I don’t think anyone would be surprised to hear that I love to can. Most years, I get started on the preservation kick at the height cherry season (when I make my annual batch of cocktail garnishes), and don’t put away the canner until after the last tomato harvest. So when I heard about a new, year-round canning challenge — one that has participants putting up a different type of produce every month — I knew I had to jump on in and join Tigress’s Can Jam.
January’s Can Jam theme is citrus, a particularly apt topic here in the Bay Area where farmers markets and backyard trees are bursting with the best oranges, lemons, and grapefruits of the year. I always like canning with a friend to help share the work (and the resulting bounty), so I asked Laura from (not so) Urban Hennery if she’d like to can together when she visited San Francisco last weekend; she happily agreed. I flagged a bunch of citrus recipes in my favorite canning books, thinking I’d let Laura decide which sounded the most appealing. A girl after my own heart, she suggested that we make them all!
The first, a Meyer lemon curd, wasn’t technically eligible for the Can Jam, because it needs to be pressure canned to be shelf-stable. (The challenge requires all recipes to be suited to a standard boiling-water canner.) But we made it anyway, and oh am I glad we did. With the orange yolks from Laura’s hennery eggs — yes, she brought them down in her checked baggage! — and the deep yellow zest from Meyer lemons we bought from Hamada Farms, the end product turned an eye-searing yellow. If I saw a bottle of curd that yellow in the store, I’d walk away, thinking it must be filled with artificial everything.
Our second recipe — which used June Taylor‘s three-fruit marmalade as a starting point — featured a quadruple-dose of citrus: Moro blood oranges, lemons, golden grapefruit, and one giant bergamot from our backyard tree. We ended up with 9 half-pint jars of a deep crimson preserve, clear enough to see the different-shaped bits of peel suspended evenly throughout its jewel-like base. It’s pleasantly bitter, and (at least at this stage) you can pick out the flavor of each of the citrus varieties as you make your way through a spoonful… er, I mean, a slice of toast.
The last recipe turned out to be our hands-down favorite. Its simplicity — both of ingredients and of preparation — belies its gorgeous looks and uniquely delicious taste. Combining lemons, sugar, and water, this one’s good enough that Laura and I were already plotting how to get our hands on more Meyer lemons before the week was out.
Meyer Lemon Marmalade
- adapted from Catherine Plagemann’s Fine Preserving
3 perfect, very fresh Meyer lemons
1 more lemon, for juice
sugar (about 4 cups)
Sterilize canning jars and prepare lids according to manufacturer’s directions.
Peel the three lemons, removing just the yellow and none of the pith. Slice the peel into very fine, thin strips and set aside. Cut each peeled lemon in half, lengthwise. Remove as many seeds as possible plus the center strings. On a cutting board with a lip, slice the lemon halves, including the white rind, paper thin. Remove any remaining seeds. In a glass measure, combine the zest, lemon pulp, any juices from the pulp, and the juice of one more lemon. You should have about 1 cup of prepared lemon and juices.
Cover the prepared lemon with about a cup of cold water; it should be just enough to submerge all of the lemon. Let soak for 3 hours, to soften the zest. After soaking, combine the soaked lemon and zest in a wide Dutch oven along with an equal amount of sugar by volume. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and simmer (do not boil) until the marmalade jells.
Keep a close eye on the cooking marmalade. It will go from liquid to jelled more quickly than you would expect. Don’t go by eye in the pan; the mixture will still look much more wet than a typically set marmalade. Use the saucer test or watch for the liquid to sheet off the edge of a metal spoon.
Ladle into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a damp, clean towel; adjust canning lids and process in a boiling-water canner for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave processed jars in the canner for 5 minutes more, then remove and cool on a thick towel or a wire rack for 12 hours. When jars are completely cooled, check for proper seal. Remove rings from sealed jars, and put any unsealed jars in the refrigerator to use first.
If you can bear it, it’s best to let this marmalade cure for at least a week before eating, otherwise the zest is a bit tough.
Yields three 8oz jars