For much of April, we were obsessed with the thought of making the wonderfully elegant-looking Meyer Lemon Crepe Cake on the cover of Martha Stewart Living. We initially thought that we'd make it for an Easter Brunch, but because we were training a 10-mile race the following weekend, a huge holiday brunch seemed like a bad idea.
And after that, we really just couldn't come up with a reason to make the crepe cake. After all, that cake isn't a mid-week, just-throw-it-all-together kind of affair. It looks like the kind of cake you'd serve following an entrée of crustless cucumber sandwiches. In anticipation of making the cake, however, we had already bought a big bag of Meyer lemons.
Meyer lemons were something we'd actually never purchased before. If you're not familiar, a Meyer is a variety of lemon that is thought to be a cross between a lemon and an orange. They have a yellow-orange color and aren't quite as tart as regular lemons.
There we were, crepe cake-less and with lemons that were quickly approaching their prime.
So, what to do when life hands you Meyer lemons?Make marmalade!
This wasn't our first experience making jam. Last summer, we tried our hand at Strawberry Freezer Jam, and we've made a Blueberry Freezer Jam since then, as well.
Our go-to resource for all matters canning and preservation is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (pictured right). If you want to preserve it, bottle it or freeze it, the folks at Ball can tell you how to do it. In fact, they've been preaching the gospel of canning since 1909, when the company first published the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. The 100th Anniversary Edition of that book is available at the Ball official site. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is an updated version of the Ball Blue Book.
Flipping through the pages of the book makes you want to can everything in sight. Salsas, compotes, preserves, jellies, pickles -- you'll be tempted to just start preserving everything you can get your hands on. For our Meyer lemons, we used a recipe from the book for a "Quick Lemon and Ginger Marmalade."
The "quick" in the name refers to the fact that this recipe relies on pectin to help set the marmalade, rather than cooking it down over an extended period of time. But that "quick" is relative. All totaled, we spent about 2 1/2 hours on this jam -- from cleaning and preparing the jars, to peeling and chopping the lemon and ginger, to boiling it down and pouring it into jars. Not that any of it was particularly hard, mind you.
And even though we'd made jam a couple times already, we picked up two vital tips this time around.
One tip: When you're "processing" the jars (submerging the filled, sealed jars in boiling water), you don't want the jars to sit directly on the bottom of the stock pot, lest they get too hot on the bottom. The solution? Create a barrier for your jars to sit on, using canning lids and rubber bands, like so:
Place that in the bottom of the crock pot, and then set the jars on top. It's a brilliantly simple solution that we found in the back of the Ball book.
One other lesson we learned? You shouldn't double the recipe. We did, unfortunately, and our marmalade never gelled quite the way we wanted. Ours remained thinner and runnier than we'd hoped. But our friend Paula, a consummate canner and jam-maker ("jammer"?), informed us afterward that the problem was doubling the recipe. Canning wisdom says that recipes shouldn't be doubled, as the pectin may have a more difficult time "setting" the jam. Doubling just doesn't work, she told us. Good to know!
But the taste? Delicious! The substantial amount of ginger gives the spread a spicy heat, and the Meyer lemons have a fantastic tartness that's subtler than other kinds of lemons. Even if the marmalade didn't thicken as much as we'd hoped, we were still thrilled with the result.
The recipe below outlines the method through which you can make your own Lemon Ginger Marmalade. However, what's missing are the larger fundamentals and science of canning. For that, we recommend you get the book. You won't regret it.
Meyer Lemon Ginger Marmalade
From the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
- 6 small Meyer lemons (or regular lemons)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 cup coarsely grated gingerroot (about 12 oz.)
- 1 package (1.75 ounce) regular powdered fruit pectin
- 6 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1. Prepare canner, jars, and lids.
2. Using a vegetable peeler, remove yellow lemon peel in long strips. Cut strips into thin slices. Set peel and fruit aside separately.
3. In a large deep stainless steel saucepan, combine reserved lemon peel, baking soda, and water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and boil gently for 5 minutes until peel is softened. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Using a sharp knife, cut white pith from lemons. Working over a large bowl to catch juice and using a small, sharp knife, separate lemon segments from membrane. Place segments in bowl and squeeze membrane to remove as much juice as possible, collecting it in the bowl. Discard membrane and seeds. Measure 1 cup lemon segments and juice. Add to softened rind mixture with gingerroot. Whisk in pectin until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam.
5. Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust head space if necessary by adding hot marmalade. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
6. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.