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BackstoryThis is a good way to use Meyer lemons when they're in season. While I'll always prefer lemon curd, sometimes you don't want to muck about with all those eggs and dairy. This is a very simple recipe, and all it takes is a bit of time.
Meyer lemons are great because they're sweeter than your standard Eureka lemon. They’re actually a hybrid of a standard lemon and an orange varietal. I’m not sure if I'd use regular lemons in this – marmalade's supposed to be a touch bitter, but I think standard lemons would be downright sour. But you could substitute Seville oranges or Clementine oranges, or you could mix and match. Even adding one regular Naval orange would be nice. Definitely let the lemons steep overnight – you want to flavor the water thoroughly.
What's with the seeds? Well, the seeds have a good amount of natural pectin in them. Since we're not adding any pectin, the seeds will help the mixture set up quicker. Also, the ratio of sugar to water here is pretty important to bringing this marmalade together in a short amount of time. Any less sugar, and you'd have to cook this longer to reach the jell stage, running the risk of burning the lemons.
Anybody familiar with candy making knows all about the various stages – jell, soft ball, hard crack, etc... - 220 degrees is the official jell temp, and it's a good target. A candy or instant-read thermometer is very helpful here. But I've always found you just have to play it by ear. Depending on the humidity level and the altitude above sea level... anyway, every time I make something like this, I find I have to check early and often. The nice thing about this recipe is that removing the mixture from the heat early won't hurt it at all – you can always put it back on the stove to heat some more. But if you let it overcook, it'll turn permanently sour. So play it safe and check often.
I don't do any canning at my apartment, but I find if you put them into clean Mason jars and put the lid on while they’re still hot, the natural cooling will form a partial vacuum seal which will help keep them fresher longer. Still, if you just keep them in sealable jars in the fridge, you'll get up to a year out of it. And if you want to add a little kick, stir in a couple of tablespoons of Cognac or Scotch before you put the marmalade in jars.
- 8 Meyer lemons
- 10 cups water
- 8 cups sugar
- Rinse the lemons and wipe them dry. Slice off the stem ends, then halve them and remove the seeds with the tip of a paring knife. Reserve the seeds. Cut each lemon piece in half again, then slice very thinly (a mandoline works well for this.
- Take all reserved seeds and place them on a piece of cheesecloth. Tie the cheesecloth shut with twine, forming a small bag of the seeds.
- Place the lemon slices in a heavy nonreactive 8-qt pot. Add the water and the cheesecloth bag of seeds. Cover and let sit overnight.
- After 18-24 hours, stir the sugar into the lemon-water and set the pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce heat to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Stir occasionally to make sure the lemon slices aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. If any white scum rises to the top, skim it off.
- Continue cooking the mixture until it reaches the jelling point – 220 degrees Fahrenheit. This will take at least one hour. Once you reach this point, take the pot off the heat. To check if your marmalade is properly jelled, place a small amount on a plate and stick it in the freezer. After five minutes, remove the plate from the freezer and nudge the jell; if it wrinkles, it's finished. If it's still runny, return the pot to the heat, checking every few minutes to see if it's done.
- Once the marmalade has reached the jell stage, remove it from the heat, remove the cheesecloth bag of seeds, and ladle into clean jars. Refrigerate, tightly covered, and it'll keep for a while. Makes about 2 quarts.