Monday, November 16, 2009

Making Meyer Lemon Marmalade

meyer lemon marmalade 4
As I'd mentioned earlier, I harvested 3 Meyer lemons from my potted tree this past Friday. I did so in part because they had shed their last bit of green a few days ago and felt soft to the touch. Their shade of color was not quite the deep golden yellow hue that I'd associated with Meyers I've seen in photos. I guess I could have let them ripen for another week or two to see if they would reach that shade of perfection but alas, after 10 months on the tree, I couldn't resist any longer and had to taste them finally.

This is my first citrus tree and I have to admit, it feels really good to be able to grow something that is normally shipped in from 3000 miles away. I also like the fact that I've grown a variety that cannot be found in most supermarkets in our part of the country as Meyer lemons do not ship well. I guess you could say that for me, this is a small lesson in sustainability. And by preserving these Meyer lemons, I can hopefully savor their goodness all year long.

meyer lemon harvest 3 meyer lemons
These lemons were pretty hefty. The marmalade recipe I was using called for 6 Meyer lemons or an equivalent of 1.5 lbs. I had 3 and collectively they weighed 1.7 lbs. I began to wonder whether or not the plant nursery had given me the right variety of tree. Their color and size deviated from what I'd been expecting. However, like Meyers, they did lack the "nipple" found on conventional Eureka lemons you find at the supermarket. My concerns were put aside when I finally sliced one open and took a big whiff. I wish I could adequately explain to you the deeply wonderful scent associated with this lemon, a citrus fragrance unlike any other I'd come across before - maybe best described as sharply mandarin with hints of lemon and lime. These were definitely Meyers. I hadn't been this excited in the kitchen in a long time.

sliced meyer lemons
sliced meyer lemons 3 sliced meyer lemons 2
To make this marmalade, I began by halving the lemons to remove the seeds, which were deposited into a small bowl lined with cheesecloth. I quartered the halves and cut the sections into thin slices, which were then placed into a large non-reactive stockpot filled with 4 cups of water. Also, I tied the cheesecloth into a little pouch of seeds and placed it into the pot as well. I left this mixture to stand covered at room temperature for 24 hours.

Before doing so, however, I did manage to taste a couple of lemon slices. The juice was sour, but not nearly as sour as conventional lemons. What I found most surprising was that the outer white membrane was not bitter at all, again unlike conventional lemons. I could see how Meyers would be an excellent ingredient in many recipes. If you've ever made chicken picatta, you'd know that if you left the lemon slices to cook in the sauce for too long, you might end up with a dish that tastes incredibly bitter. Meyers, I'm sure, would make for a interesting substitute in these types of recipes.

meyer lemon marmalade
Twenty-four hours later, I brought the lemon slices to a boil and simmered the pot for approximately 45 minutes until the mixture was reduced to about 4 cups. I then added 4 cups of sugar and brought the mixture back up to a boil. Maintaining the heat at a moderate temperature, I skimmed any white foam that surfaced and stirred the pot occasionally. When the mixture registered 212-214 degrees F on my candy thermometer, I tested a bit of it on a cold plate to make sure it jelled (which it did). I then ladled the hot marmalade into sterilized half pint jars and processed them for 10 minutes. (If you'd like more information on water-bath canning, click here.)

meyer lemon marmalade 2
I ended up with 5 jars of marmalade, which I left to cool at room temperature overnight. Since the stockpot I used to process the jars could only fit 4, the 5th jar went straight into the refrigerator after it cooled. Also, I noticed that according to the recipe I used, I was supposed to end up with 6 jars of marmalade. I guess I'd reduced the lemon/water mixture for too long.

So how did the marmalade taste - really really good. It doesn't have any of the bitterness that the English love in their Seville orange marmalade, but the Meyer lemon flavor definitely makes this marmalade extra special. I'm planning on making another batch to hand out as Christmas gifts. I guess I'll label it, "Thomas' New England Homegrown Meyer Lemon Marmalade." :)

As far as first canning experiences go, I found the process to be relatively straight forward and quite fun. Since my canning kit had not arrived yet, I used a stockpot lined with a towel. I'm happy to say that all of my jars sealed properly. Hopefully, this will be the start of a very long canning career!


  1. Those lemons are adorable and that marmalade looks delicious! I found a picture of the red variety here:

    Apparently there is also a purple variety.

  2. Stunning. To be treasured and eeked out until next season...and best on slightly cold toast :-)

  3. Thomas, so beautiful! You must be very proud, as you should be. Everything you do turns out absolutely perfect!

  4. My mouth is watering when I look at these pictures!

  5. wow...those lemons look so healthy as does the tree.... and I love the shot of the finished jam jars all lined up... great shot...

    I'm off to scroll backwards through posts....

  6. Sounds scrummy!
    I don't like orange marmalade, but I could be persuaded to try this though :)

  7. Woohoo! I'm glad it went well for you. I always wind up with less than the recipe says I should. No biggie.

  8. I have been wanting a meyer lemon for many years, this last post may be the thing that gets me to actually order one! Welcome to canning, isn't it fun?

  9. Isn't canning so easy and fun? I love canning jellies, but I've never made a marmalade before. Yours looks fabulous.

  10. That is so gorgeous. Welcome to the wonderful world of canning. I would love to have a lemon tree, but don't have a good window for it. Jealous!

  11. Thomas, great job! Your marmalade will make great gifts. I see lots more canning projects in your future...

    My marmalade recipe is based on the same one you used so I thought I'd share what I learned about it. I made a couple of changes, most notably adding chiles to make it spicy, but I also make it without spice. You don't have to adjust any of the other ingredients if you want to add flavorings. Another thing I learned after making the recipe a couple of times is that you can omit the seeds, they do nothing but add some bitterness, which I'm not fond of. And you don't have to cook the jelly up to 212-214, just cook it for 10 to 15 minutes for the final cooking. The marmalade will gel because the lemon skins are packed with pectin. You will end up with more marmalade that way.

    If you like candied citrus peel, the meyer skins are fantastic candied (Epicurious has a couple of recipes). And Meyers also make great Moroccan preserved lemons.

    Have fun experimenting, Meyer lemons really are wonderful.

  12. Thanks everyone for the kind comments! I was really excited to do this post...and it wouldn't have been possible without all of the great canning advice that you've all given.

    Michelle, thanks for the tip! I will definitely take all of it into account when making my next batch, I think I might add some fresh vanilla bean to some of it. Also, I will definitely be making some preserved lemons!

  13. I thought I should add one more thing about the marmalade. Your marmalade is very pretty and clear with translucent bits of peel showing. When you don't cook it to the higher temperature it doesn't become clear like that, it stays cloudy and the bits of peel don't become translucent, but the bits of peel also don't cook down as much.

  14. Awesome photographs, and a great post. I'm enjoying your blog so much that I've linked to it.

    I have a Meyer Improved Lemon tree in my backyard here in southern California that has its first lemons ripening now, over 20 of them. Not bad for a first crop from a dwarf tree. I'm looking forward to trying your recipe.

  15. Lou, I wish I lived in an area where it was warm enough to grow citrus outside. It would be interesting to see what this tree can really do with more light and space to work with.

  16. Your marmalade looks excellent! I have never tried a marmalade before. Might be a good recipe to try this winter.

  17. Hi Thomas. I've been very remiss and haven't read your blog in the last week or so...what pleasures i appear to have denied myself! I would have weighed in with good advice about canning/jam making but it's not different than the excellent advice you already got...and what a beautiful result you have! And yes, absolutely label the jars so that the lucky recipient knows that not only did you make the jam, you raised the fruit yourself.

  18. Thomas...those pictures are stunning..I LOVE the one of the marmalade on the windowsill...are those wonderful.

    Just perfect and so inspiring...

    What a treasure of gold you will have in the pantry over the winter...a taste of sunshine....


  19. Hi there...I'm new to your blog and couldn't have stumbled upon you at a more appropriate time! I just received a TON of Meyer lemons from my aunt...she has a huge tree. I, on the other hand, have a tiny tree...that for some reason dropped all of it's buds mid-summer. Not sure what happened...but I'm holding out hope for next year! Thank you for sharing the marmalade recipe...I'm going to make some, too!

  20. How wonderful! Congrats on breaking into the world of canning, I'm sure you'll be addicted in no time ;)

  21. I watched my parents can when I was a kid and now can as an adult. I don't pressure can yet; but next year...

    I usually make jams and jellies (which are the easiest and best to start with); and of course, tomato sauce! This year I made tons of applesauce and even pickled some things! Everything tastes so much better than you can get in the store.

  22. Hi Thomas. This is my first comment on your blog which I have been following with great enjoyment.
    I have been wanting a Meyer Lemon Tree and think now I will have to take the plunge. Your lemons and your marmalade look wonderful! I make a yellow tomato marmalade every year and always grow two Yellow Perfection tomato plants expressly for that purpose. The recipe calls for a few slices of lemon and of course I've had to buy organic ones from California (as you say, too many miles away). But you've inspired me to grow my own. Thanks!

  23. Wonderful blog, Thomas! You actually inspired me to plant 3 Meyer lemon trees in my SF yard a couple years back and they're doing great (though 1st harvest had thicker skins). Regarding your soil and leaf drop challenges, have you been to the Citrus forum in GardenWeb? There is a soil-less, very free-draining mix (of 5 parts microbark, 1 part perlite, and 1 part peat) that a lot of the New England people swear by to correct their root rot issues. I used this same formula on a 4th (potted) tree that I bought nearly leafless from a nursery (for 1/2 off!) and it came back to life and is doing fantastic. Lastly, I want to turn you on to making canned Meyer lemon curd. I made it last weekend and it is amazing(!), really capturing that delicate floral, bergamot flavor that is so distinctive of Meyer lemon. Here is the recipe (I substituted real ML juice):
    Good luck!

  24. I'm making some tonight. And I've been curious about getting a tree, and if you'd actually get fruit. You're in the same climate area as me (meaning your trees are indoors at leats part of the year) and given the size of your lemons they seem to be doing great! This post I see is a few years old now so I hope your lemon tree is still as happy!