My grandmother made wonderful preserves. One of my fondest memories is walking with her picking wild blackberries growing along side her road. She would make the best jellies, preserves, and cobblers from those. My cooking adventure started with learning how to make preserves and jams.
My favorite preserve to make right now is a Squash Marmalade made from Butternut Squash and oranges. It is a bright, sweet, smooth marmalade that goes well with any type of bread (particularly well on English Muffins), as well as roasted chicken or pork. The squash really mellows out the zest of the orange, for those who think that marmalades are too strong.
There are a few things that you will need to make any type of preserve: A large, heavy pot, at least 5 quarts. a medium size pot to boil the lids in while the preserves are cooking, a good thermometer that will read at least 225 degrees F, a long handled spoon for stirring, and clean, intact jars.
Here is the recipe:
10 cups cubed butternut squash (Acorn will do nicely, just more of a hassle to peal. If you hat peeling hard squashes, delicato squashes are great! Just remember to remove the seeds, before you start cutting these up.
6 large oranges – I use Cara Cara or Moro when available. Navel will do as well.
1/2 cup water
Pectin – 2 packets will work well with this much.
10 cups sugar.
1 vanilla pod, split in half and the beans removed. Reserve both parts.
Cut the oranges into halves, or quarters. Very thinly, slice each section. Place the sections into a sauce pan and add the water. Simmer until the slices are tender10 minutes, or so. Pour into a strainer. Save the water, and the slices.
In a large bowl, combine the pectin and the sugar with a whisk.
Place the squash into a large heavy dutch oven. Add the water from the oranges. Cook this until the squash is soft. Once soft, puree half of the mixture in a heavy duty blender. Mash the other half with a potato masher. Add the puree back into the pot
Stir in the sugar/pectin mixture and cook on low. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Once dissolved, add the vanilla pod and the orange slices. Increase heat to high and bring to a hard boil. Cook until the thermometer reads 225. At this point, the mixture should be fairly thick.
Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the vanilla beans, and ladle into sterilized jars. Wipe the rims of the jars to clean any preserves that ended up there. Cover with lids and secure.
Process in a water bath for 15 minutes.
Allow jars to “age” for 2 weeks in a cool, dark place.
Notes on processes:
I sterilize my jars in the dishwasher on the strongest setting. I also vigorously boil the lids in a pot while everything is cooking. It is imperative that your jars be as clean as possible. Botulism is not fun.
This is a further step in killing any organism that may try to grow in your preserves. This is simply taking the finished preserves and placing them in a large pot, covering them in water and bringing this to a rolling boil. This does 2 things: It drives out more air from the jar, creating a stronger vacuum. Additionally, the steam created within the jar will further sterilize the preserves.
For more information, Food 52 has a wonderful section on preserving. Check it out!