Vanilla Bean-Meyer Lemon Marmalade

February 15, 2011

For some, winter is the season of dour darkness, of cold feet and of carbohydrate comforts. For others, winter is the season of sunny citrus, acidic and bright. Those of us who hail from climes north of around 40º trend toward the former category, but when we tire of eating (and looking like) dumplings, there is the latter.

I made several batches of marmalade recently: pink grapefruit with honey, blood orange with ginger. By far, the most successful has been this Meyer lemon with vanilla bean. It’s the perfect balance of sweet, tart and bitter. It’s fragrant but not snooty. It’s a good thing, since I bought a whole case of Meyer lemons (some are becoming limoncello and being preserved in large jars of salt). I’ve put up about a dozen or so half pints of this marmalade and have been eating it almost daily.

It’s a bit of a pain to make – the fussiest of fruit preserves by far – but it’s worth it, I promise. Just wash a bunch of lemons (let’s say a dozen of them), and then trim off the belly button at the stem end. Quarter them lengthwise and slip the seeds out. Then slice each bit as thinly as possible. If your knife is very sharp you can get delicate threads of lemon peel almost like a chiffonade. Put these all into your favorite heavy-bottomed pot (my heart fluttered at the sight of a pot of yellow lemon slivers filling my lemongrass-green Le Creuset Dutch oven). Take all those seeds and belly buttons and chop them up finely (I whizzed them in the food processor for efficiency’s sake) and tie them up in a bit of cheesecloth. Toss this into the pot with the lemons, add a bit of water (about two cups or so) and let this sit overnight. This sounds a little crazy, but the pectin in the seeds and pith will be released and will start to gel things up a bit.

The next day, turn on the burner and simmer for about an hour or so, taking care not to let things burn. After it starts to thicken up and smell wonderful, take out the bag of pips and add a vanilla bean (halved lengthwise and all the good pulp scraped out with a knife) and sugar. I like mine a little tart, but not too bitter, so I added about 2 or 3 cups of sugar.  Let this simmer again for as long as it takes to thicken to your liking. The thing they say to do is to drip a little onto a cold plate, and if it seizes up, then it’s ready. I could never get this to work, even on marmalades that were definitely ready. I suppose if perfectly erect jams are your thing, you could add extra pectin. This just isn’t how I roll.

My favorite application so far is spooning it (with or without the summer’s blueberry preserves) over full fat Greek honey yogurt and eating it with animal crackers. It tastes exactly like cheesecake, but is an absolutely acceptable breakfast. I also love it on toasted, buttered English muffins (or better: English muffin bread) with a hot cup of Constant Comment. This is to die for.

My marmalade is a little more relaxed than those you find in the stores. It’s more like a thick fruit sauce. But that’s fine with me. I don’t need perfectly erect jam to be happy.

12 Responses to Vanilla Bean-Meyer Lemon Marmalade

  1. February 15, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    May I ask where you purchased your case of Meyer lemon? I’ve only been able to buy them for a reasonable price at Costco, but they didn’t have any more the last time I was there.

    My new favorite breakfast of late is Greek-style yogurt topped with strawberry preserves. So creamy and it does taste like cheesecake.

  2. LazyGringo
    February 16, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Sounds delicious. It’s interesting, as this recipe is very similar to a southern Slavic dish that pops up frequently in the former Yugoslavian nations. It’s basically yogurt topped w/ a similar type of jam but not one made of lemons, as far as I know, rather sour cherries, plums, and forest berries predominate. It is usually finished with a drizzle of honey and chopped nuts, usually walnuts but sometimes almonds or hazelnuts are found as well. Anyway, good recipe, and keep up the good work!

  3. February 16, 2011 at 3:01 am

    Oh marmalade – in the snippet in my blogroll I thought it said lemonade, so when I saw the picture I was confused. But this sounds gorgeous, even if it isn’t lemonade.

  4. February 16, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Oh wow…it looks almost creamy…. YUM. I imagine it would be pretty fantastic tucked into a crepe with a little softened cheesecake.

  5. February 16, 2011 at 10:10 am

    Oh wow…it looks almost creamy…. YUM. I imagine it would be pretty fantastic tucked into a crepe with a little softened cheese cream.

  6. February 16, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Ignore comment the first. I would delete it if I could
    , but well, now you know my exact train of thought, eh?

  7. February 16, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Sounds awesome, and I have a neighbor with a hundred+ meyer lemons on her tree next door and she never uses them. She planted a standard lemon tree to use in her middle-eastern cooking and lets us pick all the meyers we can use.

    Question: Do you think you could simmer it in the oven at 190 or 200 degrees F to avoid burning? I do that when I make stock and it works well.

  8. February 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    I love playing around with different citrus fruits and making jams and marmalades…these look stunning. Nice flavours with the Meyer lemon and vanilla

  9. Sandra
    February 18, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    My marmalades are never stiff either. Thought I was doing something wrong.

    Looks delish!

  10. February 19, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Cannot wait to try this. I have experimented around with a mixed citrus marmalade and love it. Thank you for the post.

  11. lo
    February 21, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    I made a mixed citrus marmalade last winter with a friend of mine… and used the natural pectin from the fruit to promote its set-up. Never got quite “erect” as you’d put it — but it was beyond delicious, as I’m presuming yours is. Love the idea of pairing lemon with vanilla. As soon as I can get a hold of enough meyer lemons, this is definitely on my list.

  12. February 24, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I’m the founder/moderator for Punk Domestics (, a community site for those of use obsessed with, er, interested in DIY food. It’s sort of like Tastespotting, but specific to the niche. I’d love for you to submit this to the site. Good stuff!