One summer, years ago, I decided to take up canning.
Spurred by memories of the homemade bread and butter pickles and blueberry jam of my childhood, I bought a box full of Mason jars and a giant pot nearly too big to fit on my teeny tiny apartment stovetop and I set about putting up jam, fruit butters and stewed tomatoes.
When the summer ended I stashed my giant pot on top of one of the kitchen cabinets and proceeded to more or less forget about it.
That pot has since moved with me four times and occupied up an inordinate amount of kitchen real estate. It would have been justifiable had I actually stuck with my canning endeavor, but that first summer was the only summer I ever canned anything.
I wasn’t someone with a canning hobby. I was just someone with a really large pot.
Earlier this month, in a quest to use up my bumper crop of Meyer lemons (and make myself feel better about devoting the better part of my biggest kitchen cabinet to a pot I never used), I decided to try my hand at marmalade.
And you know what? It’s easy! Remarkably so!
Of course, I overcooked the first batch, so I guess it’s not totally foolproof. But you get to learn from my mistakes and will hopefully fare better.
Even the “bad” batch tastes fine, albeit too thick and over-caramelized.
My second attempt turned out three jars of beautifully translucent, tart-sweet marmalade.
You don’t need much else in the way of special equipment. A wide mouth funnel and a pair of rubberized tongs help, but you can hack these with a Solo cup and a few rubber bands.
No Meyers? You could easily make this with another citrus fruit instead, but Meyer Lemons are a great choice if they’re available.
Since their pith isn’t bitter, there’s no need to trim it away. Just slice up the lemons and simmer them with water and sugar. Seriously, it’s that easy.
Adapted from Food in Jars.
This marmalade is simple to make and requires very little in the way of special tools. That said, I messed up my first batch and learned a few tricks along the way.
— When choosing a pot for your marmalade, go for wide over deep. The longer you cook the marmalade, the more caramelized the sugar will become, interfering with the flavor of the fruit itself. For the best flavor, cook it quickly over a relatively high heat. A wide pot will help to facilitate this. Some recipes call for boiling just the fruit and water first and adding the sugar later, which I suspect would also help to reduce caramelization. I haven't tried this but probably will next time.
— Remove your pot from the heat when you test the marmalade for doneness. It can overcook quickly at this point and it's easier to fix marmalade that hasn't been cooked enough than to try to rescue it once it's cooked too much. The marmalade can go on and off the heat as many times as needed.
— Some people seem to have trouble getting their marmalade to set up enough, but I had the opposite problem with an initial batch so thick it was practically chewy. The next time, I found that my marmalade was ready as soon as a spoonful wrinkled — even just a little bit — on a chilled plate. Another test has you lift your spoon from the pot and watch to see whether the marmalade drips back into the pot or falls down in ribbons, but my marmalade was already overdone before it reached the ribbon stage, so that test wasn't as reliable for me.
— Wait until the marmalade is finished to skim the foam off the top and don't worry if you don't get every last bit.
- 1 pound Meyer lemons
- 3 cups water
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Place two or three small plates in the freezer.
Wash your lemons and slice them in half, lengthwise. Cut out the pithy core and remove any seeds, setting them aside.
Cut your lemons in half again, also lengthwise (You should have four long wedges from each lemon.). Then slice the lemon wedges into very thin quarter moons, as thin as you can manage.
Put all the lemon slices into a heavy pot and add the water. Tie up the cores and seeds in a piece of cheese cloth and add it to the pot.
Cover and set aside overnight at room temperature.
The next day, add the sugar and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down slightly and continue to cook the lemon and sugar mixture at a slow boil, stirring frequently.
To test for doneness, remove the pot from the heat and drop a small spoonful of marmalade on a plate pulled from the freezer. Let it sit for a minute or so and then push the jam with your finger. If it wrinkles, even a little tiny bit, your marmalade is ready. If it is still very runny and liquid, return the pot to the stove. I found my marmalade was ready when it had reduced by about half.
You can also use a candy thermometer, if you have one. The marmalade should be finished when its temperature reaches 220 degrees.
When the marmalade is finished cooking, pull from the heat, skim any foam off the surface and discard, and ladle the marmalade into prepared jars. Put lids on the jars and screw on the bands, then process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Once the jars are finished processing, set them on the counter and wait for them to "ping," indicating they are properly sealed. It's possible for a jar to be correctly sealed even if it doesn't ping. To check your seals press on the middle of the jar lid. If the lid is slightly concave and has no give, you have a good seal. If it pops in and out when you press it, your seal is no good.
Unopened jars of marmalade should keep well for about a year.