Monday, May 24, 2010

Meyer Van Marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Marmalade. Just say it slowly a few times: mar-ma-lade. Slightly exotic sounding, it's name reveals a somewhat more complex nature than its sisters, Jam and Jelly. They're both sweet girls of course, everybody likes them, but marmalade has seen a little of the world, lived life, and has come home to tell you about it.* Both the dark and the light of it; the bitter with the sweet.

Traditional orange marmalade was essentially born from someone making the most out of what they had: in this case, a boatload of inedible bitter oranges. In a country that is not exactly known for its sunshine and citrus, they were probably happy to get whatever of those exotic fruits that they could.

My favorite store-bought marmalade was from Scotland and came packaged in white glass jars. It was an occasional special treat when our budget allowed. I would keep the jar in the fridge and only use it on weekends, when I wasn't in a hurry and could appreciate it more. It has virtually nothing in common with the domestic brands available, and is a world away from the little plastic single-serving packets found in diners and chain eateries in this country. Good orange marmalade is like dark sunshine in a jar. And it is at its best when smeared thickly on top of crispy hot sourdough toast that's been slicked with butter... and accompanied by a big mug of strong hot tea.

The Hubs does not share my enthusiasm for marmalade, which is just fine with me. I don't push the issue. Sometimes it's advantageous to cultivate a taste for something that those around you don't also care for. In other words, I get it all to myself. Meyer Lemon Marmalade, may just change his mind. You see, it's made with lemons (instead of bitter Seville oranges), and he loves all things lemon... especially Meyer lemon.

I've been wanting to make this marmalade since I first read about it last year in this article. Then, when we bought our little dwarf Meyer lemon tree, I practically counted the days (which turned out to be many months) until the first fruits would be ripe and I could make some marmalade. The tiny tree gave us its lemons little by little over the winter and we used them as they came to us. But that would never do for making marmalade. With canning, you need a lot of fruit, and all at once. But I don't blame the little thing; it's new, you know, this being it's first year fruiting and all. In a couple more years, I bet it will start rocking us with more lemons than we ever thought possible.

I was resigned to waiting upon that fruitful future day, when Hubs brought home a bucket of Meyers from a full-grown, full-sized tree that was literally dripping with fruit... I just about did a dance (if bouncing and clapping counts as a dance, then I did, I danced). My head was swimming with the possibilities of all the things we would make with them (and all the pounds we'd put on as a consequence). One thing I knew without a doubt: this marmalade was at the top of the list with a star next to it...

Meyer Lemon Marmalade from Simply Recipes

My Notes: Might have sliced the lemon pieces too thinly. Not sure. It's probably fine. Made a pectin bag out of a square of muslin and kitchen string. Scraped the seeds from a vanilla bean and rubbed it into the sugar (per one of the commenter's suggestions). Added the rest of the bean in also. Used the red enameled pot. Scorched some of the fruit on the bottom despite stirring it often. This is not a good pot to use for this kind of thing. I think my candy thermometer is off, or slow.** Ended up grabbing the top of the digital one with the looped ends of the old-style tongs and holding it in the pot for instant reads every couple minutes. Also used the chilled plate test. Processed the filled jars in a water bath for 10 minutes because I'm a big chicken. Made 6 half-pint jars and had 3/4 of a cup left over. Put the extra in a jar in the fridge for immediate use. By bedtime, all but one of the jars had "pinged". Initial flavor shows real heavy on the vanilla and very subtle on the lemon. That may change though. More Notes (24 hours later): Last jar has still not sealed. It goes into the fridge for immediate use (yeah, and we're really sad about that... not!). Flavor-wise, the vanilla has already toned down a tad and the lemon-ness has ramped up. It's really quite loverly. Maybe next time I'll try it with a little lavender. Notes (6/2/10): Added a big Tblsp of dried lavender. Used the silicone "shark" mitt to squeeze the pectin bag (worked great). New 8 qt. stock pot didn't scorch on bottom. Clipped both thermometers to side of pot. One of the candy thermometers was right in sync with the digital, but the other one was 3° off. All jars pinged. The lavender buds don't look very good, but the initial flavor is really nice. I'll put the lavender flowers in a muslin bag next time.

*Originating in Portugal, perfected in Scotland, using oranges from Spain, and hanging on to a French name... what a well traveled little preserve! Read more about marmalade here and here.
**Remember to check candy thermometer for accuracy!
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  1. Y'know, I'm not sure I've even ever had marmalade, so that's on my list of things to do soon.

    But I wanted to tell you - I was really struck by this post, in particular, and how fantastic of a writer you are. For real. I felt like I could read your words about food all day, and be full at the end of it.

    Just thought you should know. :)

  2. Just saying "thank you" for that amazing compliment, doesn't seem adequate. It truly made my day (week, month, etc.)... especially coming from a writer with your talent!


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