In her beautiful book Ma Cuisine en Provence (My Kitchen in Provence), Patricia Wells says, roughly translated, it’s impossible to keep a country kitchen without a pantry of homemade basics such as stocks, preserves, and spices.
In my previous posts, you can find many of these basics that add nutrition, interest, and flavor to everyday meal prep. Please go here, where you can search by date for recipes for each month and season.
We’ll begin this year with more pantry essentials, going month by month. A little spiral-bound notebook helps keep track of your projects and the recipes you use year after year. I keep two basic “pantries”, one in a cupboard for canned or dry preparations and one in the freezer for perishables.
For a first project, let’s start with some citrus marmalades, taking advantage of all the beautiful fruits coming into markets or, if you live in a warm climate, maybe even on the trees in your own backyard. Trips to local upscale organic markets can get you some exciting finds.
• 6 pounds ruby or pink grapefruit, preferably organic (11-12 fruits)
• 9 cups cane sugar, divided use
• 4 cups water
1. First, the zest: With a potato peeler, peel the grapefruits so you have just the very outer colored skin. Set the fruits aside in a big bowl.
2. Now cut the zest into thin strips, less than ¼ inch wide. If you have excellent knife skills, you can use a knife. I choose to sit and use scissors to snip the strips. You should have about 4 cups of zest strips.
3. Next, cut the grapefruits in half and cut the sections as you do to eat them, spoon the sections into another large bowl and then squeeze the hull mightily to extract as much juice as you can. Repeat with all the grapefruits. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. Put all the seeds into a little muslin or cheesecloth packet and reserve all the hulls and seeds. A lot of the natural pectin is in the seeds and the white pith.
4. In a medium-sized pot, mix 4 cups of the sugar with 4 cups of water. Add the zest strips and the packet of seeds. Bring to a low boil and simmer until the zest is tender. Now put the hulls into the pot, as many as will fit and bring back to a simmer for 5 minutes. Off the heat, cover, and let this rest overnight.
1. Set up your water bath canner. Have clean jars and new lids at the ready.
2. Pour the bowl of grapefruit flesh and juice into your jam pot. Strain the syrup from the pot of zest and hulls. Remove the seed packet and hulls, squeezing to press out as much juice as possible. There will only be about a cup of syrup left. Add this with all the zest strips to the jam pot.
3. Add the remaining 5 cups of sugar. Turn on the burner and stir the grapefruit until the sugar is dissolved. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade reaches 220 degrees, the gelling point.
4. Meanwhile, as the water bath comes to a boil, dip all your jars, lids, funnel and ladle to sterilize them. Lay them all out ready to fill.
5. Ladle the marmalade into your jars, filling up to ¼ inch. Apply the two-piece lids and seal. Process in boiling water for 7 minutes, remove to a towel. When the jars are cool and all have “pinged” to indicate a good seal, label and store in a cool, dark place. Be sure your labels are dated.
Next up: orange marmalades! Also, consider some glaceed citrus peels for Holiday baking.
Wendy Akin is happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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