April’s Can Jam assignment was herbs, which are, according to the Tigress “generally considered the leafy green parts of a plant (flowers, too!) while spices are derived from other parts of the plant, particularly the seeds, berries, bark and roots.” It’s a lovely category; wide open with choices, and I’m excited to see what the variety & inventiveness of the Can Jammers can deliver. Problem is, here in New York, as Marisa reminds us, April really is the cruelest month: things have started to bud & bloom, but there is not much yet in terms of yield, and the heat and dry weather that so many herbs love is a long way away.
This is where being a prepared locavore comes in handy. While about the only fresh herb I can access right now is parsley (courtesy of the greenhouses at Madura Farms in Goshen, NY), I’ve still got an decent stash of dried herbs, carefully prepared from last summer’s bounty: basil, mint, sage, and lemon balm. I love, love, love fresh rosemary, and have had my eye on this enormous rosemary plant at Gossett’s Nursery for weeks now; maybe the CanJam is the perfect rationalization inspiration? But then, I remember the lavender. At the end of last summer, I picked up some culinary lavender from North Winds Farm at my local farm market. I had in mind some crispy tea cookies, infused with lavender and maybe lemon, or perhaps an exotic twist like cardamom or anise. Well, the cookies haven’t been made (yet!) but I remembered oohing and aahing over The Laundry’s lemon, fig & lavender marmalade back in January’s citrus Jam. And despite the bewildering array of citrus, carrot and allium marmalades that have bubbled & boiled (and sometimes troubled & toiled) in the Can Jammer kitchens over the last three months, I hadn’t made one. Yet.
In comes lemon lavender marmalade. And let me just say – this marmalade is delightful. In the truest sense of the word: full of delight. I’m so tickled that, on my very first attempt, I got the lavender flavor just right, the sugar level/sweetness perfect, the texture nicely gummy but still spreadable, even the added little swank of lavender buds in the finished product; it all just makes me smile. And the flavor? Oh, my. You know when you stumble upon that perfect white wine? The one that is apply, without tasting of apples; floral, without tasting of flowers; crisp and refreshing without being overly acidic, and sweet without being, well, sweet? This is the marmalade version of that wine. How such a layered flavor was produced from only four ingredients I’ll never know; the lavender somehow tames the bitter/sour flavor of the lemon without adding an overly floral taste, the lemons taste sweet, and bright, and lemony, the sweetness of the sugar is perfectly balanced with the tartness of the lemon. If Spring were a marmalde, this would be it. Really – I could stop here all day and rave about how good this is, but don’t take my word for it: make it. Four ingredients. Two days. One blissful batch o’ jam.
For more herb and flower preserving ideas, dive into the April CanJam round-up over at Tigress in a Jam.
Adapated from Lemon Ginger Marmalade in Gourmet Preserves by Madelaine Bullwinkel
- 1 lb lemons, preferably organic (about 3 medium)
- 2 tbsp (1/4 oz) + 1 tsp dried culinary lavender, divided (or 2 cups fresh lavender flowers)
- 2 – 3 cups (1 to 1.5 lb) sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- Day 1. Scrub lemons well and slice lengthwise into 8 sections (I find this easiest with a serrated knife). Remove seeds and reserve in a small bowl. Thinly slice sections, cross-wise, and transfer to a quart measuring cup, trying to save as much juice as possible. Measure amount of lemons + juice (I had 2 and 1/2 cups).
- Measure out an equal amount of filtered water into a medium saucepan. Add lemon seeds and 2 tbsp lavender; bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and steep for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.
- Strain lavender water into a measuring cup, squeezing the lavender buds to eek out all the liquid, then discard seeds and lavender buds. Add additional filtered water to bring volume back up to original amount (i.e. 2 and 1/2 cups for me) if necessary. Return lavender water to the saucepan, add lemons + juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, skimming foam if necessary. Turn off heat, allow to come to room temperature, then cover and allow to sit at room temperature overnight.
- Day 2. If canning, prepare canner, jars & lids.
- Measure lemon mixture (I had exactly 3 cups). Transfer lemon mixture to a large saucepan or small stockpot. Add salt. Measure out sugar to your taste (most recipes will tell you to add an equal amount of sugar (i.e. 3 cups), but I usually find that too sweet, so I added 2 cups): add sugar in 1/2 cup increments, allowing the marmalade to come to a boil in between additions. Once all the sugar is added, boil, stirring frequently until the marmalade reaches the gel point, or 8 degrees higher than boiling water on your thermometer (220 degrees F at sea level); taste a cooled sample of marmalade during cooking to adjust sugar, if desired. Boil one extra minute once you have reached the gel point, then remove from heat and transfer to a large, heat-safe bowl.
- Allow marmalade to sit, cooling, for a minute or two; it should start gelling quite quickly. Stir down the pieces of fruit, then stir in 1 tsp of dried lavender. Fill hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace, wipe rims, affix lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 3 and 1/2 cups.
- The original recipe called for 3 quarter-sized slices of ginger in place of the lavender. She did not do a pre-boil in water alone; simply added water, lemons, ginger and simmered for 15 minutes prior to an overnight rest. There was no instruction to remove the ginger the next day, but I am assuming that you should, given the large pieces (rather than a mince). Due to the acidity of this marmalade, you could safely mince the ginger and leave it in the final product, should you wish.
- The original recipe also called for an equal amount of sugar and Day 2 lemon mixture. I reduced this to 2/3rd sugar.
- You could replace 2 tbsp of dried lavender with 2 cups of fresh lavender flowers.
- This marmalade is a good candiate for refined white sugar, if only to preserve the gorgeous pinky-yellow color of lavender-infused lemon. I never have refined sugar in the house, but also, I don’t really like the taste of it, so I went for taste over beauty.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, eat within 3 months.
Winter is peak citrus season, and good for dried lavender use, but summer is lavender flower season. Basically, this is a good year-round recipe.