Over the holidays I decided on a whim to make some Meyer lemon marmalade and was surprised to find how easy it was to create. I’m crazy about these softball-sized sweet lemons and my five year old tree went into overdrive this year growing so many that its small branches were pulled to the ground in a cascade of golden fruit. With lots of folks growing Meyer lemons around here the fruit can be hard to give away, so I found a simple recipe to preserve their delicious flavor for the rest of the year.
I learned that we are lucky to be able to grow Meyer lemons in abundance in North Florida when I asked the New York Times Cooking Community Facebook group for recipe ideas and the comment section filled up with jealous foodies wanting to buy them. (I am not in the Meyer lemon shipping business but it sounds like the demand is there if someone wanted to start one.)
Meyer lemons are native to China and according to Wikipedia were introduced to the United States in 1908 by the agricultural explorer and USDA employee Frank Nicholas Meyer. The compact tree is evergreen with dark glossy leaves, and its fragrant white blooms in springtime will scent the whole yard with lovely citrus notes that attract bees and butterflies.
Meyer lemons are ideal for making marmalade because their mild flavor and thin skin allows you to use the entire lemon (except the seeds), providing all the pectin needed to firm up the mixture. The recipe couldn’t be simpler — just pick a few lemons and grab the sugar and a vanilla bean out of the pantry and you are ready to make this golden, fruity spread. The whole vanilla bean could be replaced with a tablespoon of vanilla extract, but the bean adds a rich, creamy flavor and visually pleasing specs of vanilla seeds throughout the marmalade. A nice bonus while making Meyer lemon marmalade is that your whole house will smell amazing.
This marmalade is equally delicious spread on toast or mixed into yogurt as it is along side smoked salmon. The slices of peel throughout the marmalade are especially tasty, giving a burst of that signature flowery lemon flavor and satisfying bite. If you’d like, you can add herbs or red pepper flakes to spice it up for a winning sweet and savory combination. I’ve made two batches using vanilla and with my little tree still weighed down with lemons, I’m ready to try some new combinations. I’d love to hear your favorite ways to use Meyer lemons, so email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your ideas.
Vanilla Meyer Lemon Marmalade
6 Meyers Lemons
4 cups water
4 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean or 1 tbsp vanilla extract (optional)
Clean mason jars, lids and rings.
1. Wash the lemons, slice in half and juice them. Remove any seeds and pour the juice into a non-reactive sauce pot.
2. With a sharp knife, slice the lemon peels and any remaining pulp into thin two-inch long strips. Add to the juice in the sauce pot.
3. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half.
4. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Split the vanilla bean by cutting down the middle and scrape the seeds into the mixture, then cut the whole bean into small sections and add to the pot (or add the vanilla extract if not using the whole bean.) Bring to a boil until a candy thermometer reaches 223 degrees and the marmalade “wrinkles” when pushed across a cold plate after being cooled in the freezer for a minute. (Mine took about 20 minutes to get to this stage.)
5. Let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes and then add to clean jars with a ladle, taking care to add a vanilla bean section and an equal amount of peel into each jar. (A jarring funnel helps with this step but isn’t necessary.) Wipe the jar rims, add the lids and tighten with the rings. You can either stop here to make refrigerator marmalade, or follow the instructions on Ball Canning to preserve them in a water bath to be shelf stable. http://www.freshpreserving.com.
Recipe adapted from The Alchemist: Meyer Lemon Marmalade found at http://alchemybaking.blogspot.com