I believe we’ve gone a little overboard in the Meyer lemon category as of late. Perhaps it hasn’t phased you, but it certainly has me. Still, I can’t get enough of these darling little suckers, sweet and tart at the same time, kind of like the best people I know. And I just keep ordering them by the pound(s) from the Lemon Ladies, a small producer in California.
As I mentioned previously, I’m a lazy jam maker. I throw fruit into a pot with plenty of sugar and lemon and hope for the best, and usually get plenty of passable results, sometimes worth of topping a pretty panna cotta dessert, sometimes only worthy of a smear on a piece of toast. Either way, I prefer to take my chances and not worry too much about the intricacies of the esteemed jam making process.
There are, however, a few special recipes that cause me pause, making me rethink my messy ways. And when I got my paws on Rachel Saunders’ The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook finally, I totally fell into a bit of awe. First, she’s absolutely beautiful, like a little pixie in the kitchen whipping up a bit of magic.
And her jam recipes aren’t half bad either. They really sound delightful, packed with familiar and foreign fruit, herbs, flowers, spices and, my favorite, the occasional dose of liquor. While Rachel isn’t a big fan of plain Meyer lemon marmalade (it seems “somewhat one-dimensional” to her), I sparked it up with what I know best and splashed in some booze. The Elderflower liquor kicks the pants off any one-dimensionality and, from what I’ve heard, put a smile on my friend’s faces too.
I’ve combined a few of Rachel’s recipes into what I felt was best for this jam. Sure, it was a lot of work and hasn’t made me give up my lazy ways, but the results were delicious and something of which I’m far more proud. I also did a bunch of other cool things with my Meyer lemons, which you can see previewed in some of the above photos, and promise to tell you all about that soon.
Meyer Lemon Marmalade with Elderflower Liquor
Adapted from Rachel Saunders’ The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook
- 3 pounds 10 ounces seeded Meyer lemons, halved crosswise, each half cut lengthwise into quarters and sliced thinly crosswise
- 2.5 pounds white cane sugar
- 3 ounces strained freshly squeezed lemon juice (not Meyer lemon, but standard lemons)
- 3 ounces elderflower liquor
Day 1 Instructions
Place the lemon slices in a wide stainless-steel kettle and cover with 1 inch cold water. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rest overnight at room temperature. (Don’t skip this step as it helps to develop the fruit’s natural pectin.)
Day 2 Instructions
Place a saucer with five metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer for testing the jam later. Remove the plastic wrap from the lemons and bring them to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and cook at a lively simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the fruit is tender.
When the lemon slices have finished cooking, place them with their liquid into a larger mixing bowl with the sugar and fresh lemon juice. Stir well to combine, taste, and slowly add a little more lemon juice if necessary. You should be able to taste the lemon juice, but it should not be overpowering. Keep adding lemon juice only until you are just able to detect its tartness. Transfer the mixture to an 11- or 12-quarter copper preserving plan or a wide nonreactive pan (which is what I chose).
Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Cook at a rapid boil until the setting point is reached; this will take a minimum of 35 minutes, but may take longer depending on your individual stove and pan. Initially, the mixture will bubble gently for several minutes; then, as more moisture cooks out of it and its sugar concentration increases, it will begin foaming. Do not stir it at all during the initial bubbling; then, once it starts to foam, stir it gently every few minutes with a heatproof rubber spatula. As it gets close to being done, stir it slowly every minute or two to prevent burning, decreasing the heat a tiny bit if necessary. The marmalade is ready for testing when its color darkens slightly and its bubbles become very small.
To test the marmalade for doneness, remove it from the heat and carefully transfer a small representative half-spoonful to one of your frozen spoons. It should look shiny, with tiny bubbles throughout. Replace the spoon in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove and carefully feel the underside of the spoon. It should be neither warm nor cold; if still warm, return it to the freezer for a moment. Tilt the spoon vertically to see whether the marmalade runs; if it does not run, and if its top layer has thickened to a jelly consistency, it is done. If it runs, cook it for another few minutes, stirring, and test again as needed. (It took me 3 spoons to get it just right.)
When the marmalade is ready, turn off the heat but do not stir. Using a stainless-steel spoon, skim off any surface foam. Stir in 1-2 ounces of the elderflower liquor. Taste carefully and add a little more liquor if necessary; the flavor should be present but subtle. (I added in a full 3 ounces of liquor.) Pour the jam into sterilized jars and process according to your manufacturer’s instructions or as Rachel Saunder’s suggests, using an oven method. More on the oven method here (under “Great Tip”).