We have a lot of jam from last year. We have a lot of preserves period – more than 50 of our own flavors and another 75+ plus from trades, swaps and gifts fill more than 500 jars in our kitchen. Not all of it is jam, but there is a lot.
Did I mention that I don’t eat breakfast very often? Bad habit, especially for a jam maker.
At any rate, the Tigress can Jam has started and we’re fully onside. I am so excited to get going on a secret ingredient of the month. More than 120 preservers from around the globe have joined up to make preserves and report back to central command. It’s an idea I love.
The flavor of the month is citrus. Images of marmalade, jam or jelly passed my mind. I love these things and have seen some amazing versions of these appearing in the can jam. Several versions of marmalade featuring port and wine have me salivating. Roasted Lemons? Who knew? Lemon curd? Didn`t know one could preserve it. Blood oranges, Meyer lemons, Seville oranges? And what the heck is Buddha’s Hand?
I just knew I had a lot of jams, including jellies and marmalades. I needed something different – something I wouldn`t feel guilty about NOT putting on toast. I have all sorts of new ideas after seeing everyone else`s fabulous work (Tigress will be linking to them all – you can see many of the updates linked through the twitter tag #tigresscanjam for now).
It was a dire time.
I stumbled into organic lemons at a great price – $2.99 for 2 pounds. I bought 4 bags and headed home. We already had more than a pound of limes from the Holiday season so we were ready. Almost. Still needed an idea of what to do with them.
I`m kind of like that – a little bit all or nothing, a little bit flying without a plan and a little bit crazy – I just believe it will all work in the end.
I dumped the lemons on the counter and stared at them. I waited for them to speak. I thought if I built it, they would come… They showed up but they didn`t give me any hints. I started to laugh at myself.
I took a moment to think about lemons and what I liked about them. The answer was so clear it was nearly blinding. Consider:
- As a child my Mother was famous for making lemonade. Pink lemonade was her rare specialty. It was made entirely frozen from concentrate but every one of my cousins thought she made the best commercial lemonade in the world. I still think it`s true.
- I`m a sucker for over-priced lemonade at any trade show or food fair. I have no defense to protect my wallet when I see a vendor in a juice stand designed to look like a giant lemon. I just can`t avoid it. Seriously.
- Dana took me to a boutique hotel in Toronto for my birthday a few years back (the Drake). The had a maple syrup and Jack Daniels lemonade. I was in bourbon heaven (I know you thought that was in Tennessee).
- Mercury Cafe (one of the best places to get a coffee in Toronto) makes a wicked coffee nearby. I line up in the summer… for the lemonade.
There had to be a way to preserve lemonade. It is essentially citrus and sugar – i.e. strawberry jam without the strawberries.
It turns out the English have a different term for lemonade – lemon squash. I prefer the inversion – squashed lemons. It`s direct, to the point and accurate.
Lemon squash is essentially concentrated lemonade. After opening a sealed jar you mix it with 3 or 4 parts water.
The recipe we used called for 7-10 lemons and 650 grams of sugar to make 4 cups of lemon concentrate. The directions were simple:
- Wash all lemons. Zest 4 of them.
- Bring a pot of water to a full boil. Add lemons to the boiling water and leave for a minute. This loosens them up and will coax the most amount of juice from them (a great tip for all citrus – it was awesome). Keep the lemon infused water for a later step.
- Squeeze 500 ml (2 cups) of lemon juice.
- Place 500 ml of lemon-infused water (NOT lemon juice), the sugar and zest into a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil.
- Add 500 ml (2 cups) of lemon juice into the saucepan and bring just to a boil.
- Strain the mixture through a fine colander or cheesecloth.
- Pour into hot sterilized jars and process with a hot water bath.
This should last up to a year.
We did 4 variations of this – a lemon lime variety, a ginger lemon, honey-sugar lemon and maple syrup-sugar lemon. Changing a recipe isn`t something that should be done lightly – the right balance of acids, sugar, bottle size and cooking time are essential for safety and avoiding a lost batch.
The maple syrup version is done in 125 lm (0.5 cup) portions so we can emulate those Jack Daniels bevys we had years ago. 1 part of lemon squash, 3 water and 1 part Jack Daniels will serve two double-shot beverages on a hot day. We`re ready for a picnic!
I also made some silly mistakes in this quadruple batch. I missed some obvious photo opportunities and forgot to add the lemon juice in my final batch. I had to reopen, reprocess and reseal that batch – essentially made 5 batches to yield 4. We did manage to dehydrate the rinds from all the remaining lemons and limes – a small victory for us and a bonus batch of preserving.
After I was all done I had another idea. I missed an even more obvious opportunity than lemonade. With the help of a pH meter we could have preserved pure lemon juice – to use in the next 11 batches of preserving for the can jam!
This was a lot of fun and it was super thrilling to see the great things so many others made and imagined.