A Perfect Day in the Kitchen

plates of figsThis is how I spent my afternoon the other day – and, in my mind, it’s as close to heaven as you can get. (Which is not to say this is a typical day in my kitchen – fresh Meyer lemons and dried figs are not always on hand. But when they are – well, you know where to find me.) Fortunately, I returned home from a recent trip to California with a bounty. My father has a fig tree right outside the back door and he lovingly dried a few batches of beautiful Mission figs just for me (this from a man who doesn’t even like figs). And the neighbors have a Meyer lemon tree that I can’t help but pillage every time I’m down there.

lemon marmalade and fig preservesNow, I know it may seem unfair that our neighbors to the south enjoy the benefits of edible gem-producing fruit trees year round. However, local markets offer an increasingly wide selection of produce – and the following recipes are miraculous enough to make it worth the extra effort. From the fruit trees of my childhood hometown, without further ado, I give you Meyer Lemon Marmalade & Balsamic Fig Preserves with Rosemary. (For those who, like me, view jarring as a potentially overwhelming endeavor – please see end note for the wary.

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Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Ingredient note – while Meyer lemons are not grown in Washington State, they are currently in season and can be found in any number of markets around town (among them, Metropolitan Markets & Apple Markets). This recipe should only be used with that specific type of lemon – the skin of a Meyer is especially thin, making for a perfect marmalade.

Based on a December 1999 Gourmet magazine recipe.

Yield: Makes 12 (4 ounce) jars

Ingredients:

  • 6 Meyer lemons (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar

Special equipment:

  • Cheesecloth
  • Candy thermometer
  • 12 (4 ounce) Mason-type jars, sterilized
  • Canning pot, funnel and jar lifter

Preparation:

sliced lemonsHalve lemons crosswise and remove seeds. Tie seeds in a cheesecloth bag. Quarter each lemon half and thinly slice. Combine with bag of seeds and water in a 5-quart nonreactive heavy pot and let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature 24 hours. (The seeds release a natural pectin that will help set the marmalade).

Remove bag of seeds. Bring lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 4 cups, about 45 minutes. Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until it reaches 220 on the thermometer.

Ladle hot marmalade into prepared jars (see below for prep tips), filling to within 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids. Put jars in a water-bath canner or on a rack set in a deep pot. Add enough hot water to cover jars by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Boil jars, covered, 5 minutes and transfer with tongs to a rack. Cool jars completely.

*You may find that the resulting mixture is quite liquid when you’re putting into the jars. It will thicken as it cools, and be ready for your toast in the morning.

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Fig Preserves with Balsamic Vinegar and Fresh Rosemary

mission figsIngredient note – Dried mission figs can also be found in several markets around town.

Serving note – these preserves pair extraordinarily well with goat and blue cheese and, my favorite, a good Spanish Manchego.

Based on a combination of several fig jam recipes.

Yield: Makes 12 (4 ounce) jars

Ingredients

  • 4 cups finely chopped figs (~3 cups dried – reconstituted in lukewarm water for a few hours)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice plus zest of one lemon
  • 1/3 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Special equipment:

  • 12 (4 ounce) Mason-type jars, sterilized
  • Canning pot, funnel and jar lifter

Preparation:

balsamic fig preservers w rosemaryAdd the figs, lemon juice, vinegar, and rosemary to a large pot. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Stir in the sugar.

Bring the mixture to a full boil. If the mixture isn’t liquid at all when you turn on the heat, you can add a few tablespoons of the water used to reconstitute the figs – or just plain water. You will want a fairly thick consistency before cooking. Turn the heat down and continue to gently boil until thickened. (I boiled it for about 25 minutes).

Ladle into prepared jars (see below for prep tips). Put jars in a water-bath canner or on a rack set in a deep pot. Add enough hot water to cover jars by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Boil jars, covered, 5 minutes and transfer with tongs to a rack. Cool jars completely.

Jar Preparation:

Wash jars and rinse in very hot water. Put jars in a water-bath canner or on a rack set in a deep pot and cover with hot water.

Bring water to a boil and boil jars, covered, 15 minutes from time steam emerges from pot. Turn off heat and let jars stand in hot water.

Just before filling them, invert jars onto a kitchen towel to dry. (Jars should be filled while still hot.)

Sterilize lids in boiling water 5 minutes.

Closing Word for the Wary - While even the mere mention of ‘canning’ is enough to make novice cooks run for the Smucker’s jar, it is not as arduous as rumor would have you believe. These recipes were the subjects of my First Official Canning – and resulted in a success by any standards. And too, they make excellent gifts – which is nothing to turn your nose up at either.

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3 Responses to “A Perfect Day in the Kitchen”

  1. Deba says:

    Where did you buy the meyer lemons?

  2. Deba says:

    Didn’t read far enough, trying to find them on the Eastside, reguarly.

  3. Kathryn Gilmore says:

    Yes – I was lucky enough to bring them back from California. I have seen them, however, at Metropolitan Markets and Red Apple markets. I would imagine they would have them at Whole Foods as well. They can be pricey – but considering what you might pay for jars of marmalade – it’s a good investment in my mind. Enjoy!

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