It’s not the first time I’ve had to do this. A few days before leaving town at the peak of citrus season and one or two of my trees are still laden with fruit; this year it was limequats and Valencia oranges. Plus there was an assortment of citrus rolling around in the bottom drawer of the fridge — a couple Meyer lemons, several Cara Cara oranges, and one lone grapefruit.
In these moments of too much citrus fruit and too little time, the easiest, most satisfying thing I’ve learned to make is mixed, whole-fruit jam. (There are other options: Put the fruit zest into baggies and squeeze the juice into ice cube trays, freezing everything to use later. Or put it all in a flat-rate box and send it to friends in colder climates. Whatever, just keep moving.)
Where I’m headed is the opposite of citrus season. I’m going to Fairbanks for a month to learn a few things about winter. Even though we’re approaching spring, Fairbanks temps are predicted to be about 28 degrees below zero when I arrive tonight, quickly warming up to a beautiful, sunny week with highs between 5 and 20.
A year or so ago, I made a new blog that was intended to share such Alaska adventures — but one thing led to another and now instead of that blog I have a different, newer new blog for essentially the same purpose, plus other wanderings. If you’d like to visit, you can find me Out West Somewhere.
And if you’ve got a pile of citrus fruit, I hope you’ll have fun with this jam. Please don’t expect precision here — it’s a process. In practice, it’s so easy to do. I wish it didn’t take so many words to explain it! I call it either Citrus Smash Jam (after the cocktail) or Sunshine Jam, depending on whether or not I add liquor.
Citrus Smash Jam
up to six pounds of mixed citrus fruit, cooked and pureed as described below
1 cup sugar for each cup of cooked fruit puree
a splash of vodka or other liquor of choice (I usually use Cointreau) or not, if you’d rather leave it out
1. Cut and prepare the fruit. Slice each piece lengthwise along the stem. Notch out the pith from the centers of the fruit, retaining those pithy centers so you can squeeze juice from them later. Then, using a small bowl with a strainer suspended over it, run your thumbs along the insides of the notched fruit to remove any seeds while collecting the juice in the bowl.
If you’re working with tiny fruit like limequats, you may end up picking out the seeds. Do what you have to do to nip out the pith and seeds from the core of the fruit.
Squeeze the pithy centers over the strainer also. The goal is to collect as much juice as you can at the same time as you are preparing the fruit pieces for cooking. (There’s a photo in my post on Rangpur Lime Jam that illustrates these steps, if you want a visual guide.) Set the bowl of juice aside.
Depending on the kind of fruit you’ve got, you may end with neat halves, ugly chunks, or random pieces. It really doesn’t matter.
2. Cook the fruit. Place the cut fruit pieces in a big, nonreactive pot, and cover with cold water so they float freely. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the skins are soft enough to pierce with a skewer.
There’s more than one way to approach this step. If some of your fruit is thick skinned (think grapefruit or tougher skinned oranges) you may want to separate out those pieces and cook them in a separate pot where they can simmer longer. Or you can do it the lazy way by cooking everything in the same pot then straining the fruit when most of it is ready. (Don’t dump the liquid!) After that, you’ll need to separate out any thick-skinned pieces and return them to the cooking liquid to simmer until all the fruit is of a fairly equal texture. You can see this is not an exact science!
3. Drain the fruit. (Keep the cooking liquid if you want to make it into syrup as a side project, which you can do by adding sugar at a 1:1 ratio and simmering for about ten minutes.)
4. Combine the cooked fruit and the fresh juice from Step 1. Puree in a VitaMix or food processor, but don’t completely liquefy the mixture. Leaving small chunks of rind gives the finished jam a better texture.
5. Transfer the fruit mixture to a large glass or ceramic bowl, measuring it out to see how many cups you have. Stir in one cup of sugar for each cup of puree. Cover the bowl tightly, and let it rest in the fridge overnight. (Honestly, you don’t have to wait if you don’t want to. If you want to keep right on cooking, go directly to the steps for Day Two. I usually break it up so I have time to do other things, like packing.)
1. Sterilize your jars. You’ll have to guess at how many you need. It shouldn’t be more than ten half-pints.
2. Transfer the fruit mixture to your jam pan (I use an 11-quart stainless steel or copper pan) and slowly bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until the mixture reaches a jam-like consistency. You’ll have to stir frequently to prevent sticking, and you may have to reduce the heat as the jam cooks down, so it doesn’t scorch. Mine usually takes 20 minutes or less. Look for the point at which excess liquid has evaporated from the top of the mixture and the bubbles become smaller and more settled. You’ll also probably start to see clear tracks at the bottom of the pan when you stir, and the surface will start to subtly crease. With all this citrus, you definitely won’t have trouble achieving a good set.
3. Remove the jam from the heat. Pour the jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe the rims clean, apply lids, and process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes, adding time for your elevation if necessary.