The first time I'd heard of Meyer lemons was on Giada De Laurentiis's cooking show Everyday Italian. She was actually using a Meyer lemon oil in one of her recipes, and I remember her explaining at the time that Meyer lemons were a bit sweeter than regular lemons. I'd been on the lookout for them ever since, and on a recent trip to my local fruit market found a bag of six for $3.49. I scooped them up and brought them home, not knowing at the time what I'd make with them but figuring worst comes to worst I'd try to replicate the oil Giada used on her show.
Image courtesy ChaosNil
Reading up a bit more on Meyers, I found out that they're pretty much a cross between a traditional lemon and a tangerine. Native to China, they were brought over to the U.S. in 1908 by U.S. Department of Agriculture plant explorer Frank Meyer. The fruit itself is tart, but not as acidic as a lemon. It's also smaller than a lemon, closer to the size of a tangerine. The skin is thinner and edible, and though the fruit can be grown all year in places like California and Florida it's at its peak in winter.
Meyers are used in a variety of dishes, both savoury and sweet, and are a less potent substitute for standard lemons. A search on Epicurious for Meyer lemon recipes turned up everything from cakes and souffles, to salads and seafood dishes. And though I was tempted to preserve the lemons just so I could then make Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Meyer Lemons and Green Olives, I finally settled on a simple Meyer lemon marmalade.
Meyer Lemon Marmalade
6 Meyer lemons (1.5 lbs)
4 cups water
4 cups sugar
6 half-pint Mason-type jars
Halve lemons crosswise and remove seeds. Tie seeds in a cheesecloth bag. Quarter each lemon half and thinly slice. Combine with bag of seeds and water in a 5-quart nonreactive heavy pot and let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature 24 hours.
Bring lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 4 cups, about 45 minutes. Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until a teaspoon of mixture dropped on a cold plate gels, about 15 minutes.
Ladle hot marmalade into jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids.
Put jars in a water-bath canner or on a rack set in a deep pot. Add enough hot water to cover jars by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Boil jars, covered, 5 minutes and transfer with tongs to a rack. Cool jars completely.**
Cooks' note: Marmalade keeps, stored in a cool, dark place, up to 1 year.**
Yield: Makes 6 half-pint jars
Active time: 1 hr 15 min
Total time: 25 hr 15 min
Recipe from Gourmet magazine, December 1999
**I don't know that I'm going to bother with the sealing business. I plan on keeping my marmalade in the fridge and/or giving it away, in the hopes that it'll be consumed before it has the chance to go off. Jam generally keeps for a good while in the fridge after it's been opened so I think it'll be fine. But by all means follow the recipe to the letter if you feel more comfortable doing that or would rather store the sealed, sterilized jars in your pantry.
So, tonight I did part one of the recipe, slicing the lemons, tying the seeds up in a cheesecloth bag, and combining both with water in my pot, which I then covered. The lovely lemon slices, looking like delicate shards of stained glass, will sit in their water bath until tomorrow at this time when I'll boil them and add the sugar.
I confess I've never been a marmalade fan but I'm looking forward to seeing how this turns out. I might even bake some blueberry scones to enjoy with my fresh-made preserves on Saturday morning!