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Lemon Marmalade and Why U.S. Bank Sucks

by: Jill Richardson

Fri Jan 25, 2013 at 13:58:28 PM PST

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It's a rainy day today. A perfect day to stay inside and preserve a fraction of the huge bounty of lemons the tree near my apartment produced. I looked up many recipes for lemon marmalade before getting started and then decided to break the cardinal rule of canning: I am not using a recipe.

Why? Well, my canning cookbook has a lemon/orange marmalade recipe that works just fine. But when I looked up many, many recipes on the web, I found that they were often extremely elaborate. And I'm extremely lazy. So I'm gonna do this the easy way.

Typically, with canning, you follow the recipe because you worry about botulism or about your jar exploding in the canner. I've never had a jar explode, and for any high-acid food, you prevent botulism with a low pH and lots of sugar. Lemons are pure acid, so we won't have a problem here. What I did find useful online were the suggested variations: lavender lemon marmalade, rosemary lemon marmalade, lemon ginger marmalade, strawberry lemon marmalade. Yum yum yum and yum. I'm going with lemon ginger.

Jill Richardson :: Lemon Marmalade and Why U.S. Bank Sucks
I've got a bunch of advice that fits under the category of "Do as I say, not as I do." For example, don't have any cuts on your hands when you get started, and DON'T cut yourself with your knife while slicing lemons. If you do, try soaking your cut finger in yarrow tea or, if it's bleeding, apply a compress with yarrow. I added some sage too and it really healed up my finger nicely.

Assload of lemons
Approximately equal assload of sugar
Shit ton of ginger (a shit ton is a lot less than an assload, but it's way more than you think you'll need)

I used 5 lbs of lemons, about 3.5 lbs of sugar, and about 8 inches of ginger. And it still wasn't very gingery. The recipe yields about 1 pint of marmalade per pound of lemons.

This recipe takes 2 days.

Day 1, Step 1. Slice the lemons. Using a sharp serrated knife, finely slice the lemons - not your fingers. Remove seeds as you go, and cut each slice into 4 quarters.

Note: Many recipes call for Meyer lemons as they have thin peels. The white parts of citrus fruits are very bitter. In theory, when you aren't using Meyers, you should remove and discard the white pith on your lemons. But I don't do that and my marmalade tastes fine. You can if you like doing extra work. It involves first peeling off and slicing up the yellow outside of the peel, then cutting off and removing the pith, and then slicing up and removing the seeds from the flesh.

5 lbs of lemons, finely sliced with seeds removed.

Day 1, Step 2. Place all sliced lemons (including the peels) in a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes.

Lemons plus water in saucepan. If your lemons fill your saucepan this close to the top, consider splitting them into two pans.

Day 1, Step 3. Remove from the heat and store in a cool place overnight.

(I apparently don't know how to read... these are the instructions given for all of the different varieties of marmalade in my Ball's Blue Book of Preserving, which I'm using as a rough guide for how to go about this without a recipe. But for all the time I've been making marmalade, I've just done the slicing and chopping, then put the lemons in a bowl of water in the fridge and left them there overnight. I missed the bit about simmering for 5 minutes. And it hasn't ruined the marmalade yet - although maybe it would turn out better if I actually followed the instructions.)

Day 2
Step 1. Place sliced lemons and water into a large saucepan. Add sugar. Bring to a boil. Stick around and watch it as it heats up because it could boil over. Stir.

Step 2.When it comes to a boil, continue stirring and turn down the heat. Keep watching it and stirring until you're confident it won't boil over. You want your peels to cook slowly over a low heat for a long time to soften them. And you don't want sticky lemon mess all over your stove.

This is bad. This is a picture of my marmalade about ready to spill over all over my stove. Not visible in the photo is the marmalade burning to the bottom of the pot.

Do As I Say, Not as I Do Tips: Don't fill your saucepan 100% full when you start out. That's a sure recipe for a mess all over your stove. If your saucepan can't fit it all, then just start out by cooking what you can fit comfortably and then add more lemons as it cooks down, or split your lemons into 2 different saucepans and cook both of them at the same time.

Second, have enough jars and lids on hand before you start. I was short 4 lids so I decided while my lemons were cooking, I'd run out to my ex's and grab 4 lids from him... and then I'd pop over to the bank before coming home to finish up the marmalade.

Also, don't open an account with U.S. Bank. Use a credit union. So here's my angry rant. A few months ago, for reasons too frustrating to explain here, I opened a U.S. Bank account in December. To avoid the monthly fee they charge unless you meet certain obnoxious conditions, they set it to automatically pay my U.S. Bank Visa card balance on the 9th of every month.

Fast forward to January. I was supposed to receive a paycheck (actually several, but the majority fell through and one didn't) long before January 9. But it didn't come until several days after, through no fault of my own. So U.S. Bank deducted a few hundred from my bank account to pay off my U.S. Bank Visa (essentially, it's them paying themselves) and in doing so, they overdrew my account by $80. I had set the damn thing up to reject any transaction that would result in an overdraft.... but apparently that doesn't count if it's an electronic transfer. So I get slapped with a $35 overdraft fee.

Well, fine. I would've had a late fee on the credit card instead if it weren't for the overdraft on my bank account. So I'll pay the $35. My account is set at -$115.

That was when I was really broke, and I started frantically earning money from any source that would pay me promptly and reliably. I've now received enough paychecks to cover the $115 and I should even have enough by Feb 1 to pay my rent. Phew. So off I go to the bank today to deposit $120 in my account so I'll have a $5 positive balance.

Only, after depositing $120, the woman tells me I've got - $45 in my account. WHAT??? Yeah. They automatically took $80 from my account and put it in my other U.S. bank account, and then proceeded to charge me $35 at the time plus $25 per week thereafter. And if this was disclosed to me at the time when I opened my account (and, I thought, set it to reject all transactions that would result in overdrafts), it was in the fine print somewhere.

I tried nicely explaining this to the lady but it was pretty clear she wasn't going to take the fees off my account. So I told her to close the account and I walked away. Back to the marmalade...

Step 2. Stir. A lot. Not all at once, but every so often. And monitor the heat. You don't want a bunch of marmalade stuck to the bottom of your pan. Even worse, you don't want to scrap your entire batch because it tastes burnt. If you accidentally do burn a bit to the bottom of the pan, leave it there and clean it later after the marmalade's done. You can transfer the marmalade to a clean saucepan and continue cooking in there if you prefer. What you don't want to do is mix the burnt stuff into the rest of the marmalade.

This is what your marmalade SHOULD look like. The liquid has reduced quite a bit and it's boiling but not too much.

This spatula shows burnt marmalade that is stuck on the bottom of my pot. Oops.

Step 3. Once your marmalade has boiled down quite a bit, it's time to start testing to see if it's ready. Put a spoonful of marmalade on a plate and place it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove the plate from the freezer and tip it to one side. If the marmalade is runny, it needs to keep cooking. If not, it's ready.

Step 3. Get your canner and jars ready. About 30 minutes to an hour before your marmalade is ready, fill your canner with water and a few more mason jars than you think you'll need and start heating it up. Ideally, your canner will be full of boiling water and hot jars right when your marmalade is done. Heating up a 20-qt pot of water takes a long time.

Easiest way to fill the canner if you have the right kind of sink. Place the canner on the floor and pull out the hose thingy from your sink. And don't judge me for putting yogurt on my floor. That's a cat treat.

If you forget to put the jars in the canner while the water in it is cool, do NOT put mason jars directly in hot water. They WILL shatter. I learned that the hard way. Instead put them in the oven and heat it to 200F. Your jars will be ready in no time.

Step 4. Fill the jars and attach the lids. If giving your marmalade away as gifts, you might want to use 1/2 pint jars. Otherwise, I prefer using pint jars. I eat a lot of marmalade because I mix it with unsweetened plain yogurt and I go through it really fast if it's in tiny little pint jars. And if you use bigger jars, you can use fewer lids. Even if you are using pint jars though, have a half-pint jar around in case you end up with a little bit of marmalade at the end that doesn't quite fill a pint jar but fills a half-pint perfectly.

To fill the jars, ladle the hot marmalade into hot jars (I use a funnel to avoid spilling) and leave 1/2 inch headspace for pints or 1/4 inch headspace for half-pints. In other words, fill the jars all the way up to the tippy tippy top leaving only very little room for air at the top. Here's a good photo illustrating this.

Filling a jar using a funnel

Once each jar is full, attach the two piece lids.

Step 5. Place the jars in the canner. Bring the water in the canner to a boil if it isn't already boiling. The water should be filled so the jars are all covered with water with an inch of water on top of them.

Step 6. Once the canner comes to a boil, boil for 10 minutes for half-pint jars or 15 minutes for pints.

My marmalade! You'll notice that it's a darker color than the lemons were when they went in. There are things you can do to keep it from discoloring but it doesn't bother me too much.

... and voila! You're done! Lemon marmamade. And if you're me, you've also got a nice cut on your finger, lemon marmalade burnt to the bottom of your pot, a nice mess all over your stove, and tons of fees you aren't paying to U.S. bank.

Not pictured: The huge mess all over my stove I had to clean up afterward.

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Sorry to hear of the bank problems... (4.00 / 1)
I've never really had any problems of my own, but for the first time ever I'm using a small bank instead of the big national ones.  It's not a credit union, but it's a small local bank with a long history and just a few branches in Philadelphia and two immediate surrounding counties.  Again, can't say there seems to be much of a difference in any substantial way, though the employees all seem somewhat nicer and happier and I feel much better for not using one of 'the big boys.'  So, there's that!

i have never had THIS much trouble in the past (4.00 / 1)
but I'm pretty responsible generally and don't let my account go into the negatives. Knowing the unpredictability of my income, I would have NEVER set up an automatic payment that occurs monthly by choice.

The reason I got the account to begin with was because I needed a cashier's check or a money order ASAP in order to pay my deposit on my new apartment. They allow personal checks for the rent, but they don't for the deposit. I didn't know where a credit union was nearby and U.S. bank only gives out money orders and cashier's checks to people who have accounts with them. So I set up an account. They charge a monthly fee if you don't either have a direct deposit once a month or do an electronic transfer once a month, which is both infuriating and lame. But to avoid the fee, I let them set up the automatic transfer.

At the time the transfer went through, there were several checks that SHOULD have arrived already, and any one of them would have covered the amount needed to pay the credit card. I figured the transfer would fail and I'd be left with a credit card late fee. Sucky, but not the end of the world. Instead, the transfer went through and they stuck me with the fee. Whatever. I was pissed but I was gonna pay. But I'm not paying this $25/week B.S.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

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