View Full Version : Need Canning Help

05-16-2004, 09:51 AM
I'm attempting canning for the first time and have a question. I'm making Orange-Lemon Marmalade from the Ball Blue Book. The recipe says to "cook rapidly almost to gelling point". The background instructions tell me how to perform a "plate test" to determine when the marmalade has hit the gelling point. How on earth do I know when it is almost to gelling point? As of now, I guess I'm just planning on getting it to the gelling point and hoping it's still good, because I have no idea how to judge if it's almost to gelling point.

Also, are there any other good tips or things I should know before I begin this? It should be an interesting experiment in the least. :)

05-16-2004, 12:26 PM
Good luck on your canning adventure!! I can't wait until the farmer's markets open here and I can do some canning of my own. I am no way an expert, but have made marmalade. I think what the recipe means is that you don't want it completely gelled up in the pan. It will gel up nicely as it sets and cools. So get it somewhat gelled, but still sort of runny and then it will finish gelling in the jars.

Does that make any sense?

05-16-2004, 12:42 PM
As Missi pointed out, the marmalade will thicken up somewhat as it cools. Your best bet is to cook it until it's a bit runnier than you want the finished product to be, then can it.

05-16-2004, 01:05 PM
Thank you both very much! So, I guess I will still have to do a bit of guessing on when to can it, but at least I'll know that it will firm up more after canning.

05-16-2004, 05:17 PM
Well, I'm finished finally...but I must have gone horribly wrong somewhere along the line. The yield was supposed to be 6 half-pint jars and I've ended up with a total of 12 half-pint jars and 1 12 ounce jar. I even threw out a little bit more that wouldn't have completely filled a jar. I have no idea how I could've possibly doubled the recipe. I tried to be very careful about measuring orange peel, orange pulp, and sliced lemons properly. My first clue that there was a problem was when I realized that I would need 13 cups :eek: of sugar to equal the 13 cups of fruit I had. Then, it took me positively forever to get the mixture to thicken at all. The Blue Book gave no times, not even approximate ones, so I had no idea how long this was supposed to take, but I know I was boiling and stirring for at least an hour, probably more like an hour and a half. It finally seemed like it was "almost" to gel point when I canned it, but then again, I have no idea what gel point or "almost" gel point is anyway.

I guess the only thing to do is wait for a taste test. How long should I wait before I open the first jar? I'm thinking at least 2 weeks since I read somewhere that it can take as long as two weeks to gel up. Should I give it more time than that?

Does anyone know what could've gone wrong?

Lastly, I suppose I probably need more thorough directions if I'm going to teach myself to can, which the Blue Book doesn't provide. Know of any good books on canning to recommend?

05-16-2004, 09:07 PM
From what I remember, most marmalade recipes will say so many oranges, so many lemons and everything else keys off what you wind up with -- I think you were using large fruits! That does sound like a lot to be cooking at once. That would cause it to have to cook longer. I can process about 9 jars at once, and I have only had a couple more than that a couple of times. Most recipes will produce 5-7 jars. I wouldn't be concerned about the yeild, but it will give you an idea that the recipe is assuming a smaller sized fruit.

What I usually do with any left in the pan is put it in a small bowl or custard cup, cover it with plastic wrap and use it first -- tat gives a good tester. Occassionally you get a jar that doesn't seal well or a half jar, but when you don't you can use most jellies and jams right away. Marmalades will sometimes continue to thicken with the pectin in the fruit for a day or two after canning, but keeping that in mind, I think you can try a jar anytime you're ready. Chances are that you'll be very pleased that it made more. ;)

If you do a search, several books have been recommended here. Mine are not near the computer, but I think Preserving Today, Fancy Pantry, Gourmet Preserves and Small Batch Preserving are the ones I use most. I think Keeping the Harvest is another one that a lot of people use -- probably one or two others. If you can, check them out in a bookstore or library and see which ones have mostly recipes and which ones give more instruction. Get at least one with more instruction -- or come here with more questions.

If you can't check the books out at a sotre or library, let us know -- I'll pull mine out and see what's inside each one.

05-17-2004, 06:04 AM
Beth, thanks for the info and book recommendations. The recipe I followed did say to use approx 4 oranges and 4 lemons. I used more like 8 oranges and 4 very large lemons. I guess that right there is the problem. In my defense, however, the book also states that the approx numbers of fruit (given in parentheses) is a rough guide and that the actual cups of fruit should be the ruling guideline. Well, I guess I need to relearn how to properly measure fruit. I wish I had thought to save the last bit in a bowl. I was so frazzled by the end of this process that I wasn't clearly thinking about anything except for what a mess my kitchen was and why o why did I think this was such a good idea in the first place. :rolleyes: Anyway, I did taste a little on a plate when I was attempting to do the "plate test to determine gelling point"....it tasted darn good, so maybe all is well! :D

I'll be sure to check my library for the books you recommended.

Oh, one more question...so approximately how long would a normal batch of 6 half-pints jars take to get to a gelling point? I'm wondering for future reference. Is it common for it to take an hour, or is this much longer than usually needed?


05-17-2004, 08:48 AM
Originally posted by 123Alice
Oh, one more question...so approximately how long would a normal batch of 6 half-pints jars take to get to a gelling point? I'm wondering for future reference. Is it common for it to take an hour, or is this much longer than usually needed?

Alice It depends very much on the fruit, and how much sugar and pectin you use. Riper fruit will take longer to gel, and if you don't use pectin in your recipe, it can often take over an hour of cooking to get the preserves to gel up. You'll find that every batch ends up a bit different, but to me there's a wide range of what's acceptable thickness (and if it's runny, it'll make a great ice cream sauce! :D )

05-17-2004, 10:11 AM
It will vary with the type of product you are making, the variety of fruit, how ripe the fruit is, the size and shape of your pot, the recipe and whether it uses added pectin and which kind -- which impacts when it is added, so many things. I have cooked things as short as a few minutes (pepper jelly which relies on added liquid pectin and one minute of a rolling boil after it is added) to a an hour and a half to two hours (for carmelizing onion marmalade). I would say that most berry jams are in the half hour range, but that could be give or take 15 minutes. It's a lot like asking how long it takes to make bread. Thirty minutes to 3 days, not counting getting a started going. Don't get us started on that. :D

05-17-2004, 12:01 PM
Well, I guess that's why the Ball Blue Book never gives any mention, whatsoever, of approximate times. And actually, I'm kind of glad it didn't, because if I thought that I should have been done after a half hour (for example), then I'm not sure I would have continued boiling for 1 & 1/2 hours, even though this was necessary in my case.