Winter and I have had a spotty past. We’ve had more break-ups than Ted and Robin on How I Met Your Mother. We’re trying to work out our differences, but winter doesn’t like to compromise. So here I am, garden-less and chilly, trying to fabricate a summer scene inside my Denver snow-globe; an insanity brought on by temperatures which are unreasonable, in my opinion.
The first frost marks the beginning of Project Snow Globe, or, my gravitation toward all things comforting: soft knit scarves…my most loyal furry companion…warm no-knead bread…the patch of sunlight that visits the corner of the couch every afternoon…dinner with friends…dinner with strangers (after all, it’s hard to remain strangers when sharing good food)…my husband…and…marmalade.
Every year from the time I begin to hibernate to the time the sun begins to warm the earth, Meyer lemons begin to appear on the backyard trees of people who do not live in the arctic tundra; far away places like Southern California, and Florida. Here in Denver, winter sunshine-craving folks like myself find Meyer lemons perched on produce bins in cheery netted bags next to their thicker-skinned, more puckery relatives.
Meyer lemons are ladies. Feminine belles of the citrus world; gloved hands folded on a pressed floral skirt out for high tea. Complex and confident, they assert worldly wisdom in a softer, less in-your-face sort of way than their spunky cousins. They embody a just-so balance of orange and floral aromas with enough of the brightness that we have come to expect from a proper lemon.
Meyer lemon marmalade is what happens when these “ladies” get together to socialize. No one really knows what goes on, but it’s safe to assume that scones or tea cakes might be involved.
Spread this marmalade on anything at any time of day; your morning English muffin, an afternoon scone, or use to create a glaze for broiled salmon. If, like me, you haven’t had enough, you could make Meyer Lemon Marmalade Bread Pudding…and what a coincidence! I will be posting the recipe this week. It will make you want to do a little dance. It’s that good.
Meyer Lemon Marmalade
adapted from Gourmet December 1999
- 6 Meyer lemons (about 1 1/2 lb)
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups sugar (3 3/4 cups if you like a less-sweet marmalade)
- Cheesecloth and kitchen string (Or, use an empty tea bag or metal tea infuser)
- 5 (1/2-pint) Mason-type canning jars and lids, washed and sterilized (see notes)
Prepare the lemons:
Wash the lemons, then halve crosswise and remove seeds. Tie the seeds in a cheesecloth bag, or put them into an empty teabag or tea infuser. Quarter each lemon half and slice very thinly (this step requires patience, but is well worth it in the end to give the marmalade a delicate, not rubbery texture). Put the lemon slices, water, and lemon seeds into a large pot. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
Cook the marmalade:
Bring the lemon mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until reduced to 4 cups (between 45 min. and 1 hour), removing the lemon seeds after about 20 minutes. Stir in sugar and boil over medium high heat, stirring occasionally and removing any foam from the top until the mixture reaches 220˚ on a candy thermometer. If you do not have a thermometer, boil until a teaspoon of the marmalade dropped on a cold plate gels, about 20-25 minutes. The marmalade will thicken in the jars as it cools.
At this point, either follow the instructions for canning below, or ladle marmalade into clean containers to be refrigerated once cooled.
Meanwhile, prepare to can:
I am lucky enough to have a grandma-in-law who has shared her vast canning knowledge with me. If you are not familiar with canning, either adopt a savvy grandma or check out Tigress in a Jam’s “Canning 101” guide to read up on the process before getting started. This resource helped me immensely in explaining the canning process below.
Pre-heat and sterilize jars:
- Remove the lids and place the jars on top of a rack in the bottom of the canning pot. Fill with hot water until jars are full and covered by water by at least 1 inch. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 10 minutes. (Dropping cold glass jars into boiling water could end in disaster, so be sure to heat up your jars with the water.)
- Heat the jar lids in a saucepan of almost simmering water 5 minutes before filling the jars with marmalade.
Fill the jars:
- Spread out a kitchen towel on the counter next to your canning pot (hot jars + cold counter top = cracked jars).
- Lift a jar out of the boiling water with a jar lifter, emptying the jars back into the pot. There is no need to fully dry the jars before filling. Set the jar on the kitchen towel and ladle in the hot marmalade (a canning funnel helps here) leaving 1/2 inch headspace (empty space between the marmalade and the top of the jar).
- Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp towel and screw the lid onto the jar firmly, but not overly tight.
- Repeat process with all jars.
Process the jars:
- Lower the filled jars into the pot using the rack. Adjust the water level to cover the jars by one inch.
- Boil for 10 minutes. Cooking time starts when the water is at a full, rolling boil.
- Lift the jars out of the canner using a jar lifter and place on the kitchen towel. Allow to sit for 12 hours to cool completely.
- If you decide not to can your marmalade, ladle it into clean jars and store in the refrigerator.
- Canning is a great way to preserve seasonal ingredients when they are at their peak, and it is less scary than it sounds if done correctly. It is best to read up on safe canning techniques if this is your first time. Here are some additional resources if you are just getting started: