DIY Lemon & Pink Grapefruit Marmalade

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Despite a year of experience blindly making things I've found on Pinterest, nothing could have prepared me for this marmalade. Now that I know a thing or two, I can see that I the recipe I chose was too large and complicated for a first attempt, but it was a good initiation.

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In addition to this being my first experience making marmalade, it was also my first experience in canning/preserving. Learning this skill has been on my to-do list for at least 4 years! I'm not sure why, but I've always been afraid, despite having read dozens of books about it that say how simple it is... And it is! But, along with making marmalade, it's also time consuming... Very, very time consuming.

The great thing about learning to preserve is having a way to use up all of the produce that's in season - in this case, citrus. I don't even have a tree (though I really, really want one - hint, hint) and still find myself inundated with lemons and grapefruits thanks to folks who kindly share their abundance. Plus, I can't resist it at the farmer's market.

The first step is finding a suitable recipe, and since I didn't really know what I was doing, I naturally just went by what I found to be the most attractive pin. Interestingly, this pin led to a recipe from the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, a book I've admired for a really long time authored by Rachel Saunders, the person behind Blue Chair Fruit Company, "the premier artisanal jam and marmalade company in the United States" located in Oakland, CA. Perfect!

The next step is acquiring the fruit. I found a great farmstand at the Central Farmer's Market.

The recipe calls for 2 pounds, plus 2-3 extra lemons, along with 3 3/4 pounds grapefruit. This turns out to be about 12-15 lemons and about 6 large grapefruit (depending on the size). I suggest getting extras, just in case you mess up - like I did.

Alright, let's get down to business. If you are going to attempt this recipe, please read through it a few times beforehand. I failed to do this, until I'd already purchased all of the ingredients... Good thing, or I probably would have been too intimidated as it turns out to be a three day process!

I will include tips from my experience here, but the full instructions are at Project Foodie.

The most important thing here is to plan to have tons of time on the 3rd day, which is when you'll actually make and can the final marmalade product. Don't be silly and make an important appointment that evening thinking, "I have three hours, that will be enough."

Day one: This part is simple enough. Cut the lemons into eighths and let them soak overnight.

Day two: The sliced lemons boil for 2 to 3 hours, until the mixture is syrupy and the peels are really soft. After cooking them for a couple of hours, I let my guard down and sat down for breakfast and burned the mixture. Make sure you keep an eye on it and keep enough water in the pan for the fruit to "remain submerged as it cooks." I decided to start over, which put me behind by a day. ARG.

On the second day the lemons and the grapefruit are prepared, which involves blanching, juicing and more cooking for prolonged amounts of time:

Lemons are seeded, chopped, blanched and boiled.

Grapefruits are sliced, then juiced.

Juiced grapefruit skins are cooked at a lively simmer for 1 to 2 hours and left to cool overnight.

On the final day, the different mixtures and boiled fruits are combined with 5 pounds of sugar to create the marmalade.

First, grapefruit skins are scooped of their flesh.

Then chopped. At this point I made a rookie mistake that I'm embarrassed to admit... I tasted the skins. They were so bitter I was sure they were going to ruin the recipe, so I left some out. BIG MISTAKE. In the cover photo you can see that some of the marmalade jars only have a few skins in them. It turns out the skins are really good, and are what makes the marmalade, marmalade. Duh.

The recipe says to use "an 11- or 12-quart copper preserving pan or a wide nonreactive kettle," which I don't have. I have only an 8 quart double boiler, so I used that. The mixture is supposed to boil for a minimum of 30 minutes, until it's thickened to a jelly consistency. Mine took 3 hours. I was ready to give up so many times, but didn't want to waste the food and the time I'd already spent. For a second I was ready to have a giant batch of lemon and pink grapefruit simple syrup, but I was persistent and it worked out!

The above photo shows the mixture at about an hour into the boiling. In the end, about half of the water evaporated. I think the appropriate cooking vessel is important. Too bad Christmas is so far away.

Meanwhile, one must boil a gigantic canning pot with 12, 8 oz mason jars to sterilize them, and time it accordingly so that the jars are warm when you pour the hot marmalade into them. This is a skill unto itself that only lots of experience can cultivate. The whole thing is exhausting. So, the next time you're at the farmer's market or some other shop that's selling small jars of marmalade for $14, you'll have a better understanding of what's involved. Fork the money over, or spend four days making it yourself. It also puts all those pretty marmalade photos on Pinterest into perspective.

I'm gonna try it again... and again and again.

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