One of my daughters, an avowed peripatetic who lives in California when not living in New York, came home at Christmastime with an armload of Meyer lemons from her Bay Area backyard. I couldn’t imagine a better gift! Like a length of interesting fabric or a hank of homespun wool, they just beg for some creative thinking. Among countless other uses, I made preserved lemons since the last batch was running low, but there were still some left. And then, along came the January Can Jam blog event that I signed up for at Tigress in a Jam. http://www.tigressinajam.blogspot.com Ah ha. Perfect. Meyer Lemon Marmalade! And I can even consider this “local,” at least vicariously.
Meyer lemons are very pretty, with clear, bright and smooth skin, a pleasant aroma and flesh sweeter than other types of lemons. That’s because they are supposedly a cross between a mandarin orange and a lemon. Native to China, they were introduced to the U.S. in 1908 by Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so says a better-than-average Wikipedia entry (better because the citations were thorough) at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meyer_lemon. Mine varied from light yellow to almost orange, showing their relative ripeness.
I had recently put up a batch of orange marmalade so I already had the method in mind. However, the Meyer lemons were pretty seedy so I took a step that I sometimes skip: including the seeds in the cooking process to release their pectin. I thought this would be useful since Meyer lemons have thin skin and little pith, which is where I think some of the fruit’s pectin lives. Well, was I right about the seeds. Just sitting on their own during a boil-and-sit step with the lemons, the seeds had quite a pectin party, and became gluey. (Ah ha, preserved lemons with your seeds intact, I know your secret.) So into a tidy little cheesecloth bag they went to be added to the sugary boil.
Since my mixture looked like it would make 3-4 half-pints, I decided on a taste test. I added ginger to one jar, rosemary to a second and left the third plain. Since this was a decision made on the fly, I cooked the ginger slices in simple syrup, and dunked the sprig of rosemary in boiling water, before adding them to the jars. This approach basically used the water bath canning process as another level of cooking for flavor. Adding both ginger and rosemary may be overkill but definitely worth a try. If I were making whole batches of the variation, I would add the ginger and/or rosemary during the cooking process as noted in the recipe.
Luckily I didn’t have enough marmalade for a fourth jar, so we had a set of samples to taste with toast for a few days. All three versions were great, but I especially liked the rosemary’s contrast with the sweetness of the citrus. Sweet-toothed Dad liked the ginger, and we both liked the plain one.
Another note: since my lemons came straight from a known tree, they weren’t waxed. Most of the organic lemons I see in the health food store don’t seem waxed, but the pretty ones in the bag from Whole Foods are. I’d either use those only for juice, or wash them first in warm soapy water, rinsing thoroughly. I don’t recall making marmalade from waxed fruit but even the idea feels gummy so I wouldn’t.
Meyer Lemon Marmalade with Ginger and Rosemary Variations
About 10 Meyer lemons (to make 4 cups sliced: see prep steps below)
2 ½ cups of water
Approximately 3 cups sugar
Optional: sprig of rosemary, slices of ginger
Prepare the lemons. Wash them and split them in half lengthwise. Slice a V-groove to remove the center core, and set aside the seeds. Slice the lemons crosswise into thin (1/8”) half moons. Chip the end rind into 3/8” slices. For larger lemons, quarter them before slicing. This yielded 4 cups of sliced lemon.
Combine the lemons and 2 ½ cups of water in a deep pot, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, cool, cover and set aside overnight (or for 6-8 hours) in the refrigerator (or outside at this time of year, provided the temperature stays between 30 and 40 degrees).
Return to the stove and simmer until the rind is cooked but not mushy, around 15 minutes. Place a saucer in the freezer for testing doneness later on.
Wrap the reserved seeds in a little cheesecloth tied with a string. Measure the lemon mixture and add sugar in a ratio of 3:4, meaning ¾ cup sugar to 1 cup of fruit. Pour lemon mixture back into the pot, add the pouch of seeds, and cook at a medium boil for about 25 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent a scorched bottom. Remove the seed pouch before the marmalade finishes, so that it doesn’t get too sticky, and discard. The marmalade is done when a candy thermometer reads 222 degrees. Or when a droplet added to the frozen plate doesn’t run. Watch the pot carefully and stir the mix as it seems to go nowhere for a while and then finishes fast.
Optional steps for lemon-ginger marmalade and lemon-rosemary marmalade: Add peeled and sliced ginger (I would do 1 quarter-size thin slice cut into 1/16”-1/8” slivers per jar) to the lemon mixture at the last stage of cooking, or add separately cooked candied ginger slivers to the jar before processing. Add chopped rosemary after about ten minutes of cooking in the last stage, or just add a sprig that’s been dunked in boiling water to the jar before processing.
Spoon the marmalade into hot sterilized jars through a canning funnel. Clean the rims, top with new flat lids that have been dunked in just-boiled water, add the screw lids and process in boiling water in your canner for 10 minutes. Turn off the stove and let sit for 5 minutes, then remove to the counter to cool, undisturbed, for a few hours.