by Mr. Dr. Frugal Scholar
A few years ago I planted a Meyer lemon tree; the first year it produced a few lemons, the second year over a hundred. This, its fourth year, wasn’t quite as prolific as last year, but I still have many more lemons than I can possibly use.
So what to do with them?
First: gifts and barter. For some reason no gift seems more appreciated than a lemon, or lemons. I’ve brought them to colleagues (one of whom is sending a gift box of lemons to her sister somewhere in the north), and I’ve given them to people who stop to admire my tree. (“Are those lemons?!) I even gave a bunch to the guy who came out to look at our roof. I had confused “gutter” with “valley,” so his trip had been in vain, but he seemed almost absurdly pleased with my compensatory gift of five lemons. And just the other day I traded some lemons for a beautiful organic squash that a colleague brought by hand (and car) directly from the countercultural paradise of Ithaca, New York.
But what to do with the rest? We drink ice tea year round (6 regular tea bags and one Zinger or berry tea of some sort per gallon), and lemon is an essential ingredient. So we squeeze and freeze the juice in empty water bottles or zip-lock freezer bags. A few years ago Dr. Frugal Scholar found a wonderful old juicer at Goodwill, which works perfectly.
And now nothing goes to waste. Last year Frugal Son spent hours making chocolate covered lemon peels (delicious!), and some of the unused peel concoction cooled into what was almost perfect lemon marmalade. So with this as inspiration I’ve made three different kinds of lemon marmalade.
First, I used just the peels—this is before I’d done any research, and was trying to approximate Frugal Son’s product. I removed the pulp from squeezed lemons, cooked the sliced peels, added sugar, simmered, and voila: a very nice marmalade (though it didn’t gel).
Then I followed an actual recipe (you can find a bunch on line), and with Frugal Son’s help, made a batch with whole lemons. Again, success!
Finally—and this is the one that really rings my frugal chimes—I made a batch with everything left over after juicing the lemons. I had to pick the seeds out of the rinds, but after that I just chopped everything up, and went through the same process: boil, then add sugar and simmer again. This time I even followed the recipe and put all the seeds in a cloth bag to extract the pectin. Again: SUCCESS.
So making lemon marmalade seems almost foolproof, and what I love is that if you use the third method you get juice and marmalade, and there’s absolutely no waste. (I have to admit I’ve had no luck getting the marmalade to gel, even when using the seeds, but to me this isn’t a big issue. The marmalade is thick, spreads easily, and tastes great.)
I’ll admit I’ve gone a bit overboard with the marmalade. I’ve even frozen the cooked but un-sugared lemon peels against a future date in the fall when I’m out of marmalade but the new lemon crop isn’t ready. This actually might not work—I’m not sure if the lemon base freezes well—but it’s an experiment worth making.
And I can always try to barter the marmalade