Going into the wedding planning process, we knew the last thing we wanted to do was to give our guests a generic favor. After the time we put into finding the perfect venue and decorating it in just the right way to pair with our relationship, we didn’t want this to be a throwaway element to the day’s planning.
With our ceremony and reception scheduled for a Brooklyn brownstone, we decided there wasn’t anything more fitting than something homemade. Ever since taking a class on homemade jam making with Nancy of Potlicker Kitchen, I’d been fascinated with the idea of making something unique of my own, and this was a perfect opportunity. I chose lemon ginger preserves as a nod to our wedding colors (royal blue and yellow) and our wedding cake (raspberry lemonade). When I found this recipe online, I knew this was the one I had to make for the occasion.
- 6 small lemons
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 3/4 cup coarsely grated ginger
- 1.75 ounces (should be 1 package) regular powdered fruit pectin
- 6 1/2 cups sugar (recommend not substituting with sugar alternatives due to the gelling process)
This recipe overall was not difficult, though I will say what it lacked in difficulty it did make up in time commitment. From prepping the ingredients to the finished product, creating 80 mini jars of jam took two batches of the recipe and a total of 15 hours. No small feat. That was in addition to the trial batch I did several weeks in advance. Aside from the ingredients, you will need a full canning set (canner, tongs, and lids) as well as the jars you want to use. If you’re looking for something simple that will get the job done, this one available via Amazon Prime should do it. The above recipe yields seven 8-ounce jars. As wedding favors will be much smaller, that’s enough for plenty of wedding guests. Note that although I made two batches of the above recipe, I did not double the recipe. A number of comments I read online noted that doubling may mess with the gelling process.
The canning part of the process is very important, as not doing so properly can be a very dangerous food safety issue. I recommend you purchase the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (Amazon has a number of used copies available) to familiarize yourself more with the process. If you don’t elect to do so, you should at least take a look at the Ball website to walk through the canning steps to complete once you make your jam.
Start by removing the zest of the lemons in strips using a vegetable peeler. You’ll want to cut the strips even further into thin matchsticks. Holding each lemon over a bowl, slowly cut the white pith out of the center. Make sure to catch all of the juice. In a separate bowl, then cut up the remaining lemon segments. You’ll want to discard the membrane of the lemon, and to remove any seeds out of both bowls.
Then, you should peel and grate the ginger. Note the recipe does call for large amount of ginger. I decreased the amount from the original version of the recipe I found. Even prepping that amount wiped out my parent’s suburban grocery store of ginger! For a softer flavor, I would recommend that you adjust down the amount you include.
In a large deep stainless steel saucepan, combine lemon peel, baking soda, and water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes until peel is softened. Remove from heat and set aside.
Next, measure 1 cup of the lemon segments and lemon juice. Pour into the pan along with the grated ginger. Quickly whisk in your pectin until dissolved. It may try to clump up, so the quick stirring is important until it smooths out.
Finally, bring your sugar over by your pot so it’s easily accessible. Adjust your stove’s eye to high heat and bring to a boil as you stir constantly. Quickly add all of your sugar, stirring constantly and adjusting the heat as necessary to return the mixture to a boil. Allow it to maintain a rolling boil for a minute as you continuously stir. Then remove from the eye. There may be a layer of foam along the top, though this was not the case for me. If so, skim off this layer prior to canning.
For supplies, you can go as simple or fancy as you choose. We chose to can the preserves in Ball four ounce jars we ordered in bulk from Wal-Mart. Note, this does require ordering well in advance, as you’ll need all of this on-hand to use directly following making your preserves. For the label, we worked with Castleberry Hill, an Etsy seller, and used this label from their store. Karen at Castleberry Hill was so wonderful to work with. The stickers were reasonably priced and arrived so quickly. We were so pleased we also ordered some “Best Day Ever” stickers to put out at the wedding.
Overall, this process was not as hard as I feared it would be. Of all the parts of this project, the canning was the least difficult. Once you’ve gone through the canning process, it will be easier to do for any other canning project since it is fairly straightforward. We were afraid that after all our hard work that we wouldn’t hear the glorious “pop” you hear once the jars start to cool. It ended up that they all successfully sealed, so all of the worrying was for nothing!
Honestly the hardest part was making the preserves. Of all of the things you can can, jams, jellies, and preserves are the most sensitive to adhering to the process. During my trial batch, I tried to decrease the sugar a bit and elected to add in limoncello. The batch came out slightly too liquid and I learned the hard way that modifications can make a big difference. I strongly recommend that, unlike me, you follow the exact recipe for any trial batch you do before you try to modify anything.
The end product came out exactly as we had hoped it would – subtly sweet balanced by a touch of a zing from the ginger. Thinly slicing the lemons also helped to make the end result a perfect texture for spreading on toast. The resounding feedback from guests was that they loved the jam. Our chosen favor managed to add another pop of color on the table by the cake, and we are still getting compliments from our guests as they’ve opened it up over the months. We’ve heard how they’ve used it from breakfast to marinades for steaks, and how exciting it was to have something they can’t just buy in a store. I hope you have wonderful results as well!