I’ve been doing a lot with citrus the last two weeks. Which is really no surprise, considering the season. Unfortunately, my intention of sharing that citrus craze was stymied last weekend. Yup, I was sick. Not sick as a dog sick, but sick enough that the idea of 8-9 extra people plus getting the house ready, not to mention actually teaching marmalade was daunting. That, and nobody likes a plague monkey. I try not to deliberately expose other people to my sick. So we’re rescheduling the winter jam session for some time in January.
That being said, its still been a citrusy month so far. Besides the usual bevy of golden hued goodness that I always get to consume this time of year, I’ve been very lucky in the expanding produce selections in the stores around me. This year I’ve been able to try for the first time a number of citrus fruits I’d only ever read about before. Meyer lemons (turned in to a tiny batch of lemon curd), Cara Cara oranges, Satsuma oranges (these aren’t lasting long enough for me to make anything with them), and Sorrento lemons.
I hadn’t originally intended to buy Sorrento lemons honestly. We were at the store and I saw a sign for Meyer Lemons. $4 for 5lbs. Really? Sign me up! Meyers are hard to find around here, period, and at that price? What a steal!
It wasn’t until I got home that I started getting suspicious. I opened the mesh bag and started sorting my lemons dubiously. They weren’t smooth like I thought Meyer lemons were suposed to be. And they were larger than expected. Half again at large as they were suposed to be. Had the store pulled a fast one on me? Were they banking that their customers didn’t know what a meyer lemon looked like(*cough cough*)? I turned to Pete.
“Do these look like Meyer lemons to you?”
“They look like lemons.”
“Yes,” I wheedled, “but do they look like Meyer lemons? Here, let me get a picture.”
I lost his interest about that point because, well, lemons are lemons. Except when they aren’t.
It didn’t take long to discover that, no, I did not have the lemons I thought I was buying, but something just as good. I had bagged some Italian Sorrento lemons. These lemons are grown specifically for making limoncello. What luck! I knew someone who wanted limoncello! So a batch was made and left to steep, waiting to be completed in time for Christmas.
This still left me with four Sorrento lemons. What could I do with four lemons? I could make a small batch of lemon curd, but by this point I had tracked down some real meyer lemons and made curd with that. I could just dehydrate them, but I still have a quart of dried lemons in my cabinet. Well, why not make marmalade? I puttered around for a couple of days, researching small batch marmalade recipes before settling on a combination of several processes and splitting the difference on the amount of water. I wanted to use the whole fruit, so I went with an overnight soak to soften the pith and bitterness. Confession: this marmalade soaked for over 48 hours because I got sick. In the recipe below, I stick to the original time frame, but know that it works just fine if life gets crazy and you have to let the rind soak for an extra day or two.
I have to say, I want to hoard all of this marmalade for myself. I got three and a half 8oz jars out of my four lemons, and if I ever see more of these, I’m going to forget the limoncello and just make marmalade. It’s bright, tart without being sour, and with the barest trace of bitter that sits beneath the other flavors. Marmalade is kind of hit or miss for me, often it’s too sweet or too bitter. This was just right.
Small Batch Limoncello Marmalade
Makes 3-4 half pints
4 Sorrento lemons
2 cups water
Sugar (about 3 cups)
1/4 tablespoon butter (optional)
1) Scrub lemons with water and soap. Using a very sharp knife, cut off the stem and blossom ends. Cut lemons in the quarters. Trim away the core pith, membrane and any seeds; reserve these, they will supply some pectin. Cut in to thin, uniform slices, the thinner the better. Cut each slice in half or thirds, depending on how small you like your bits of peel in the marmalade.
2) Gather cores and seeds in to a piece of cheesecloth and bundle them up so they can’t escape. Combine lemon slices, any juice, seed/pith bundle and 2 cups water in to a non-reactive bowl. Refrigerate over night.
3) When you are ready to cook your marmalade, prepare a boiling water bath and 4 half pint jars, lids and rings. You could also use 4oz jars if desired.
4) Remove the cheesecloth bundle, squeezing as much liquid out of it as you can. Measure your fruit and water mixture and add an equivalant amount of sugar (I had 3 cups lemons/water, so I used 3 cups sugar).
5) Bring the mixture to a low boil in a wide, shallow pan, stirring regularly. If it is foaming too much, you can add a 1/4 tablespoon butter to calm down the bubbles. Cook until it reads 220F on a candy thermometer, or until it passes the wrinkle test on a chilled spoon or plate.
6) Ladle in to prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes for 4oz or 8oz jars. After the 10 minutes is up, turn off heat, uncover pot and let the jars sit in the water for 5 minutes before removing to help keep the hot marmalade from boiling out. Jars that seal properly will keep for over a year before opened. Unsealed or opened jar will last several months in the refrigerator.
Notes: Cold citrus is easier to slice than warm. Refrigerating your lemons for at least an hour or two before working with them, and removing them from the fridge one at a time can make getting really thin slices easier. A very sharp knife also makes the job easier. I tend to sharpen whatever knife I intend to use any time I make marmalade.