One of many nice things about spring around here is that Meyer lemons and strawberries share part of the season. We can still pick Meyers when the first local berries are arriving in the markets. If you want to make a preserve that’s solidly spring, Meyer Lemon-Strawberry Marmalade definitely qualifies.
This is one of the best marmalades I’ve made in the past year, for sure. I’ve been working on some new recipes to enter in the Marin County Fair. (Entry forms are due next week for our fair in July. I can’t believe how fast it snuck up. I’m in denial.) This year the fair has a special category for strawberries only — preserves, jams, jellies, conserves, and marmalade. The rules are clear that the strawberry marmalade can include citrus fruit but, unfortunately, I think the lemon in this recipe is too dominant for success in a category that puts strawberries first.
No matter. While I’m trying to invent another strawberry marmalade to enter in the fair, I’m happy to be eating this one. We’re already down to our last jar.
Meyer Lemon-Strawberry Marmalade
1 1/2 pounds Meyer lemons
5 cups water
1 pound strawberries, pureed
1 pound strawberries, roughly chopped
6 cups sugar
1. Slice the lemons as described in How to Slice Citrus Fruit for Marmalade. Strain the leftover lemon juice (the post about slicing fruit explains this) and set it aside. Also, retain the pithy centers and use them to make a “pith bag.” That is, dunk a piece of cheesecloth or other clean linen (I’ve torn up a couple of old, clean T-shirts for this purpose) in boiling water and then use it to bind up the pith, tying it off so it makes a little bag.
2. Put the lemons, strained lemon juice, pith bag, and water into a large, nonreactive saucepot. Bring the water to a boil and then immediately reduce to a simmer. Simmer the lemons for 5 minutes only.
3. Transfer the contents of the pot (including the pith bag) to a glass or ceramic bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature for 4-6 hours. (That’s the ideal soaking time. If you have to leave the lemons overnight, put them in the fridge. Don’t let them soak longer than that, because Meyers are soft to begin with and they may get mushy. My favorite way to make a Meyer marmalade is to prepare the lemons in the morning and finish the job later in the day.)
4. After the lemons have soaked, sterilize your jars and put 5 metal teaspoons on a plate in the freezer to test the marmalade for doneness later.
5. Place the lemons and their liquid into a large, nonreactive jam pan. Give the pith bag a squeeze and discard it. Then, bring the liquid to a boil and reduce it to a simmer. Simmer until the lemons are tender, about 5-10 minutes. (If a slice of lemon easily comes apart when you press it against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon, the lemons are ready.)
6. While the lemons are simmering, puree and chop the strawberries, setting the chopped berries aside in a separate bowl. When the lemons are ready, stir in the strawberry puree and the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook at high temperature for 15 minutes. (I found that I had to stir this marmalade more frequently than most, because strawberries are much more likely than citrus to stick and/or burn. Keep an eye on the pot and stir as often as needed to prevent this. During this phase, I did some skimming, too — using a large, shallow stainless steel spoon to scoop away some of the obvious white foam. Go for the white, sticky looking stuff, not the lighter, pink froth. This mixture will foam up big time, because there’s quite a bit of sugar in it. It should settle down at the next step.)
7. After 15 minutes of cooking time, add the chopped strawberries to the pot and continue to cook the mixture until it reaches the gelling point, stirring and skimming as needed. You may also need to turn down the heat a bit. Start to test the marmalade for doneness when you notice that the mixture has thickened and the bubbles have become smaller, shinier, and more concentrated. In my 11-quart pot, the total cooking time was 30 minutes.
Testing the marmalade for doneness. Remove the mixture from the heat. If it’s still boiling up like crazy, give it a little stir to cool it a bit, so the strawberries don’t stick. Use one of the frozen spoons to scoop up a little bit of marmalade — not a whole spoonful, more like half. Return the spoon to the freezer and wait 3 minutes. Retrieve the spoon and hold it vertically. If the marmalade doesn’t run and has reached a semi-solid consistency, it’s done. Alternatively, give the mixture a push with your finger. If it wrinkles all the way through, it’s done. If the marmalade isn’t done, return it to the heat, cook it for 2-3 more minutes, and test again.
8. When the marmalade is finished, remove it from the heat and skim any remaining foam. Allow the mixture to cool for about 5 minutes, giving it a gentle stir once or twice to distribute the lemon slices. Then ladle or pour the marmalade into the sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth and secure the lids.
9. Process in a water-bath canner, using the correct time for your altitude: 5 minutes for 0-1,000 feet above sea level, plus 1 minute for every additional 1,000 feet.
Yields about 7 half-pint jars.