Quince Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Last year, I made a Quince-Orange-Cardamom Marmalade that turned out really well — it won a blue ribbon at the county fair, and even a New York Times editor gave a nod to the recipe. (That totally made my skirt fly up, and I won’t pretend otherwise.) This winter, I’ve experimented with several variations on the quince-based marmalade theme, including one with Page mandarins and another with blood oranges. But this version — using my trusty friends, the Meyer lemons — is my by far my favorite.

Most of the Meyer lemons I’ve seen this season have been kinda small and pithy, and I’m told that’s because we had a very dry fall and early winter. But the lemons I’ve been working with this week are absolutely luscious — unusually large, unabashedly juicy. They were a gift from the tree of my friends Emily and Luan, and it’s some kind of miracle tree, for sure. They gave me twenty pounds of lemons to use and to share — thank you, thank you — and the ones in the basket there are all I have left.

This isn’t a fancy recipe — just cooked lemon slices in a base of quince juice — but the bright, uncomplicated Meyers make a great partner for the earthy, floral quince. It’s a meeting that’s simple, good, and worth repeating. I wanted to get my notes together here so I remember it for later.

Quince Meyer Lemon Marmalade

1 1/2 pounds Meyer lemons
2 1/2 cups water
Juice of 1 large Eureka or Lisbon lemon, strained
4 cups quince juice*
4 cups sugar

*If you don’t have quince juice that you’ve already canned or stashed in your freezer, the process of making it is described in the Quince-Orange-Cardamom Marmalade post. You’ll want to make your juice before you begin. (And consider, at the beginning of the next quince season, making one or more big batches of juice that you can use throughout the winter. Besides marmalades and jellies, it makes a mean and lovely syrup.)

1. Sterilize your jars and put 5 teaspoons on a plate in the freezer to test your marmalade for doneness later.

2. Slice the Meyer lemons as described in How to Slice Citrus Fruit for Marmalade. Retain the pithy centers and squeeze them to extract as much juice as possible, then strain the juice and set it aside. (You can discard the pith after you’ve squeezed it.)

3. Place the lemon slices in a nonreactive pot or skillet, along with the Meyer lemon juice you collected. Add just enough water — about 2 1/2 cups to start — so the slices float freely. Cook at a simmer until the the lemon slices are tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more water only if necessary. (You’ll know the slices are ready when you press one against the side of the pot with your spoon and it easily comes apart.)

4. Transfer the cooked Meyer lemon slices and their liquid to a large, heatproof bowl and add the Eureka or Lisbon lemon juice, quince juice, and sugar. Stir the mixture gently, let it sit for about five minutes, and stir again, until the sugar has dissolved. Then transfer the mixture to your jam pan, turn the heat to high, and bring the mixture to a boil. (You may wonder why you need to transfer the mixture to a bowl before putting it all into your jam pan. That step is necessary only if you’re using an unlined copper pot like the one pictured in this post. When you use unlined copper, you need to add the sugar before you put the fruit into the pan. For more information, check out this post on safely using a copper jam pan.) Don’t stir the marmalade much in its initial boiling phase, while the entire surface is steadily and easily boiling. After it has been cooking for a bit and it starts to foam up, stir as needed to prevent scorching or sticking. You may want to skim the foam once or twice at this stage, too.

5. Continue cooking on high to medium-high heat until the marmalade reaches the setting point. (After the super foamy stage, wait for the bubbles to settle down small and shiny and for the mixture to darken a bit, then test it. If you like to use a candy thermometer, let it hang at 220 for a few moments before you test.) In my 11-quart pan, the marmalade cooked in about 25 minutes.

Testing the marmalade for doneness. Remove the mixture from the heat. 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. The mixture shouldn’t run. Give it a push with your finger. If it wrinkles all the way through, it’s done. If it needs more time, return the marmalade to the heat, cook it for 2-3 more minutes, and test again.

6. After the marmalade reaches the setting point, take it off the heat and skim any remaining foam. Allow it to sit for 5-8 minutes, occasionally giving it a gentle stir to distribute the lemon slices. (If you don’t let it sit, the slices want to float to the tops of the jars.) Ladle or pour the hot marmalade into your sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel, and secure the lids.

7. Process in a hot 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.

Makes about 5 half-pint jars.

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