Usually I get up before at dawn on Saturdays to go sell veggies, eggs, flowers and jam at the Ukiah Farmers Market, but this week I had to be in San Francisco. While I felt bad about missing a day of work, it meant I could have a quiet morning, sleeping late and going to the big Allemany Farmers Market in San Francisco as a customer instead of a vendor. Certain places in my life that I consistently go back to always seem good and right. This market is always bustling full of smiling people- a huge range of age groups and ethnicities- with little toddlers in strollers munching on strawberries to old grandmas doing their weekly shopping. For me, it is the embodiment of vibrant, positive, urban culture, and if I ever move away from California, I will certainly miss coming here.
Plus, the pupusas from Estrellita’s are ridiculously good… If you’ve never had pupusas before… oh man… They’re these Salvadorian handmade tortillas, made with masa de maiz and stuffed with all kinds of fillings like cheese, pork, and refried beans. These pupusas are handmade to order, and fried on a griddle until the outside is lightly browned and crispy and the inside is a gooey mess of melted cheese and meat. Top it with a slightly spicy, crunchy cabbage slaw and some hot sauce, grab a passion fruit aqua fresca, and you’re good to go.
I returned home with a bag of medjool dates, king trumpet mushrooms, a buddha’s hand for making candied citron, artichokes, baby parsnips, a pound of tiny calamondins, fresh goat cheese ravioli, bright green giant avocados, and two pounds of the tiniest manila clams I’ve ever seen. I think I’ll steam the clams in some white wine for dinner, and maybe roast the artichokes.
This past week has been a crazy tornado of citrus! In the midst of the whirlwind of blood oranges, tangelos, lemons and honey tangerines, I thought it might be nice to stick to Meyer Lemons and sugar for one batch- no fancy spices, no booze (well, not in the marmalade atleast), no other fruits, no added pectin.
I was able to do my shopping for the marmalade extravaganza at the Allemany Farmers Market in San Francisco, which is my absolute, hands down most favorite shopping experience. I find so many lovely things there; just this last week I went home with fresh dates, a bundle of lemongrass, chanterelles, fresh baked croissants, a dozen oysters from Point Reyes, and, of course, a rainbow of citrus fruit! (The prices here tend to be really reasonable too, not like Whole Foods or other specialty markets). With such high quality, fresh fruit, it seemed like a shame to mess with it.
I want to brag about only buying certified organic, but really, a signed statement from the farmer saying that he’s never sprayed a pesticide in his whole life seems more genuine than any certification from the government.
Enough about the farmers market, though, check out these lemons! In case you haven’t seen then before, Meyer Lemons are smaller and juicier than regular lemons, and their thin skins are much more delicate, making it hard for normal grocery stores to stock them since they don’t ship well. They are also incredibly aromatic.
This marmalade is simple, with no added pectin. All you need is Meyer Lemons, sugar, water and time. This recipe uses a ratio of 1 part prepared lemons to 1 part sugar, so once you’ve read the whole thing through, if you’d like to change the amount, it should work fine.
36 Meyer Lemons
Because these peels are so thin and delicate, so I used a different method for preparing citrus fruit than I usually do. First, I sliced off the ends of the fruit. Then I slice each lemon into quarters.
Using a sharp knife, slice out the tough inner piece of pith and remove any seeds.Slice into very thin wedges and put them into a nonreactive pot. Add a little water (I used 3 cups for 36 lemons; change the ratio accordingly).
Cover the pot, set it aside, and wait for a day.
After you’ve waited the full 24 hours, bring the lemons to a simmer and cook for 10-20 minutes or until the peels are soft. Set aside the cooked lemon mixture in the fridge for an hour to cool and let the pectin develop. (The pectin, which makes the marmalade gel, is inside the lemons. By letting the lemons rest- first for 24 hours, then for 2 hours- the pectin oozes out into the surrounding liquid.)
After the hour has past, use a large measuring cup to see how much lemon mixture you have. Combine equal parts lemons and sugar in a large, wide-bottomed nonreactive pot. I had six cups of the lemon mixture so I divided it into two separate batches just to make sure it didn’t have to cook forever to reach the gelling point (you lose a lot of flavor this way).
Cook on medium high, stirring fairly often, until the marmalade gels (about 30 minutes). It seems like everyone has a different way of testing for gel point, but I just use my trusty wooden spoon. When the marmalade drips off the spoon in one big sheet instead of single drops, it means it’s done. (You can also leave a few small plates in the freezer, and when you think the marmalade is close, put a teaspoon of hot marmalade on the cold plate. Wait 30 seconds, and run your finger through the marmalade. If you see little wrinkles on the surface of the marmalade, it means it’s set.) Ladle the hot marmalade into hot, clean jars. Wipe the rims of the jars clean and screw on the lids. Process half-pint jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes to get a good seal.
This classic marmalade is great on english muffins with lots of butter, or as frosting on pound cake. It would also make a fantastic marinade for grilled chicken or shrimp, and it will work well in Spanish, Moroccan, or Middle-Eastern dishes.
As a bonus project, you can germinate some seeds and try to grow your own Meyer Lemon tree…
Just pull out some whole seeds, fold them in a damp paper towel, and put them in a ziploc bag. I blow some air into the ziploc bag so it’s like a little greenhouse. Theoretically they will sprout in 7-14 days, and then you can plant them. These little seeds probably won’t bear fruit for years and years, but they’re pretty plants and fun to grow. Good luck!