January and February are the citrus months. Every imaginable type of citrus fruit is now for sale, and you buy some of every kind, believing you will magically be able to use them all. (Or is that just me?) Perfumed Meyer lemons, wee kumquats, fragrant tangerines, bitter Seville oranges, or the absolutely gorgeous blood oranges are only a few of the citrus varieties available to tempt a person. I say ‘tempt’ because I, for one, rarely use as many citrus fruits as I think I will, and well… we’ve seen before how that story ends.
It doesn’t help that I love citrus fruits, so much so that (for example) I single-handedly ate 40 pounds of satsuma mandarins one December. (I was pregnant and craving fruit mid-winter, if that makes this story better in any way.) Many Marches and Aprils have seen me throwing away the kumquats and sweet limes that I bought with such grand hopes in January and February.
But not this year. This year, I have my blog giveaway to thank. I am posting twice a week for three weeks straight, and giving away a cooking class discount for a Moroccan cooking class to a lucky winner each time. This consistent blogging schedule needs blog ideas, and so has actually forced me to use up the beautiful organic Meyer lemons I bought a few weeks ago. I am thrilled! I now have eight jars (wait, only seven because we ate a whole jar already, oops!) of delicious, aromatic Meyer lemon marmalade to gloat over in a my pantry. FINALLY.
If I have piqued your interest with the cooking class giveaway, the information and rules will be in a couple of paragraphs down. First, I want to talk about Meyer lemons.
Meyer lemons are amazing. They are delicious. They are sweet enough to eat like an orange, but with enough of a tang to keep them interesting. They are a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange (I know, right?!), with an aromatic perfume unique to their own selves. They are awesome in all kinds of recipes, but they make especially great marmalade. And, they are quite easy to find at this time of year – almost every grocery store has them in stock. So, this recipe is perfecting timing :)
THE COOKING CLASS GIVEAWAY! Remember, there will be a chance to win every Thursday and Monday of the next two weeks, so keep checking back. To recap: Rancho Vignola has stepped up once again to sponsor my business activities, this time by covering 50% of the cost of one of my Moroccan cooking classes. What this means for you, dear readers, is that I will be selling twelve spots at a Moroccan cooking class for half-price! That’s $45 for a full three-hour hands-on cooking class, and includes a take-home recipe booklet and full delicious meal.
The class will be held on Sunday, February 16th, from 5 pm to 8 pm, at the lovely teaching kitchen of The London Chef in downtown Victoria. For a full description of the class, please visit my website cooking class page (scroll down a bit for the “Delights of Morocco” description.)
1. You are entering to win a discount on a Chef Heidi cooking class. Her classes are normally valued at $90. Draw winners will pay only $45.
2. No purchase necessary to enter the draw, but if you win the discount, you will be expected to pay the remaining 50% value of the cost of the cooking class – in this case, $45 plus GST per person.
3. Two discounted cooking class spots will be available for a draw each Thursday and Monday for the next three weeks. That means there are 6 chances to win!
4. Enter the draw by commenting on the blog post or on my facebook fanpage that day. A new blog post will go up every Monday and Thursday for the next three weeks. Each draw will last for 24 hours, after which I will close comments and pick a winner by random draw.
5. The winner will have the choice to buy both discounted spots, OR to buy only one spot, and I will pick a second winner by random draw.
6. This discount giveaway is open to any Canadian or U.S. resident who can make it to Victoria for the date of the class (Feb 16th, 2013).
7. This discount cannot be applied to any other cooking class. It applies only to the Rancho Vignola sponsored Moroccan cooking class offered Feb 16th, 2013.
I hope you enter and I hope you win. But if not, I will be running the Moroccan class again as usual in the Spring and Fall.
MEYER LEMON MARMALADE
makes 6 to 8 cups
Bright, aromatic, citrusy, and deliciously bitter, Meyer lemon marmalade is one of my favourite spreads. I include a couple of regular lemons for added tang, because Meyer lemons are not quite tart enough to my taste to make the perfect jam.
6 to 8 small to medium-sized Meyer lemons
2 medium regular lemons
250 ml mason jars with lids and screw bands
Wash the lemons well and rinse. Use a very sharp knife to cut the lemons into quarters lengthwise, remove as many of their seeds as possible, and then slice them very very finely into thin shreds crosswise.
Place the sliced lemons (along with any juice that has accumulated on the cutting board) into a large measuring cup, or a bowl. They will be transferred to a large pot with a heavy bottom. If you have only have a small measuring cup, transfer the lemons by cupfuls to the pot, measuring as you go, so you know how many you have. Ditto with the large measuring up. You will probably have about 5 cups of thinly sliced lemon, if you have kept to the proportions above.
For every cup of sliced lemons, add 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups of cold water to the pot (I usually start with 1-1/4 cups, and add more later, if it seems too thick). Place the pot on a burner, turn heat to high, and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit in a cold place 12 to 24 hours (I set my pot out on the balcony).
The next day, return the pot of lemons and water to the heat. REMOVE COVER. Bring to a boil again, reduce heat, and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the lemon shreds are cooked through and their white pithy parts are translucent, like so:
(Some of the Meyer lemons will never get translucent, so just look for a fair number of translucent shreds) Also, keep an eye on the water during this process. This is when I may add a bit more water, particularly if the mixture is sticking to the bottom of the pot. But don’t add any unless you really need to, and if you do, add a very little – 2 tablespoons per cup of mixture (that you measured yesterday).
Now, you will have to measure the mixture again, sadly. You will probably have lost some volume due to evaporation. Measure it out however you can, either by dumping everything into a large measuring cup, or by scooping one cup at a time into a bowl. Whatever method you have chosen, pour the lemon mixture back into the big pot when you are done. Keep track of how many cups you have.
Now is the time to make sure that you have all your canning supplies ready: your jars washed and sterilized and kept warm, your lids in hot water, your canner filled with water and boiling and ready to go, your canning funnel and canning tongs at the ready. Also (very important!) have a couple of small plates ready in the freezer for testing the jelling stages of the marmalade.
For every cup of lemon-water mixture, add 1 cup white sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves, and then dip a clean spoon in to taste the mixture. Add more sugar, if you like it sweeter. (My favourite proportion of sugar to lemon mixture is actually 1 cup lemon-water mix to 1 cup PLUS 3 tablespoons of sugar, and my sister likes even more sugar in her marmalade, so definitely use your taste as a guide.)
Once there is enough sugar in there, bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring frequently. Boil marmalade, stirring frequently, until the pectin is developed. You can tell this by one of two methods: reaching 220 F on an accurate thermometer, OR by the cold plate test. I prefer the cold plate test, and it goes like so: drip a small amount of the hot mixture onto one of the frozen plates. Drag your finger across the top of the marmalade blob on the plate. If the top of the blob has formed a ‘skin’ that wrinkles when you push or pull your finger through it, it’s ready. If not, keep boiling the marmalade and re-checking every few minutes. Keep at least one plate in the freezer at all times, so it’s ready to go for testing time.
Marmalade and jam vary wildly in how long they take to set up (pectin to develop). I found this recipe did not take very long – about 15 minutes. I’ve seen some recipes call for boiling the marmalade after the sugar has been added for at least 1 hour. This is probably overkill, because lemons are naturally high in pectin and should take a lot less than an hour to set up. I have never cooked marmalade longer than 25 minutes. You don’t want to cook it so much that it loses its freshness of flavour. But I also have a high tolerance for jams with a ‘loose’ texture, so keep that in mind as you follow my instructions :) If you like a jam with a very firm texture, boil for a longer time.
Once the marmalade is ready, scoop it into warm sterile canning jars using a ladle and canning funnel, close the lids, and process according to your canner’s directions (I do 10 minutes in a boiling water bath). Use canning tongs to transfer jars to a folded towel on the counter. Let cool for 24 hours, check seals (they should all be sucked down so that the lids are slightly concave), and store in a cool dark place. Any jars that aren’t sealed can be stored at room temp and used up within 4 weeks, or refrigerated for several months.