#365daysofbaking The Botching of Sunshine in a Jar

It's 3pm_Day 11 of #365daysofbakingThe kitchen gods have conspired against me of late…

Before I begin my tale of woe…

I didn’t know this about the Meyer lemon, but these lemons are a unique little hybrid fruit, and unless you live in a citrus growing region, they aren’t overly easy to come by (I did know this), especially in the frigid New England region in winter, which is actually citrus season. Meyer lemons are across between a lemon and a mandarin orange, and because of their thin skins with minimal pith, the whole lemon (rind and all) can be substituted in any recipe for regular lemons whenever you want a tangy burst of lemon flavor without that acidic bite known of regular lemons. According to NPR, “the soft, thin skin that makes Meyer lemons so difficult to ship long distances is one of their most appealing features when it comes to cooking. The layer of bitter white pith that makes a thick protective coating for regular lemons is so thin on Meyers that they may be eaten in their entirety, peel included.” Go ahead and read the article – there are some more fun facts about the Meyer lemon, and some good recipes… I think I’ll be making those lemon bars this weekend to use up the remaining Meyers I have.

And go figure, it was Martha who brought these little lovelies into the limelight. Or is it lemonlight in this case?

And I want to meet the person who willfully bites into the whole lemon… just like I want to meet that person who chooses to bite a chunk off a Vidalia onion because it’s sweeter.

I want you to take a look at these gorgeous pictures below. See look how beautiful the yellow of the Meyer Lemons is. Stunning. Lovely little slivers of the sun. This is the beginning  of the process, as laid out in the All New Ball Book of Canning and Preservingfor Meyer Lemon Marmalade. 

3 simple ingredients: Meyer lemons, water, and sugar. And a whole day.

Slice some Meyers for the marmalade.

IMG_6853Quarter others and boil them, then let them set for about 8 hours to extract the natural pectin. Strain what’s left of this mixture – a few tablespoons of thick syrup mostly of natural pectin – into the slices above. Add sugar and boil. Easy, right?IMG_6854This bright, canary yellow above should be what the final marmalade looks like…sunshine in a jar. See the picture with the spoon below? This is what the final product should look like: bright, inviting, and what you want to slather an English muffin with.

Alas, it was not be for me. Below is what my final product looks like. Dark. More like the total eclipse of the sun we had this past summer: IMG_6873As a side note here, I might actually be getting better at this whole food picture taking thing.

My Thoughts After Making:

  • This is a recipe that’s worthy of remake. Some recipes are crap from the get go and some are worth the effort. This…thsi I will remake.
  • The errors were mine alone. Not every recipe goes as planned, I should have thought through the pot I was using.
    • I used an a very pretty pink enameled cast iron pot – Le Creuset – and these are incredible conductors of heat. Once you’ve combined the pectin extraction, the thin slices, lemon juice, and sugar, the recipe says to boil this over medium heat for 45 minutes.
      • I should have set the enameled cast iron pan over low heat, which still produces a hearty simmer-small boil in that type of pan.
      • While I read the whole recipe ahead of time, what I read right over was there is a gelling point of 220 degrees. I have an instant read thermometer – highly worth the investment – and I should have had that at the ready.
    • I stirred the boiling mixture about every minute to minute and a half.

      So far, so good.
    • About 10 minutes in, I went to stir, and the mixture almost blew up in my face – it scared the shit out of me. Molten yellow goo flew up at my face. As you can see below, the heat conduction sort of centered right in the middle of the pan.

      Not so good any more.
  • The lovely sunshiny bright lemony color was gone. Bits of the peel were scorched black, and the bits quickly permeated the whole mixture. When I stuck the instant read thermometer in the botched marmalade, it read 226 degrees, and I could immediately tell this was going to be a very thick set.

I went ahead and canned what I’d made; there was a slight scorched flavor in some bites, and then nothing in others. Maybe it’ll taste OK on some hearty grained bread.

Maybe I’ll send it to my enemies. What do they know about bright sunshiny anything?

Maybe I need to make another batch.

C’est la vie. You can’t win them all. But you can sure as hell try.