We loves Meyerses. Yes, we do. We loves them so much that we sacrifice valuable checked-luggage space just so we can smuggle several pounds of them back from California, probably violating numerous state and federal agricultural regulations in the process. We piles the preciouses up on our kitchen island and stares at them for days, until they start showing signs of wrinkling, and then we panics and makes everything we can think of to save them from being wasted.
Ahem. OK, enough first-person Gollum plural. I believe I’ve made my point, which is that one of the best parts of spending the holidays in California is bringing as many lemons as possible back.
This year, thanks to the combined generosity of my brother, his fiance, and His Lordship’s parents, who made sure I was supplied with lemons despite having no opportunity to shop for them myself, I had enough to require last-minute rearranging of our luggage to avoid paying overweight baggage fees. And unlike my attitude toward persimmons, it physically pains me to let Meyer lemons go to waste, so pretty soon after our return to the East Coast, I had to make efforts to preserve them.
About a half-dozen of them were salted and are currently in the back of my fridge, turning into Moroccan-style preserved lemons. The remainder were used in two variations on jam: one a proper marmalade, and the other a fast and loose almost-instant jam. Both recipes make full use out of the whole fruit, wasting absolutely no part of my sunny beauties.
While I think we’re all clear on how much I love citrus, I am actually not a fan of marmalade as a spread. I’ve always found it too bitter to have on buttered toast, and the one time I tried a recipe for a chocolate-orange cake Nigella swore would convert even the staunchest marmalade-hater, I had to throw the entire thing out. I doubt I’ll change my mind about marmalade as a condiment, but — and it’s a huge but — I do like Meyer lemon marmalade for one very specific application. A big spoonful of it, in hot water left plain or with a green tea bag added, makes for a marvelous lemon tea.
When Meyers are nowhere to be found at any price, a jar of marmalade keeps me in floral, fruity, fabulous lemony-ness through all those months until the next holiday hoarding season. Usually I buy it in grossly overpriced little jars at the San Francisco Ferry Market, but after trying the recipe below and realizing how easy it is, I may never fork over the $8 again.
Meyer Lemon Marmalade
(Adapted from Molly Watson in the San Francisco Chronicle, March 19, 2008)
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 pound Meyer lemons, scrubbed clean
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (reserved from juicing the Meyers)
Cut the lemons in half and juice them, reserving the juice. Slice the halves crosswise very, very, very thinly.
Put the shreds in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until the shreds are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse both the lemons and the pot well to remove all the residual bitterness.
Return the lemons to the pot with 1/3 cup of water and bring to a boil. Stir in the sugar, then adjust the heat to maintain a slow simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and the lemon peels are extremely tender, about one hour. Stir in the reserved lemon juice.
Spoon the marmalade into a scrupulously clean jar and cover tightly, then refrigerate. The marmalade should keep just fine in the refrigerator for up to six months.
Next time, I would slice the lemons even thinner than I did here, and I might also add a bit more lemon juice, since I like things really tart.
If you don’t have time to make marmalade, or you have just a couple of lemons, this second recipe is a fantastic alternative. Blitzing the whole lemons with sugar and a tiny bit of oil in the food processor instantly gives you a gloriously bright jam that resembles a less-rich lemon curd and positively sparkles with lemon flavor.
It won’t keep more than a few days, but that really won’t be a problem. Any jam that doesn’t get used as a dessert sauce, ice cream topping, or cake filling (more on that later) can be folded into an equal amount of sweetened whipped cream, spooned into small glasses and chilled to produce the most intense lemon mousse you could imagine.
Quick Meyer Lemon Jam
(Adapted from Sally Schneider’s The Improvisational Cook)
Makes 1 cup
2 Meyer lemons, washed and dried
6 tablespoons sugar
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Cut the ends off the lemons and slice them lengthwise into sixteen wedges, removing all the seeds.
Place the lemon wedges, sugar and pinch of salt into a food processor, and process until a puree forms. With the motor running, pour the oil down the feed tube and continue processing until emulsified and thick.
Cover tightly and refrigerate if not using immediately as a sauce. The jam will be somewhat liquid at first, but will thicken with time in the refrigerator.
Sally got the original jam recipe, made with regular lemons and with much less sugar, from Mario Batali’s restaurant, Babbo, where it’s used as a garnish for fish. The Babbo Cookbook, which I also have, makes the savory lemon jam with ten lemons, so it should be no problem to scale this up depending on how many lemons you’re fortunate enough to get your hands on.
If you don’t have Meyer lemons, the recipe can be made with two regular lemons, either by themselves or embellished with the grated zest of one orange or a couple of tangerines.