If my friends know me for any one preserve, this is it. For a long time, this recipe for Meyer Lemon Marmalade was available only in an eBook I published in 2011. I stopped selling that book a while back. I decided to make the recipe available here with what I think is a handy new tip — an optional trick for using a smidgen of Pomona’s Pectin to ensure a bright finish and a great set without gumming up the texture. If life hadn’t foiled my plans to start a cottage jam business by slinging me a health crisis a couple years back, I probably wouldn’t be telling anyone about my little twist. It would be a trade secret. You’ll find it at the end of this post.
First, however, here’s the original recipe for the marmalade that won Best in Show at the county fair in 2010. Those seem like the old days now!
A good Meyer Lemon Marmalade is pure sunshine in a jar; the color is a lovely yellow, not overly caramelized. The jelly is lightly set without being watery or too cloudy. The slices of lemon peel are slender and evenly cut. And the taste is sweet and tart, not bitter.
Some folks say that Meyer Lemon is the most difficult type of marmalade to make. That’s because Meyer lemons are softer and less acidic than other citrus, which means it can be a challenge to get your marmalade to set well without overcooking the fruit — but it can be done! For best results, choose ripe but firm lemons without too much pith, and process them soon after you pick them.
Before you begin, note that this is a two-day process; your cut lemons will need to soak for a night in the fridge before you cook your marmalade. All of this is explained just below.
Meyer Lemon Marmalade
yields about 9 half-pint jars
2 1/2 pounds Meyer lemons
7 cups water
6 1/2 cups pure cane white sugar
1. Wash the lemons and chill them in the fridge for at least an hour. Chilling is optional, but it’s much easier to thinly slice a cold lemon.
2. Slice each lemon along the stem and then cut a notch from the center to remove the pith, as pictured below.
3. Hold each lemon over a bowl and run your thumb along the inside of the notch to remove the seeds. The bowl will catch the seeds and the juice, which you should set aside until Steps 5 and 6.
4. Thinly slice the lemons. I do this by turning each lemon wedge face down on the cutting board, as pictured here.
5. Put the lemon slices and the 7 cups of water into a large glass or ceramic bowl. Strain the set-aside juice and seeds from Step 3 and add the juice to bowl, too.
6. Put the seeds into a large stainless tea ball with a latch. If you don’t have a tea ball, a spice bag or tied up piece of cheesecloth will do. Toss the ball of seeds right into the bowl with the lemons and water.
7. Cover the bowl with parchment paper or a large dinner plate and let it stand in the fridge overnight. (I don’t recommend covering the bowl with a cloth. If it slips into the water and soaks up all the water, you’ll be in trouble.
Why Use The Seeds?
The seeds are very high in pectin. Including them helps your marmalade to jell. Some folks say it’s not necessary to include the seeds—and that’s technically true. Even without the seeds, your marmalade will set just fine if you cook it long enough. I made this recipe a dozen times before I decided to give the “seed method” a chance. I wanted to find out whether the seeds would allow me to get a better set. They did! Now I always include them.
1. Sterilize your jars and put 5 teaspoons on a plate in the freezer, to test your marmalade for doneness later.
2. Put the contents of the bowl (including the tea ball full of seeds) into a large, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive pot — not uncoated aluminum, cast iron, or copper. Simmer the lemons until the peels are soft. To test them: Press one of the peels against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. If it comes apart easily, your lemons are ready for the next step.
3. Add the sugar and stir gently until it dissolves, then turn the heat to high.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook it on high heat until it reaches the jelling point. Be patient, because it will take some time to get there — about 30-40 minutes. (The first time I made this marmalade, I couldn’t believe it would take so long and pulled the mixture from the heat way too soon. I ended up with a gloppy mess.) And don’t over-stir the mixture! Every time you stir, you reduce the temperature. Let it cook steadily for at least 20 minutes or so, then stir occasionally near the end of the cooking process, so the mixture doesn’t stick. I start testing for doneness when the mixture reaches 220F on a candy thermometer. (After you’ve made this recipe many times, you may want to give up the candy thermometer, but it’s a good way to start.)
The Frozen Spoon Test
Remove the pan from the heat source before testing. Use one of the frozen spoons to scoop up a little bit of the preserve — not a whole spoonful, more like half. Return the spoon to the freezer and wait 3 minutes. Retrieve the spoon. When you push the marmalade with your finger, it should wrinkle subtly but all the way through. If you hold the spoon vertically, it should hang together as a whole and start to move very slowly down the spoon. It shouldn’t be runny.
5. When the mixture passes the test for doneness, take out seed ball, and ladle the hot marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Wipe the jar rims with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel if necessary, then put on your lids and bands.
6. 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.
An Optional Pectin Trick
A couple years ago, when I was making batch after batch of Meyer Lemon Marmalade in anticipation of starting a cottage food business, I cooked up a subtle trick using Pomona’s Pectin that makes the set a shoo-in without compromising the texture. That means you get to skip the sometimes protracted testing and nail-biting part. It also reduces the overall amount of sugar in the recipe. If you want to try it, here’s what to do.
- Get yourself some Pomona’s Pectin.
- Reduce the total amount of sugar in the recipe to 5 3/4 cups.
- On Day 2, just before Step 3, separate out 1/2 cup of sugar and thoroughly mix in 1 1/2 teaspoons of pectin powder.
- At Step 4, add 2 teaspoons of calcium water (directions for making this are in the Pomona’s box) to the mixture as it heats. Continue to cook the marmalade until your thermometer reaches 220 and let it hang there for a moment or two.
- Stir in the pectin-sugar and cook the mixture for two more minutes.
- Pull the mixture off the heat and continue with Steps 5 and 6.
This was a relaxing, no fail solution for me. I hope it works for you, too!
P.S. Here’s a note thanks to a comment from a sharp reader: If you use the pectin trick, you’re welcome to leave the seeds out of the process. Your set should turn out just fine without them.