar
1. Prepare a boiling water bath canner, jars, lids and rings.
2. Peel off the lemon zest and cut it in to fine ribbons. This should result in just over 1 cup of zest. Combine the water and lemon zest in a small pot and simmer gently until softened but not mushy, about 15 minutes.
3. While the zest is simmering, supreme the citrus (Coconut and Lime has a good photo tutorial on this), removing the outer pith and cutting the sections of flesh away from the membranes. The sectioned fruit and juice should make about 2 cups of lemon. Reserve the pith, membranes and seeds, tying them up in a cheesecloth. Core and chop the pears (we didn’t peel them, you could if you prefer). Keep the chunks larger if you want a chunkier preserve, or smaller if you want them to break down more during the cooking time. The chopped pears should make about 8 cups of fruit.
4. Combine the supremed lemons and pears, stirring in 2 cups of the sugar. Let it sit for a few minutes to get the juices going.
5. Transfer the lemon zest and water, pith/seed bundle, and the lemon/pear mixture to a large, wide pot or deep pan. Add in the cranberries and the rest of the sugar. Stir over medium heat while the sugar dissolves.
6. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries start to burst and the pears soften. Once most of the cranberries burst (about 10-15 minutes) remove the pectin bundle and squeeze out (I use tongs and a seperate bowl to reduce the risk of burning myself), returning any liquid to the pan. As this point you can partially mash your fruit, use an immersion blender, or leave it whole, depending on how chunky you like it. We partially mashed it for a rustic but not too chunky preserve.
7. Turn the heat up a bit and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. If the preserve foams, either skim off or add a teaspoon of butter to break down the foam. Cook until it sets, about 35-45 minutes (though it could be more if you are using a deeper pan). If you are using a candy thermometer, this will be around the 220F mark. You can also check the set by having a plate in the freezer. Put a dollop of the jam on the cold plate and wait a moment before tilting the plate to the side. If it is thick and wrinkles when you push it with your finger, its ready. If it still seems runny, keep cooking for another few minutes before checking again.
8. When the set is good, remove from heat. Fill clean, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe the rims and apply lids and rings. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes, starting the timer when the water returns to a boil. At the 10 minute mark, remove from heat and uncover the canner. Leave the jars in the water for another five minutes or so to prevent the jam from bubbling out before removing from the hot water. Allow to cool and check the seals. Sealed jars can be labeled and will easily keep for a year in the pantry. Unsealed jars should be refrigerated immediately and eaten in a few weeks.
Linked at Small Foot Print Fridays