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Tips on Preventing Food Waste + Clementine Marmalade

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My friends and family have laughed at me “getting my inner homesteader on” while we are social distancing. I am always pretty good about food waste but feel especially compelled right now to make sure as little as possible goes into the trash. Even though I am not in the high-risk category, I want to limit my time outside the home and keep my trips to the grocery store as few as possible. And, where I may have tossed the random piece of fruit before the coronavirus crisis, this week I decided to make a few jars of marmalade. (Anxiety also means I can’t sit still so I am making or have made  strawberry shrub, forsythia syrup, and banana muffins.)

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You Can Do It!

I firmly believe that if you can boil water, you can make a pickle or a jar of jam. Many people are intimidated by preserving — they’re scared of working with pressure cookers or worried they’re going to inadvertently poison someone. Some just have memories of their grandparent’s all-day canning marathons.

It doesn’t have to be that hard! Small-batch recipes like this one don’t require truckloads of produce and versions of preserves for the refrigerator or freezer don’t require a pressure cooker or a canning kettle. You can make a few jars just to keep in your fridge.

I often keep a bowl of clementines or oranges for snacking and also for color on the table. I could tell they were going to go soon and didn’t want them to go to waste.

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Food Science

It is simple, but one note to keep in mind: The process of canning is a tad more complicated than simply putting ingredients in a jar. There is some food science involved. The key to canning safety is to use a reliable recipe with good directions and a bit of common sense. Work clean, and be careful with hot jars and liquid. When in doubt, my go-to website for all things preserving is Georgia’s own National Center for Home Preservation. It’s the absolute best source for current research-based recommendations around most methods of home food preservation.

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How to Sterilize Jars

Part of that science is sterilizing the jars. To pre-sterilize jars using a pot of boiling water, place the cleaned jars right-side-up on a rack or I often will use a clean kitchen towel and fill the jars and canner with enough water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and then boil for 10 minutes (at altitudes less than 1,000 feet elevation).

You are literally boiling jars in water. You can do this.

Do not boil the lids. When you are ready to fill the jars, remove the jars one at a time with the canning tongs, carefully emptying the water from the jars them back into the canner. Let the jars air dry and sit undisturbed until you’re ready to fill them.

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Back to Jammin’

Pectin is found naturally in ripe fruits such as apples and citrus fruit. Naturally occurring pectin combined with the proper amount of an acid will set jams and jellies.  Cooking fruit without added pectin can take fifteen to forty minutes to reach the jelling point, 220°F, depending on the amount of fruit, the stovetop, and the saucepan. Pectin is also available commercially in powdered and liquid forms and is used to make jams and jellies, but citrus is packed with pectin in the white pithy part on the inside, so you won’t need any additional pectin.

I prefer the old-fashioned method of cooking fruit, sugar, and lemon juice to the jelling point with no added pectin. Many recipes call for equal parts fruit (or fruit juice) to sugar. These proportions will produce a very sweet jam or jelly. For most fruits, I prefer using 3/4 cup of sugar for each cup of fruit (or fruit juice), as it allows the natural flavor of the fruit to come through. However, with marmalade since the peels are so bitter, you will need to use equal parts sugar and peels.

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How to Make Marmalade

I will admit, marmalade is a bit more laborious than jam. Mainly, because you need to cook the peels first. I searched all over and couldn’t find one marmalade recipe I thought was streamlined enough. I stick to my guns that putting up just doesn’t have to be that hard! So, I’ve worked out a recipe that I think you will like and is simple to follow.

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Tips on Food Waste During Social Isolation

The deal is that I had too many clementines to start with is why I needed to get my DIY on. Part of controling food waste has a lot to do with what you buy in the first place.

Planning, prepping, and storing food can help your household waste less food. Before you go to the store for that once a week trip, make a full list with weekly meals in mind, you can save money and time, eat healthier food, and limit the trips to the store.

If you buy no more than what you expect to use, you will be more likely to keep it fresh and use it all. We need to #FlattentheCurve

  • Keep a running list of meals and their ingredients that your household already enjoys. That way, you can easily choose, shop for and prepare meals.
  • Make your shopping list based on how many meals you’ll eat at home. Will you call for take out this week? How often?
  • Buy only the things needed for those meals.
  • Include quantities on your shopping list noting how many meals you’ll make with each item to avoid overbuying. For example: salad greens – enough for two lunches.
  • Look in your refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards first to avoid buying food you already have, make a list each week of what needs to be used up and plan upcoming meals around it.
  • Buy only what you need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.
  • Keep a bag or a sealable container for veg scraps, bones, and herb stems so you can make stock.
  • Take a look at the fridge every day before you make the meal so that you can use up first what’s about to go bad or is on its way out.

Good Day Atlanta

Here’s my segment on Fox 5 Good Day Atlanta on how to get the most out of your trip to the grocery store and help you prevent food waste by shopping smart!


To end, I want to share something I wrote on my Facebook page. The world does seem pretty upside down. But, last night I went outside and the stars were so clear and bright. I’d heard there was less pollution. It makes sense, and there was the proof shining at me. It made me think….I’ve been meditating and praying more. I’m even better about food waste and resource management. I’m calling my friends or FaceTiming, not just texting. I’m FaceTiming my mama more than ever and in constant contact with my sister. My good deeds ratio is up since I’m helping high-risk folks with groceries. I’m eating (mostly) healthy and religiously keeping on WW so I don’t lose my progress. (Marmalade only has 3 points per tablespoon!) I am taking vitamins to keep my immune system up. So, maybe there are some things in this terrifying upside down world that I need to make sure I keep.

Thanks for reading. Y’all stay safe. Stay at home. Take care of your self, your family, and your community.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
Virginia Willis

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Clementine Ginger Marmalade

Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: American, French
Keyword: food waste, marmalade, preserves
Servings: 4 cups
Author: Virginia Willis


  • 2 pounds clementines
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 1 1-inch knob ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 piece of cheesecloth and string


  • Halve and juice the clementines. Measure the amount of juice. Place the juice in a large pot.
  • Using your fingers, remove the membranes and seeds from the hollowed shells and tie up in a piece of cheesecloth. Add the cheesecloth filled with clementine membranes and seeds to the pot containing the juice. (I had about 2 cups of juice.) Set aside.
  • Cut the peel of the clementines into matchsticks. Put the strips of peel into the pot along with the juice and cheesecloth containing the membrane and seeds. Pour over the water. You want the water and juice to cover the strips of peel. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently until soft and tender, 45 to 60 minutes. The peels should be nice and tender.
  • Remove from the heat. Allow to cool until the bag is cool enough to squeeze. You can also cover it and leave the marmalade to sit overnight.
  • Once cooled, squeeze the pectin-packed packet cheesecloth into it the juice and peels. Stir together and then add the sugar; stir well until dissolved.
  • Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Place several small plates in the freezer to use later to test the consistency of the marmalade.
  • Prepare your jars. To pre-sterilize jars using a pot of boiling water, place the cleaned jars right-side-up on a rack or I often will use a clean kitchen towel and fill the jars and canner with enough water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and then boil for 10 minutes (at altitudes less than 1,000 feet elevation).
  • Do not boil the lids. When you are ready to fill the jars, remove the jars one at a time with the canning tongs, carefully emptying the water from the jars them back into the canner. Let the jars air dry and sit undisturbed until you’re ready to fill them.
  • Return the peels, sugar, and liquid to the heat. Add the chopped ginger and stir to combine. Bring to a boil rapidly until the marmalade reaches 220°F. If you don’t have a thermometer to confirm this, put a teaspoonful of the marmalade on to a cold saucer and put in the fridge for a minute or so. If it crinkles when you run a finger through it, and your finger leaves a clear line in the preserve, it's ready. If not, check it every five minutes or so. The peels will be shiny and glass-like.
  • Remove the marmalade from the heat. For each jar, insert a canning funnel and carefully ladle in the jam, allowing at least 1/4 inch of headroom. Clean the rims of the jars with a clean, damp towel, and tightly secure the lids. Without cooking in a hot water canner, it’s best to store this jam in the refrigerator.
  • That’s it. You’ve made marmalade!

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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