If I see Meyer lemons in the store, I buy them almost as a reflex. The season is short and it can be a challenge to find a decent price on good ones. This year was no exception; I saw, I bought… and they sat. In my fridge. For a while. You see, Meyers to me are synonymous with marmalade, because Meyer lemon marmalade is one of my favorite preserves to make. Yes, I have used them for other recipes and purposes, but most often I buy and then make marmalade, no thought process necessary, just buy and then start slicing. This year, I just can’t get up the gumption to make marmalade. I have enough in the larder to last five families for a year.
Thus, I found myself with beautiful, juicy Meyers and “nothing to do”. I thought about curd, but didn’t have the necessary eggs available. I thought about juicing them all for future jams, but that seemed like a waste, or a cop-out. I started to think I should just make more marmalade already. But… it can be a relatively tough sell in contrast to my other jams, even to me, and the reason why is obvious: folks don’t always like bitter, and sometimes they don’t want to chew their preserves. At that moment I had a revelation– why not preserve just the fruit and skip that bitter, chewy rind? A quick trip to the web found this beautiful grapefruit jam from Food in Jars (my hero); in the post, Marisa confirmed that Meyers are a decent replacement for grapefruit. My only qualm with moving in this direction was not wanting to swing from one extreme of bitterness to another of sourness, so I thought I would add some brewed Earl Grey tea to balance the lemons. Yes! The resulting jam is tart and Meyer-centric, but the tea is a prominent taste, very similar to a good Arnold Palmer or lemony sweet tea. I am thrilled with the outcome!
So why is the jam “mixed citrus” instead of just lemon? The truth is I was short one-third of the fruit needed for the Food in Jars recipe, so I supplemented the Meyer lemons with Navel oranges. I think you could use 100% Meyer lemons very successfully, or try a different mix of your favorite citrus. Though Meyer lemons are decidedly less sour than a standard lemon, I did appreciate the sweetness brought to the table by the oranges. I think blood oranges would have been great with Meyers, or tangerines, or clementines. Alternately, you could mix grapefruit with oranges– your imagination is really the only limit here.
So, what will I do with a tart, lemon-heavy jam? The easy answer is toast, which is my most common vehicle for marmalade, too. I can’t wait to swirl it into Greek yogurt and try a spoonful as a sweetener for black tea… or cocktails. Slightly farther out of the box, I think it would be a fun glaze for baked chicken or roast pork. It’s bright, happy, tasty stuff, a good addition to breakfast on a gloomy winter day. I hope you’ll consider giving the recipe a try– let us all know if you find another great combination of fruit!
Mixed Citrus Jam with Earl Grey (makes about 5 half-pints)
- 4 lbs. citrus fruit (weight is for whole, unpeeled fruit; I used 2 1/2 lbs. of Meyer lemons and 1 1/2 lbs. of Navel oranges)
- 2 1/2 c. sugar
- 1 c. boiling water
- 1/4 c. loose Earl Grey tea
- pinch of salt
Start by preparing your fruit. It’s important to decide ahead of time whether you want the zest or peel for anything else; I chose to zest all the lemons to make Meyer lemon sugar and use the peels from both fruits to make citrus vinegar for cleaning. (Pictures of both side projects are below.) Run the fruit under warm water and scrub gently but firmly to remove any wax that may be on commercial fruit. Zest if you want to, and then peel the fruit. Marisa at Food in Jars chose to supreme the grapefruit in her grapefruit jam recipe, a good idea since you want all the bitter pith gone gone gone. To do so, cut off a thin slice off both ends (blossom end and opposite the blossom end) and then use a sharp knife to cut down the sides from end to end, between the pith and fruit, all the way around. (This would be the first part of supreming the fruit; if you’re not familiar with this technique, here’s a good link explaining it.) You can supreme the fruit for my recipe if you like, though I chose to slice the fruit instead. Meyer lemons and Navel oranges do not have especially tough connective tissue so, after peeling, I cut each fruit in half the long way (through the ends) and then sliced each half into six pieces. Remove the seeds and reserve as you go; they contain pectin and will help set the jam. Stop occasionally to capture any juice collecting on your cutting board.
When you have finished preparing the fruit, add it to a non-reactive Dutch oven or jam pan along with any collected juice. Put the seeds into a reusable tea bag or gather them into a piece of cheesecloth; bury in the fruit. (Pause here to start your water bath and get your jars and lids ready to go and sterilized, if you haven’t done so already.) Boil the water for tea and add the loose Earl Grey to a teapot or French press; pour the boiling water over the loose tea and steep for 10-15 mins. Strain out the leaves and add the prepared tea, which should be fairly strong and fragrant, to your fruit. Stir in the sugar and salt and bring to a boil over medium high to high heat, continuing to stir to prevent scorching. Cook until the jam boils down and thickens, about 20 mins. for me; I stopped cooking mine when the jam bubbled less vigorously, took on a glossy sheen and was thick enough to fall in sheets from the side of a spoon.
When you reach your desired set point, remove the pan from the heat. Carefully removed the bundle of seeds. Ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars; wipe the rims of each jar carefully and affix the lids. Process the jars in a water bath for 10 mins.; remove to a clear, towel-lined counter and allow to sit untouched overnight. Check that each jar is sealed; refrigerate unsealed jars immediately. Properly sealed jars will keep in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a year.