E posted a photo on her Pinterest page suggesting that Meyer lemon marmalade is one of her favorite things, even as she spread a wonderful Trader Joe’s rendition of orange marmalade on her rosemary-olive-oil bread from Thom’s. Given that whatever E thinks is a “favorite thing” ought to be made a reality, I decided to make a batch of the jelled gold for her. Not a marmalade fan myself, I needed to learn how marmalade is made, and I discovered how simple it is.
So off to market I go, ISO ripe Meyer lemons. The good news is that I knew just where to find them–at John and Ethel Stoner’s little stand in the middle of our local jewel, the Lancaster Central Market.
The Meyer lemon, in case you’re not familiar with it, is rounder than a true lemon. The skin is fragrant and thin, colored a deep yellow with a slight orange tint when ripe. Meyer lemons have a sweeter, less acidic flavor than the more common supermarket lemon varieties. The Meyer lemon is commonly grown in China in garden pots as an ornamental tree. It became popular as a food item in the United States after being rediscovered by chefs such as Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in San Francisco at the end of the 1990s, and even more so when Martha Stewart began featuring them in her recipes.
Citrus marmalades are basically reductions of the fruit, water, and sugar, cooked slowly until the sugars begin to caramelize. Orange marmalade has been a staple of British and American breakfasts for generations, certainly around here. So the idea of Meyer lemon marmalade seemed like such a natural for us, given E’s sudden “pinterest” in the stuff and my constant desire to please her with surprising cooking choices.
Ergo Meyer lemon marmalade. Sweet, tart, and tasty, it’s wonderful on English muffins and any good artisan bread you can imagine.
Here’s my take:
Meyer Lemon Marmalade
6 Meyer lemons (about 1 1/2 pounds)
4 cups water
4 cups sugar
Quarter the lemons and separate the seeds (save the seeds!). Remove the ends and slice the lemons as thinly as possible, and reslice any larger bits of lemon rind to small pieces. Place all the lemon seeds in a cheesecloth bag and tie off the ends. Combine the lemon slices, the seed bag, and water in a large non-reactive pot, stir to mix well, cover and allow to stand at room temperature for 24 hours. (I used an enamel-coated cast-iron pot–Le Creuset–but you could also use a stainless-steel pot. I actually have a favorite stainless-steel pot I will use in the future, a $15.00 gem from Ikea. It holds five quarts, and has quart- and liter- markings etched ON THE INSIDE OF THE POT: BRILLIANT! This feature will work you your amazing advantage for this recipe, as you will see).
After the lemons have rested in the water for 24 hours, remove the seed bag and bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer slowly until the mixture is reduced to 4 cups (or 1 quart! See why the inside-the-pot etchings on the Ikea pot are so terrific for this recipe?). Add the sugar to the lemons, stir well to dissolve the sugar, and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam that develops, for 15-20 minutes, until a teaspoonful of the marmalade dropped on a cold plate gels (you can skip this test if you wish, it really works).
In the meantime, prepare six 1/2-pint jars for canning: wash and rinse the jars, lids, and rings, set them in a large pot of water and bring to a boil; allow the jars to simmer at a slow boil for 30 minutes, then turn the fire off under the pot.
When the marmalade is ready, ladle hot marmalade into the hot jars to within 1/4 inch of the rim, wipe the rim of the jar with a damp towel, and seal the jars with the hot lids and rings. Set the jars back into the hot water, bring to a boil, cover the pot and boil the jars for five minutes. Using jar tongs, transfer the jars to a wire rack and allow the marmalade to cool completely. Check to ensure that the lids have popped and the jars have sealed. If any jars haven’t popped, refrigerate them and use immediately. The sealed jars will keep in a cool, dark place for 1 year.
Next batch I’ll make will include 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary.