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Friday, January 23, 2009

Frugal Meyer Lemon Marmalade

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


Chance said...

Mmmmmm....I love marmalade and it makes my frugal heart warm that it uses the leftovers from juicing. We can only grow Meyer's lemons inside here in Vermont and the 5 or 6 lemons I might get from a dwarf tree hasn't quite motivated me yet to get one. Thanks for another great post.

Completely Alienne said...

I think people are generally pleased with any homegrown stuff you give them. My mother gives away tons of pears every year. I pass on quite a few of them and the recipients are always pleased.

I had forgotten how much I loved marmalade till I read this. Sadly, lemons won't grow in the British climate ... I wonder if you can make carrot marmalade.

lei said...

If you google "preserve lemons" you will find sites on how to do that and also sites with recipes for same. These make great gifts for foodies in your life.

To Completely Alienne: We lived in Canada, another place where citrus fruite don't grow, and my Mom made fantastic carrot marmalade. I'll bet you can find a recipe for same on the internet.

Last comment: I really enjoy your site. I come from French peasant stock and my Mom could have written the book on frugal living!

lei said...

Google "preserved lemons" and you will find many sites which will tell you how to do that (they make fantastic gifts for foodies in your life) but also many recipes for using them.

Also to Completely Alienne: Yes, in Canada, another place where lemons don't grow, my mother made fantastic carrot marmalade. Bet you anything you can find a recipe for such on the internet.

Final comment: I really enjoy your site. I come from French peasant stock and believe me, my Mother could have written the book on frugal living. It's in the genes I think.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Chance--We have lemons, but no apples, and believe it or not it's too far "north" for most oranges. We always look forward to the apples our colleague brings down from Ithaca. It's too bad so many great varieties of apples have disappeared because it's easier to market the "perfect" looking, but not tasting, stuff we get in the stores. I suppose we have to learn to enjoy what grows best in our own climates.

@Completely Alienne--How wonderful that your mother gives away her pears. I'd love to see communities in which people share the bounty. This spring I'm going to put out a box with my extra ginger and canna rootstock (they grow like crazy here)for whoever can use them.

@lei--Preserving lemons is a great idea; I'm definitely going to try this. And carrot marmalade too--wow!

Thanks to all for stopping by. Come back!

Funny about Money said...

I've got to get to work on trying some of these ideas. The little Meyer lemon tree in back is groaning under the weight of its fruit...some of them are bigger than the oranges! I've given some away and marinated a lot of chicken and made a lot of salad dressing. Love the chocolate rind idea! And the marmalade scheme is great: terrific gifts.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Funny--Just to warn you: that chocolate-covered rind stuff is messy and time-consuming. It was a variation on chocolate-covered orange peels, which I believe are standard fare in cookbooks.

We don't have a formal barter arrangement. We bring overstock greens, hot peppers, and now lemons to school. Every now and then, someone leaves something for us. (See today's post on things left on my office door).

Lemons have inspired the most gratitude; I had forgotten how expensive they are at the store.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Alienne--I must say that I've never seen vegetables more beautiful than the ones I saw in markets in England. Sadly, we did not have a kitchen. I had dreams about the cauliflower.

Frugal Scholar said...

@lei--I've always wanted to make prserved lemons. I have some Paula Wolfert cookbooks (which I read more than use); she talks about them all the time.

elke said...

I love making marmalade. This week I made citrus-ginger, from a 1974 Gourmet. It jelled very well this time; as a precaution, I added about 2 T of homemade pectin (we have an apple tree), which I canned a couple of years ago. Next should be Seville.

Frugal Scholar said...

@elke--Thanks for the tip about apple seeds. I just put up a new post on the lemons. Thanks again.