My history with Meyer lemons is complicated.
Mr. Ninj and I used to live in California, once upon a time. In The OC, in fact. However, no one who actually lived there ever called it "The OC" -- that's just stupid. Let's just say it was a very surreal experience.
My favorite part of living there, though, was that our postage-stamp-sized back yard had the biggest, most prolific Meyer lemon tree on the planet. No joke: ON THE PLANET, I'm sure. Each winter, when it produced its GIGANTIC fruit, I used to ship boxes of them back to friends and relatives on the East Coast. Yes, BOXES. I had enough Meyer lemons (and these suckers were BIG) to have my own mail-order business.
(And yes, I'm purposely using A LOT OF CAPS for emphasis, so you understand the awesomeness of my tree.)
Here's the funny part: Meyer lemons were not hip and trendy back then as they are now. I had a hell of a time finding any recipes that called for Meyer lemons -- and, unfortunately, this was before I knew how to can.
So we made a lot of lemonade. What a waste.
And now, of course, I know how to preserve and have about 17 bajillion recipes that call for Meyer lemons -- and I live in Vermont, which isn't exactly the citrus capital of the world.
God, I miss that tree.
(Hey, current residents of my old house at 21 Mallorca in Foothill Ranch, California -- can you send me some lemons? Pretty please? We fertilized the bejesus out of that tree and you are reaping the benefits. I will happily pay shipping costs and send you jam in return -- and I won't even hold it against you that you cut down those beautiful palm trees. Thanks.)
When we moved from California to North Carolina, my awesome friend Judy, aware of my pain at leaving the tree, sent me a baby Meyer lemon tree via mail order for me to grow in a pot. Yippee! I had so many visions of continuing my Meyer lemon dynasty on the East Coast.
Here's where the Meyer lemon saga gets complicated. Because I thought Judy's idea was so great, I gifted my mom with the same kind of baby Meyer lemon tree for her birthday. In 2004. The same year I got my tree. Which then got some kind of disease and died (well, Judy claims I "killed it" -- whatevs -- but I know it was a disease.) And my mom's tree did not get the same disease and lived.
So The Ninj, who loves putting up food in Mason jars and craves all things Meyer lemon, has no tree. The Ninj's mom, on the other hand, who doesn't even cook any more and could give a rat's ass about Meyer lemons, has a tree. A 10-year-old tree that produces about four big lemons each year. The universe is cruel.
Now, to my mom's credit, she generously gives them away ... but, here's the kicker, only one per person.
You know what you can do with ONE Meyer lemon? A whole lotta nothing, Mom, that's what.
So when I received my ONE Meyer lemon from Mom this year, I thought long and hard about how to use it. I even polled my Facebook users (btw, good suggestions, Feeps -- I think I'll make Meyer lemon curd next year). That's when I decided I could stretch the lemony goodness by pairing it with some gorgeous blood oranges and making them all into a marmalade.
I am grateful to Grow It Cook It Can It for her recipe for small-batch Meyer lemon marmalade, which served as the basis for my ridiculously small-batch lemon-orange concoction. And I'm even more grateful that she cross-referenced this visual guide to efficient citrus preparation, which allowed me to maximize my ONE lemon.
So, now I know you're probably thinking, "Ninj, if you're such a Meyer lemon fan, why didn't you just buy another tree after the first one died?"
I don't know. I think I was scarred from the experience. But you're right. And Judy has asked me the same question every winter for almost 10 years. But simply writing about all this has convinced me that I need to buy one and start again.
Unless this post reaches the right audience and I start receiving boxes of lemons in the mail.
Hey, it could happen. Ask my friends and relatives.
Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange Marmalade(inspired by Grow It Cook It Can It)
Note: This recipe makes about 3-4 half-pint jars. It's not much, but it's amazing in all the usual ways, plus served with some creamy chevre on toast. Yowza!
1. Prepare and slice lemons and oranges, retaining the seeds and pith (which provides the natural pectin needed for this marmalade) and securing them in some cheesecloth with string (make a little bag). You'll need 2 cups of fruit -- for me, that was 1 giant lemon and 2 normal blood oranges, but you might need more.
2. Combine the fruit and 2 cups of water in a large pot and add the bag of pith. Bring everything to a simmer and continue to cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pith bag, squeezing out any liquid, and discard it.
3. Add 2 cups of sugar to the pot and cook the mixture over medium to high heat (monitor it -- it will boil and pop), stirring frequently, until it reaches 220 degrees (gelling point) on a candy thermometer. If there's some foam produced while it boils, feel free to skim it off -- there won't be much, though. Remove from the heat and let cool a couple of minutes, stirring a bunch of times, to help release trapped air bubbles.
4. Pour the hot marmalade into prepared jars, wipe rims, apply lids and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Be sure to check the seals after 24 hours.
(Please note: I DO NOT provide complete how-to canning instructions here, so if you're not a seasoned canner, please consult the guides from the National Center for Home Food Preservation).