Thursday, September 23, 2010

Homemade Meyer Lemon Jelly

Meyer Lemon JellyI've been so wonderfully busy with domestic endeavors these past couple weeks. It's harvest time (for what that's worth) and I'm bringing in the crops right and left.

I mentioned the Williams-Sonoma cookbook, The Art of Preserving a while back and I was intrigued by the idea of making jellies and jams without packaged, store-bought pectin as I've always done in the past.

Well I'm here to say that it works! And not only does it work very well, if you make this lemon jelly I promise you that your house will smell magnificent.

The jelly is light and fresh-tasting and not only would it be perfect on toast or homemade bread but it would make a lovely filling for a jelly donut or a layer cake. Lemons are wonderful that way you know.

The recipe called for meyer lemons but I didn't have that kind on hand and it worked fine with a more generic variety. I'll warn you though, the recipe needs to be watched rather carefully. Making your own pectin isn't hard but when the directions are specific you'd better stick to them or things will go all wonky on you.

Take 2 pounds of the freshest lemons you can find--not overripe or stale because the younger fruit has more pectin in it. Slice off the stem-end of the lemon but leave the blossom end intact as that's the end that has more pectin in it. Using a blade on a food processor or a mandolin, slice the lemons as thinly as you can and throw them into a large stockpot with 3 quarts of water.

Bring the lemon water to a boil and then reduce your heat and gently boil things for 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the mixture set for 30 minutes (you can let it set longer if necessary--overnight if you must). Strain the lemons, seed and pulp from the liquid through three or four layers of cheese cloth. This should give you about 5 or 6 cups of liquid (the recipe said 5 but I got 6 and it worked fine for me).

Now here's the trickiest part:

Combine the liquid, 2 cups of fresh lemon juice and 6 cups of sugar back in the stockpot and bring to a boil. Immediately once everything is well combined you'll notice that the juice is suddenly light and clear and shiny. That's your pectin reacting with the sugar and the acid from the lemon juice and it's supposed to do that. Trust me, it's very pretty.

Boil the mixture fairly hard (though not too aggressively, you don't want it overflowing or going too foamy on you), stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until the jelly begins to "sheet off the back of a spoon." I had no idea what "sheeting" meant so I wasn't quite sure when the jelly would be ready. After ruining a batch I figured it out.

The best thing to do is to take a plate and stick it in the freezer, ready to go so that when you have boiled the mix for 10 minutes and it appears to be ever-so-slightly thicker on the back of your spoon you can then take out the frozen plate, put a teaspoon of the liquid on the plate and see if it sets up. If it does, that's prooof that the jelly is ready. Mine set up just a little bit on the plate but after boiling my first batch too long I decided to put the jelly in jars anyway and see if it was done despite my apprehensions.

I warn you, it may look completely runny and watery but it really only takes about 10 minutes to see a slight change in the consistency off that spoon and over boiling it is disasterous because it makes the lemons taste bitter and burnt. If you want that fresh lemon taste you can't overboil it. I know, I ruined my first batch doing that.

Once the 1o minutes have passed then immediately pull the pot off the stove and ladle the jelly into four waiting half-pint jars that have been properly cleaned and sterilized. Screw on the lids and invert them on the counter for 5 minutes, then turn them back right-side up and they'll seal themselves nicely. There is enough acid in the lemon jelly not to have to worry about a water bath.

It should keep nicely for a year or so--if you can wait that long to eat it.


Ann On and On... said...

Great recipe! I might have a project ahead of me....because of you! :D

Jordan (MamaBlogga) said...

Sounds lovely. I tried to make lemon curd last year but no matter how gently I cooked it, the eggs "clotted." I'm excited to have a more foolproof alternative (even if it won't have that same creamy texture)!

Scribbit said...

I've always wanted to make lemon curd--it looks so lovely and versatile. I've done custards plenty of times but those eggs are so tricky. Half the time I curdle stuff.

J at said...

YUM. I love lemons. And I wonder how it would taste with Meyer lemons? They grow really well around these parts. Unlike blueberries and raspberries, which grow, but not great.

Mirien said...

Harvest time, huh? So how many lemon trees do you have in your yard? ;) I'll have to buy my lemons, but you've inspired me to try it--not using pectin is intriguing.