The Hubs and I got married last August, and for our wedding favors, I naively decided to make 120 jars of strawberry and pinot noir jam. This was a dumb idea, clearly fueled by manic midnight readings of Style Me Pretty and Martha Stewart Weddings, not to mention hours of browsing through Pinterest boards and Etsy shops targeting highly suggestible brides. (“Maybe, I do need barber-striped straws, and $50 chair treatments, and tiny potted succulents, and these branches that were collected in the woods outside of Portland that can be spray-painted to fit my color scheme, and oh, what’s that you say, all of this costs thousands of dollars, great, let me cash out my 401K, but wait, I don’t have one, let me see if I have any credit left on my Gap Card.”)
I’d never made jam before, I didn’t know where to get pectin, and I didn’t own one of those shmancy jar lifters at the time. Some of these things turned out not to matter (carefully-handled tongs work fine in lieu of jar lifters) and some of them did (preserving without pectin can be difficult, especially if your recipe calls for a lot of liquid, like ours did.)
A big jamming project will quickly turn you into an expert, for better or worse. In my case, the Hubs was very close to strangling me with baker’s twine and burying me under a pile of Old Navy flip flops. (More favors! For dancing! Cuz Martha sez!) But we eventually overcame the trauma of endless jamming once the compliments rolled in.
And when citrus season came around, and I saw these Ruby Reds, I was ready to tackle jam again. But this time, I would be smart about it and do some research.
Enter Jam On by Laena McCarthy, founder of the Brooklyn-based jam company, Anarchy in a Jar. I found this canning and preserving cookbook at work, and loved the way it broke down the preservation process–not to mention the clever flavor combinations of the recipes.
Laena’s grapefruit and smoked sea salt marmalade was slightly out of my reach (I can’t justify buying Maldon salts), but I swapped the salt for gin, which gave the marmalade a great herbal note. I also purchased the recommended pectin, which substantially cut down the cooking time. Score, score, glug glug.
The pectin Laena recommends is Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which I found for about $3 from Williams-Sonoma. I’d been under the impression that commercial pectin is The Big Bad of Jamming, but I was super pleased with the results, and there was no impact on the flavor. Just mix the recommended pectin powder into the recommended sugar (like so) before adding to the fruit so it distributes evenly and doesn’t clump up before dissolving.
I’m not going to lie. Jamming can be more work than the average cooking project, especially if you’re preserving for your pantry (or tiny shelf in the kitchen, like I am.) But if you make a small batch, as I’ve done here, you’ll be fine–and might even want to try more combinations. (I made a batch of cara cara orange marmalade the same weekend, featured at the top. I’m a monster.)
Grapefruit and Gin Marmalade
Adapted from Jam On by Laena McCarthy
Makes about four 8-oz jars (I used eight 4-oz Ball jars with lids and screw-on rings)
6 medium grapefruits, enough to yield 3 cups of juice (Recommended: Ruby Reds)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 oz gin
1 tablespoon butter (this helps prevent foaming)
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 teaspoons calcium water*
3 1/2 teaspoons pectin
*Pomona’s Universal Pectin comes with two packets. The large packet of tan powder is the pectin. The small packet of white powder is to make calcium water, which helps activate the pectin.
Mix the entire packet of white powder with 1/2 c. of water in a small, clear container with a lid. You can store whatever calcium water you don’t use in the fridge for a few months. (Discard if settled white powder discolors, or you see mold.)
Place a few metal spoons on a plate and stick in the freezer. You’ll use these to test the gel of the jam later.
Wash the jars, lids, and rings. Place the jars into a big stock pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Heat a small pot of water but turn off the heat just before it boils. Add the lids to the small pot. (You don’t need to add the rings.) Let everything sit while you prepare the jam.
Zest 2 of the grapefruits and reserve. Cut the grapefruits in half (crosswise, not lengthwise) and juice with a juicer, reamer, or fork. I like to juice into a small mesh strainer set over a measuring cup.
Juice the lemon.
Stir the sugar and pectin together in a separate bowl with a fork and set aside.
Add the zest, juices, gin, calcium water, and butter to a nonreactive pot. A 4-qt ( medium-sized) pot holds everything nicely. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. The butter should prevent foaming, but if any foam forms, you can skim off with a spoon and discard. You can also reduce heat if it starts to foam over.
Once boiling, slowly add sugar-pectin mix to the jam, stirring as you go. Keep stirring for about a minute to ensure pectin dissolves.
Return to a boil, then remove from heat. The jam will have thickened a bit, but it will still be liquidy. The jam will set as it cools. Place a teaspoon of hot jam onto one of the frozen spoons and let it sit for a minute. It should thicken to the desired consistency. If not, bring jam to a boil again for a minute or two, then retest the gel.
Remove the jars from the stock pot with tongs and place on a wooden surface, like a large cutting board. (Sometimes the hot jars will crack if they come into contact with different surfaces.)
Bring that same stock pot of water to a boil again.
Spoon jam into jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel, and use tongs to place lids on top. Screw the rings on until just-tight. (Don’t over-tighten or they won’t seal properly.) Once the stock pot is boiling, carefully lower jars into the water bath with tongs. Make sure they’re upright.
Cover stock pot with tight lid, and process jars for six minutes. Remove jars to the same wooden surface with tongs. You’ll hear a satisfying “pop” as the jars seal, which happens fairly quickly.
Let jam cool at least 4-6 hours, but preferably overnight. If you push on a lid and it pops up and down, then put it in the fridge and eat within a few days. If the lid is firm, you can store for 6-12 months.
Opened jam will last for a couple of months in the fridge. Like most foods, if it gets moldy, that’s when you know to throw it out!