I was still bleary eyed and half asleep as I got off the train, and while I was moving on autopilot and not paying any attention to where I was going, I could not miss that crate. The sign said "Sunny Lemons - 10/$1" and the huge box was filled with fat round lemons, all shiny and bright. They seemed to be saying: "It's okay, you go to work, but be sure to stop by on your way back and take some of us home with you". The sight of those lemons stayed with me all day. I mean, what's so special about "sunny" lemons and what the heck would I make with that many? Were they anything like Meyer Lemons? They were definitely smaller and rounder then the regular variety. I thought about it all day and by the time I was heading back to the train, I had a plan. I spoke to the grocer and he confirmed my suspicions, while they weren't exactly Meyer Lemons, they were sweeter then the regular variety, and therefore would be close enough for me. I grabbed 20 of the prettiest and raced up the stairs, barely making my train.
Once home I spread the loot and got to work. I sliced and diced and seeded 16 of the lemons. Let me stop and give you a bit of advice here: Don't do this if you have any cuts on your fingers! Boy oh boy will you feel the burning stinging pain of the acid burrowing into your flesh. What was I thinking? I bought flesh-eating lemons! Come to think of it, that would be a pretty good name for a band. Flesh Eating Lemons, coming soon to the local pizza joint near you.
Back to the recipe. I measured (I was a bit over, but oh well), dumped everything into a pot, poured in the water...and read the step that said to leave it overnight. Sigh. So much for getting things done in one day. I guess I'll be able to catch up on some of those "30 Rock" episodes.
The next day I went out with some friends and came home kind of late. Would I be able to leave the jam for yet another day? I didn't think so, so I added the rest of the ingredients and cranked up the heat. Another note, make sure that you have lots and lots of space in the pot because as the mixture begins to boil, it will rise. A lot. I doubled the recipe and overestimated the size of my pot, so I was up late into the night watching the simmering pot, but once it was done I had eleven and a half fragrant, slightly bitter, not-too-sweet marmalade. Just look at those tiny flecks of vanilla seeds! It set beautifully and I'm sure it'll be great on a waffle. But for now, it's bed time.
Lemon and Vanilla Bean Marmalade
1 1/4 pounds Meyer lemons (or whatever you can get your hands on)
5 cups water
5 1/2 cups (about) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Pinch of salt
- Working on large plate to catch juice, cut lemons in half lengthwise, then very thinly crosswise. Discard seeds. This will take some time, but do be careful, no one likes to find seeds in their jam, plus it can make things very bitter.
- Pack enough lemons and any juice to measure 2 1/2 cups. Transfer to large nonreactive pot, add 5 cups water and bring to boil.
- Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand uncovered overnight.
- The next day measure lemon mixture (there should be about 5 1/2 cups). Return to same pot. Add equal amount of sugar (about 5 1/2 cups).
- Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add the bean with a pinch of salt.
- Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Attach clip-on candy thermometer and maintaining active boil and adjusting heat to prevent boiling over, cook until temperature reaches 220°F, stirring occasionally, at least 30 minutes. I doubled the recipe and underestimated the extra room it would need to properly boil and therefore it took a lot longer to reach the necessary temperature (about 2 hours), but it worked out great in the end.
- Pour into sterilized jars, seal and let cool. The lemons are very high in acid so you should not need to process the jars, but you can if you want to be on the safe side. If you don't want to seal them, the jars will keep refrigerated for a few weeks, just be sure to bring to room temperature before using. Oh, and don't forget to share.