When tart meets tart, the result is extra sweet.
It’s no secret I adore Meyer lemons, and tend to go on somewhat of a Meyer-binge during the late-winter months when they are in season. Nine times out of ten that excess of citrus will ultimately become marmalade.
Rather than making plain Meyer lemon marmalade (not that plain Meyer lemon marmalade isn’t amazing, but you know, I just don’t do plain. Often, that is) I decided to think outside the fruit box.
One of the main steps of marmalade making is the overnight soak, where the citrus is soaked in water to coax out the pectin. I figured, why use water when you can use something far more flavorful and beneficial? Enter tart cherries (or, in this case, tart cherry juice, which is readily available in most major grocery stores year round) which, as it turns out, are the perfect match for this seasonal citrus.
Oddly, the resulting jam tastes surprisingly like an extra tart blood orange.
Meyer lemon + tart cherry = blood orange? Go figure.
The Meyer lemon and tart cherry combo is simply magical, resulting in a marmalade that is perfectly sweet and sour at the same time. Not to mention this is one of my most versatile preserves yet: perfect for breakfast (smeared on toasted whole grain bread), for lunch (layered with roasted turkey and arugula for one heck of a sandwich), as an appetizer (spread on a cracker with creamy ripe brie cheese), for dinner (the finishing glaze on your perfect Easter ham), and even for dessert (drizzled atop a creamy panna cotta custard). How ’bout them
This is one jam you’re going to want to make right away, while Meyer lemons still grace the supermarket shelves. Because unlike tart cherries which are available in juice form year round, once the Meyer lemons are gone (at least for the 81.5% of us that DON’T live in California or Florida) it’s a long 8-month wait until they come around again.
(And psst! Be sure to click through to the end of this post to download the FREE printable jar labels!)
I’ll be honest that regular lemons sometimes carry a bit of a metallic taste for me (even when I’ve made sure not to touch any metal whatsoever… Taylor is convinced something is wrong with my tastebuds), but I never have that issue with Meyer lemons, and thus often find myself turning to them whenever and wherever possible. Could you make this jam with regular lemons? Sure, but you may want to increase the sugar otherwise you’ll end up with a jar of something that tastes eerily like a vat of melted sour patch kids. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but maybe not so good on your morning toast.
I’ve been working quite a bit with tart cherries this year, and it is making me look at tart cherries and their various forms (juice, dried, and frozen) in new and unique ways. Normally I stick with whole fruit for jams, using fresh fruit 95% of the time and frozen only when necessary (when a fruit is simply not available fresh at the time). And I’ll admit, at first I WAS going to use frozen tart cherries in this marmalade.
The juice was an unexpected twist, taking advantage of a previously flavorless step in the process, replacing water with pure, unsweetened, tart cherry juice. It’s like when you swap out the water in couscous for chicken broth, and the result is so much more flavorful. It’s the same general principle, and you can bet I’ll never look at water in a recipe the same way again.
This recipe reinforced once and for all that I HATE prepping for marmalade, at least the traditional way. It’s hell on the hands, and even shredded a few pairs of rubber gloves I tried to use to protect myself. It’s tiring and tedious and I’m not really sure the end result is worth it.
You can certainly use my alternate (easier) method for preparing this marmalade (as outlined in this Triple Citrus Marmalade recipe), zesting and processing the lemons instead of thinly slicing them, but do note your yield will be slightly lower.
Note that Meyer lemons, which are actually a hybrid between Mandarins and traditional lemons, hence the sweeter flavor and deeper yellow skin, have a slightly lower acidity than regular lemons, so they can’t always be substituted for regular lemons. Especially in canning when acidity is crucial to safe processing. In this case, I just add a bit of regular lemon juice at the end to ensure a proper set.
- 2 pounds Meyer lemons, washed well and chilled
- 2 cups tart cherry juice
- 1 cup water
- 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon Pomona’s Universal Pectin
- 1 tablespoon calcium water (comes with the pectin)
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (not Meyer, either freshly squeezed or bottled)
- Remove ends of lemons. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut a triangular notch down the middle to remove the center pith. Run your thumb along the inside of the notch to remove seeds, working over a bowl to catch any and all juice. Reserve seeds (they’re full of valuable pectin and we’ll need them later). Thinly slice remaining lemon into strips using a sharp knife or mandoline. You should have about 4 cups of lemon slices.
- Transfer to a large bowl along with cherry juice and 1 cup water (filtered, if necessary). Secure any seeds in a tea ball or length of cheesecloth tied into a bundle and submerge into the liquid; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
- When you are ready to can, prepare canner and wash/sterilize your half-pint mason (or equivalent) jars. Keep jars in hot (not boiling) water until ready to use. Warm lids in hot (not boiling) water to sterilize and soften seal.
- Remove the cheesecloth bundle; squeeze out any remaining juices and discard the seeds. Pour the soaked fruit and all liquid into a large, non-reactive saucepan.
- Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place sugar in a bowl. Whisk in pectin until evenly incorporated. Prepare calcium water according to package instructions.
- Once marmalade has been simmering for a solid 20 minutes, remove from heat and measure. You should have approximately 4 cups of cooked fruit (measuring is important to ensure the proportion of pectin and sugar is correct).
- Return to medium-high heat and stir in calcium water and lemon juice. Bring to a vigorous boil, then add sugar mixture, stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture returns to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Ladle hot sauce into jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Wipe jar rims and threads. Screw on lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water and let cool completely, 12 to 24 hours. Check seals. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within 3 weeks.
*If you prefer to make your marmalade the old fashioned way without pectin, increase the sugar to 4 cups and cook the marmalade longer, at least 30 to 40 minutes, or until the marmalade measures 220 degrees F and passes the gel test: (drop a spoonful of marmalade onto a chilled plate. Return to the freezer for 1 to 2 minutes, then check for doneness. If you want a firmer gel, cook for a few minutes longer.)
Bonus Printable Labels
If it weren’t for labels, this marmalade could easily get confused with my last batch (oh, the horror of opening a jar of what you think is cherry-lemon and getting triple citrus instead! Luckily I’ve got you covered. Download and adorn your jars with these printable labels that are both informative and decorative.
The downloadable PDF file includes two dozen 1.5-by-2-inch lemon-shaped labels, designed to perfectly fit my 6oz Victorian square jars, but would also fit nicely on the side of just about any smooth-sided jar.
To use, simply download the printable file by completing the form below. Print your labels onto full-sheet sticker paper, cut out the shapes, and apply directly to the the finished jars.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by the Cherry Marketing Institute. As always, all opinions written are purely our own. We’re incredibly grateful for opportunities like these that allow us to continue sharing delicious recipes with you, so thank you for supporting us and the brands we love.