Saturday, February 24, 2007

The World's Most Expensive Marmalade

citrons or citrons?

"I'm seeing things, believe me, just little things they deceive me..."
--Mocky, "Seeing Things"

Don't ask me how it happened. I'm still not quite sure. Maybe it was cabin fever that had me seeing things, believing things. All I know is that I was at Chez Nino, just minding my own business, taking in the beautiful displays, when I saw a pile of beautiful, characteristically knobbly citrons (i.e., n. 1. a small Asian rutaceous tree, Citrus medica, having lemon-like fruit with a thick aromatic rind) sitting there, labeled with a sign and everything, just to the right of the front counter. "Score!" I thought, "those will make some really good candied peel!" So I picked up half a dozen. I knew they were going to be pricey, but I figured, "Hey, this is something special. It's worth it." Sure enough, they were by far and away the most expensive citrus fruits I'd ever purchased, twice the price of your average already exorbitantly priced Meyer lemons. My heart skipped a beat when the woman at the cash register read out the price to me, but I just reminded myself, "Now, now. This is something special," and went ahead with the purchase, giving Anthony one of my, "Don't worry, everything's under control" looks.

Back at home, I took my citrons out of their bag and laid them on my cutting board to start preparing them. I selected my knife, sliced through the first one, and thought to myself, "That's weird. It looks like a lemon." "I think these are lemons! These aren't citrons, they're lemons!" Anthony just turned to me and said, snidely, "I was wondering how you could tell that they were citrons and not citrons."

Oh, the trials and tribulations of living in a functionally bilingual city!

So there I was thinking I was getting exotic citrons, but instead what I ended up with were six semi-exotic (and insanely expensive) French lemons from Menton. They're some of the world's best lemons, but the bottom line is that they're still just lemons...

For a minute or two afterwards I had no idea what to do, but eventually I just decided, "What the hell--I'll just go ahead and make Menton lemon marmalade." If the world gives you citrons, make marmalade, right? So that's what I did.

Now, I knew that when I was done I was going to want to taste every last ounce of those damn lemons, so I knew I had to keep things simple and strive for a clean-tasting marmalade, one that would let the Menton's unique, exclusive flavour shine through. A multi-stage soaking method was the method that I settled upon. It's worked for me in the past with limes and grapefruit, making a particularly light, fresh-tasting marmalade.

Finally, having sorted everything out, I got to work again, peeling and cutting, and I discovered that those Menton lemons are so delicate that they're a pleasure to work with, not at all like their kin. Thank god because anything else might have pushed me over the edge. When I'd finished preparing them, I put them in a pot, threw in their leaves for added flavour, brought the contents to a simmer and waited...

In the end, I made what has got to be the world's most expensive marmalade, the Noka of marmalades. The thing is, (unlike Noka) it might also be the world's best because the results were of a subtlety that I've rarely ever seen before. The colour was a delicate blond, the smell was very floral and wonderfully lemony, without any of the astringency you usually get. And the taste? Heavenly.

Problem is, if it is the world's best marmalade, very few people will ever know because I only ended up with four jars of it.

Lemon Marmalade (makes about 750 ml)

3 lemons + juice of 1 lemon (Mentons, if you’re feeling flush or you happen to live in Menton; otherwise look for the finest you can find/afford)

Peel the lemon thinly, avoiding the pith. Slice the peel into very fine strips and place in a non-reactive bowl. Chop the peeled lemons until it is a fine mash, removing the seeds. Place the mash in the bowl with the peel and add the lemon juice. You should have about 1 cup. Cover with 1 1/3 cups cold water and let soak overnight. The next day, measure the lemon mixture, place in a small pot and add an equal amount of sugar. Boil until it sets and place in sterilized jars. Seal. Let age at least 1 week before eating. Excellent with croissants, brioches or any other rich breads.



Gabriel said...

I saw those lemons the other day and I had been wondering what they were, thanks for solving the mystery. I remember thinking to myself "menton, menton, gotta look that up when I get home".

I also saw some gorgeous Charentais melons at Nino that day, and was tempted to buy one, even at 8$ a pop.

Franck said...

I have a question as I am about to embark on a marmalade making session, wich method do you prefer, I looked through your archives and you use many different recipes. From my web searches I have found a 2 main that retain my interest. One seems to be used by June Taylor, wich involves juicing the fruit, and chopping the zests, and then making a sachet with the membranes and pits and then a 2 part boiling (the first to soften the zest and create pecting, then a final boiling with sugar to achieve the right texture) The other involves, boiling the whole fruit, then emptying out the insides to make the jam and using the whole peel chopped for texture? Can you help me out wich leads to the best results. I will be using a mix of sevilles and mineola's. Thanks

michelle said...

Hi Franck, both methods produce an amazing marmalade, so don't be afraid of trying both. Since Sevilles don't have much juice, I would suggest boiling them whole and then chopping them--the juice and zest method makes a more delicate marmalade, perfect for Meyer lemons or any other finely flavoured citrus. It would also work for mineolas. Be warned that it is more labour intensive, though. For big batches, you might want to stick to the whole fruit. I hope this helps! Mineola marmalade is our standard glaze for hams. I'm sure it will turn out great.