This marmalade bridges winter and spring by combining the last citrus with the first fresh herbs. Meyer lemons are sweeter and more delicate than standard lemons and therefore lend themselves to a lighter touch. And licorice-like tarragon imparts a grassy freshness that counteracts the sugar. My basic recipe for lemon marmalade is one of the most consulted recipes on this blog, yielding thousands of hits since I posted it in January 2010. In late fall and early winter, I favored the addition of ginger and/or rosemary. Here I am pleased to celebrate the arrival of spring.
6 Meyer lemons (to make 3 cups sliced: see prep steps below)
Approximately 1¾ c water
Approximately 2¼ cups sugar
A few sprigs of fresh tarragon, a few large leaves reserved
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 each half lengthwise and then crosswise into thin (1/16 – 1/8”) pieces. Chip the end rind into 3/8” pieces. This yielded 3 cups of sliced lemon. Wrap the reserved seeds in cheesecloth tied with a string and set aside.
In a deep pot, combine the lemons and water barely to cover (approximately 1¾ cups of water), and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, cool, cover and set aside overnight in the refrigerator. (You can add the tarragon at this point to infuse the mixture or add it when cooking as I did.)
Return to the stove and simmer until the rind is cooked but not mushy, around 7 minutes. Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the gel. Prepare jars for water bath canning.
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 a large sprig or two of tarragon, 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 droplet added to the frozen plate doesn’t run. I sometimes use a candy thermometer, which shows a gel point at 221 degrees Fahrenheit, but I find that cooking the marmalade that long makes it denser than I like. In any case, watch the pot carefully and stir the mix as progress accelerates toward the end.
Remove the tarragon and the pouch of seeds. Spoon the marmalade into hot sterilized jars through a canning funnel. Add a fresh tarragon leaf to each jar, pushing it down into the marmalade. Clean the jar rims, top with new flat lids that have been dunked in just-boiled water, screw on the lids and process the jars in boiling water in your canner for 10 minutes. Turn off the stove, remove the lid and let sit for 5 minutes; then remove to the counter to cool, undisturbed, for a few hours.
Makes 2 ½ cups (two 8-oz jars and one 4-oz jar)