Eight Ways to Preserve Meyer Lemons

six meyer lemons

It is Meyer lemon season and I am in the midst of my annual binge. As I’ve chopped, juiced, dried, fermented and otherwise infused my way through ten pounds, the though occurred to me that it might be useful to have all my favorite ways to preserve this citrus hybrid in one place.

Some of the recipes are mine, some link out to other folks. I’ve tucked my recipe for Meyer lemon jelly in at the end of the post (it’s a recipe from the cookbook, but I feel compelled to share). Enjoy!

soaking meyer lemon bits

I think that marmalade is one of the highest forms of preservation for Meyer lemons. There’s a recipe in my cookbook, but if you don’t have it, use this recipe for Small Batch Blood Orange Marmalade. It will work just as well. If you want something a little different, consider trying the Strawberry Meyer Lemon Marmalade recipe I wrote for Simple Bites last year.

salted meyer lemons

For those of you who like their citrus with a little funk, make Salt Preserved Lemons. Use them in salads, braises, stews and even salted lemonade. If you struggle with them in their whole state, blend them and scoop the puree into vinaigrettes and smooth soups.

dehydrating lemons

Dehydrated lemon slices are good for dropping into mugs of tea, water bottles and even braises that need a little acidity. If you store them in airtight containers, they last up to a year.

meyer lemon zest sugar

Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you’re going to juice a bunch of lemons,  make sure to zest them (either with a vegetable peeler for big chunks or with a rasp for fine bits) thoroughly before you give them the big squeeze. Then stir that zest into sugar or salt, let it dry on a plate or baking sheet for a bit and then pack it into jars. You’ll get good Meyer lemon flavor, all year round.

267 | 365

This recipe for Meyer Lemon Caramel is not mine and I’ve not yet tried it (but I plan to). However, when it comes to delicious things, I trust Janet without question. Her blog is a delight and you should be reading it. And then you should make Meyer lemon caramel.

two half-pints of lemon curd

Meyer Lemon Curd is one of my weaknesses. I love it a little too much, which is why I make it just once a year. It’s dangerous for me to have around. But in January or February, it just seems right to whisk up a batch and stir it into greek yogurt. It beats the winter blues better than a trip to the tropics.

making limoncelle

If you like limoncello, I implore you to make this version of Meyer Limoncello that Heather posted on her blog (Voodoo and Sauce) about two years ago. I’ve made it following her instructions twice and it’s divine. I’ve not changed a thing (which is rare for me).

meyer lemons

After the jump is my recipe for Meyer Lemon Jelly. The set can be a little tricky to hit right on the nose, but since I like to spoon this jelly into sparkling water, it’s no great loss if it’s too loose. For a slightly pulpier preserve, substitute segmented Meyer lemons for the grapefruit in this jam recipe.

What’s your favorite way to preserve Meyer lemons?

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Canning 101: Extending the Life of Open Jars

a fruit butter bar

One of the dangers of doing as much preserving as I do is the number of open jars that are constantly in the fridge (jars from brunches, from tasting events and those jars holding the overflow from recent projects). No matter how much I use, there’s always a fresh flow of jam, fruit butter, chutney and pickled things rushing in to fill the void. Because I can only eat so much on a daily basis, part of my refrigerator management is making sure that I’m taking steps to extend the lifespan of my preserves.

Now, for those of you who live in bustling households where a jar of jam empties in a day, you might not be particularly concerned about this issue, but for those of us with small households (and partners who aren’t interested in anything having to do with fruit), preventing spoilage is a real concern. Here are a few things that you can do to keep mold and other funks at bay.

  • Use clean utensils. This might sound obvious, but often, the temptation to dip into the jam jar with a buttery knife is there. Using clean knives and spoons every time you go for a dollop will keep foreign bodies out of your preserves and keep them fresher longer. 
  • Keep jars tightly closed. This is particularly true if you’re keeping fermented foods in your fridge. If things aren’t sealed well, you run the risk of having the fermentation bacteria leap from sourdough starter to jam. Not good.
  • Label the jars with the date that you open them. This keeps you aware of just how long the jar has been opened and will remind you that the jar of peach jam from last summer should be finished before the more recently opened jar of cranberry jelly.
  • Wash off dried, gloopy jam from the lid. I don’t have any scientific evidence here, but I have found that when I wash the lid of the jar, the preserve lasts longer. Less medium for the mold to grow, I think.
  • Eat the fruit butters first. Sugar is a preservative. Because fruit butters typically have less of it, they just don’t last as long once opened. The same goes for preserves sweetened with honey. Eat them first.
  • Consider canning in smaller jars. If you’re finding that you’re losing much of your preserves to mold, consider using smaller jars. This will mean that you’ll have less open in the fridge at any one time and so will be able to move through it at a more timely clip.

Do you have any other tips for extending the lifespan of your open jars?

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Giveaway: A Canning Stamp from A Sensible Habit

a sensible habit

Over the years, I’ve managed to talk a fair amount about how I label my canning jars. In most cases, I just scrawl the contents and date on the lid with a Sharpie. When I’m labeling dry goods in the pantry, I use that same permanent marker and write directly on the glass (it erases with a swipe of rubbing alcohol).

Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly fancy, I’ll cut out labels with pinking shears and tie them to the jars with red baker’s twine. And of course, I talked a lot about labeling just before the holidays this year.

canning jar label

The most recent addition to my arsenal of canning jar labeling options is this lovely stamp from A Sensible Habit. Designer Brandy Schuman has a pretty little selection of stamps that are perfect for marking your goods with style and charm. You can use them in any number of ways, from hang tags to rounds of paper that you slip under the lid (it would also work really well on those circle-shaped brown paper labels that Avery sells).

seville orange marmalade label

Now that I have this stamp sitting on my desk, I think I’m going to start putting prettier labels on my more giftable preserves, in the hopes that having them all dressed up will compel me to share more with my friends and neighbors (confession time: I keep far more of what I make than we can reasonably eat. It’s time to get those preserves out of my pantry and into the world!).

Thanks to Brandy, I have the stamp that’s pictured above to giveaway this week. If you’d like to enter for a chance to win it, here’s what to do.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about the person who most appreciates your homemade preserves.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Friday, February 8, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog over the weekend.
  3. Giveaway open to U.S. residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: A Sensible Habit provided a stamp for me to use and photograph for this post at no cost to me. They’re also providing the giveaway unit at no cost. They did not pay for inclusion in this post and my opinions are entirely my own. 

 

Links: Energy Bars, Cutting Boards, and Jam Vinaigrette

lamb stew

Edible DIY

So many thanks to everyone who took the time to enter the Edible DIY giveaway last week. The winning number is #640, which is the comment left by Sasha. She’s looking forward to making the maple syrup caramels in the book. I hope they’re every bit as delicious as they look!

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Canning 101: Tips For Making Good Marmalade

just part of my recent marmalade project

When I first started this blog, I was something of a marmalade novice. I dove into my first couple batches blindly and without doing much research. As a result, those initially attempts were pretty lousy – chewy, seriously lacking in any kind of unifying jelly and unnecessarily bitter. Not knowing any better, I wrote them up here and led a few dozen of you into marmalade disappointment.

Since then, four years have passed and I have at least three dozen batches of marmalade under my belt (boggles the mind a little, doesn’t it?). Since we’re still in the midst of citrus season, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned over the last few winters.

First, let’s define our terms. The word marmalade can stretch to mean a whole number of jams, reductions, and sauces, but for our purposes, I’m going to use the word marmalade to mean a sweetened citrus preserve that consists of bits of peel, suspended in jelly. It uses the entire fruit (or, at least, darned near all of it).

blood oranges

Choosing Your Fruit

Any time you use the exterior of a lemon, orange or grapefruit, your best choice is unsprayed fruit. For those of you who live down south, this may mean begging or trading for a friend or neighbor’s backyard fruit. For those of us up north, more often, this means buying through a reputable orchardist who grows using organic practices. Some grocery stores have gotten wise and stock organic specialty citrus this time of year. Buy from them, if you can.

If you have the privilege of hand-picking the citrus you’re using to make marmalade, choose fruit that feels heavy for its size and that seems fairly unmarred (not always possible with homegrown fruit, but small bumps and scrapes can always be cut away during prep).

Style, Taste, and Texture

Once you’ve got your fruit in hand, you have to determine the style of marmalade you want to make. As far as I see it, there are three choices.

Whole Fruit – As you may have guessed, this method uses the whole darn piece of citrus. Traditionally, it’s made with one part fruit, one part sugar, and one part water (by weight).

When tackling a whole fruit marmalade, the fruit has to be significantly softened before you add the sugar and begin the marmalade cooking process. This can be done by boiling the whole fruit (and chopping once cool), or by slicing the fruit into small pieces and then soaking for a period of time (overnight, typically). In either case, you can choose whether you cut the rind into chunks, bits or slivers (this depends entirely on your texture preference).

Because this method includes the pith of the fruit, it is typically the most bitter of the all the marmalade varieties. If you like bitter flavors, this can be a plus. If you shy away from things like coffee, black tea, unsweetened chocolate, and dark beer, this style is not for you.

soaking blood oranges

Cut Rind – In this method, you slice away the outer zest for use in the marmalade, cut away the pith and then either segment or juice the inner flesh (much like what’s documented in this post). When making marmalades in this fashion, I like to cut the zest into very fine ribbons, so that they nearly melt into the jelly.

This is a good starter marmalade, because the absence of the pith means that it is less bitter than the whole fruit version. However, because citrus pith contains so much pectin, this variety can be a little more troublesome when it comes time to set, particularly if you’ve not saved and bundled up your pith in a pectin boosting bundle of seeds and membrane.

Citrus Jam – Okay, so this isn’t actually a marmalade at all because a citrus jam omits the zest of the fruit all together. Instead, you cut away the rind, section out the flesh and cook it down with sugar the way you’d do any other jam.

I wanted to mention it here because it can be a good solution when you’re confronted with citrus that has been sprayed during the growing process or if the flavor and texture of rind is more than you can handle. I wrote a recipe for grapefruit jam last year, but truly, the same technique could be applied to just about any variety of citrus (if you’re working with sweet oranges or mandarins, I’d recommend adding the flesh of one lemon for balance).

finished marm

Ensuring Set

As is true with other jams and jellies, you’ll get the best and most consistent set from a small batch of marmalade (no more than three to four pounds of fruit to start with) made in a low, wide pan. In most cases, adding commercial pectin to marmalades (and citrus jams) is unnecessary. The amount of acid and pectin that is naturally in citrus should offer enough to get your preserve to gel.

When you make a whole fruit marmalade, often there’s not much extra that you need to do to extract the pectin from the fruit because the only bit you discard is the seeds (and after you’ve simmered them inside the fruit for an hour or two).

In batches of cut rind marmalade, I like to save all the seeds, pith and membrane, bundle it all up in a length of cheesecloth and leave it with the fruit through the soaking and cooking stages. If you can do so without burning your fingers, squeeze that pectin bundle well over the cooking pot before discarding it.

seeds and membranes

There are some exceptions. If you’re working with hybrid fruit like blood oranges or cara cara oranges, they are often seed-free and have very thin layers of pith. I will sometimes stash lemon seeds in my freezer and bundle them up for marmalades made with these low pectin varieties, in order to help with the set. I am also not above adding a tablespoon of powdered pectin to a batch of marmalade that seems to be struggling.

In most cases, recipes for marmalade will tell you to cook it to 220 degrees F in order to achieve set. This often works, but there are rare cases where a marmalade resists setting, even when cooked to 222F or higher (Kaela wrote about just such an experience recently). I find that it’s important to test for set at least two ways when making marmalade, to double check your work as it were. I always monitor the temperature and use the frozen plate test (detailed here).

Marmalade cover

For more information on homemade marmalade, I highly recommend Elizabeth Field’s lovely book, Marmalade (I wrote about it back in the fall). It’s an awesome resource and one I’ve really appreciated having in my kitchen. I’ve recently tried both her variations on Seville orange marmalade and will be sharing my thoughts on them soon!

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Cookbook: Edible DIY + Giveaway

Edible DIY

One of the joys of being someone who cans and preserves regularly is that I’m nearly always prepared when the need arises for a gift. During December’s gift giving season, I keep a box of summer jams and butters near the front door, ready to be distributed. I build couple-specific baskets for bridal showers and weddings.

Last summer, when I was scurrying around on book tour, I even kept a couple extra jars in my car at all times, for those moments when verbal thank yous just weren’t enough and I wanted to offer a physical representation of my appreciation.

Year of Edible DIY

Sometimes, even I run out of preserves good for giving (there are a number of trial batches in recipe development that, while good enough for home use, aren’t great for bestowing upon others). Other times, I just find myself out of fresh ideas. That’s when I turn to books and blogs authored by other creative folk, hoping that their various perspectives will gyrate me free from my regularly-trod paths.

crackers

The latest book to cross my transom that I’m turning to for kitchen inspiration is Lucy Baker’s Edible DIY. Initially based on the work she’s done on Serious Eats, this book is filled with candies, infused spirits, crackers, pickles, and sweet spreads that will send you hopping for the kitchen.

sweet tea vodka

Recipes are arranged by type. You’ll find nibbly bits like crackers, spiced nuts, and popcorn in the Crunchy section. Boozy should be plenty self-explanatory (and goodness, do I want to try the Spiced Pear Gin pictured below). Sweet includes biscotti, marshmallows, truffles, and toffee.

spiced pear gin

The last two sections the most preserve-heavy of the book. On the savory side, there’s a strong assortment of Spicy Condiments, Pickles, and Snacks (flavored salts! pickled fennel! ginger sriracha!). Rounding out the book are the Jams, Jellies, and Other Preserves. Lucy has made tweaks to a series of reliable favorites (blueberry port jam and strawberry balsamic thyme jam, for example) which are all worthy of canning pot consideration. One recipe that I’m planning on making soon is the one for Cranberry-Champagne Jam with Crystallized Ginger (I still have a couple bags of cranberries stashed away).

maple syrup caramels

One of the things I like most about this book is that it’s accessible. Not a single recipe goes on for pages (or days), making it approachable for all levels of canners, candy makers, and cracker bakers. As someone who rarely has the patience for recipes that require multiple days of fussing, I’m appreciative. That said, if you’re an expert baker/canner/sugarcrafter who is looking for a book to push your skillset to a new level, this one is probably not for you.

Because they’re nice, Running Press has given me a second copy to share with my readers (I know I said no giveaways for the rest of January. It’s nearly February and I was itching to share this book). If you’d like to enter for a chance to win it, here’s what to do.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me one recipe that’s on your list to try in 2013 (if you want to link to it, feel free).
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm on Friday, February 1, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog over the weekend.
  3. Giveaway open all.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.
Disclosure: Running Press gave me two calendars, one to keep and one to give away. They did not pay for inclusion in this post and my opinions are entirely my own.