Lemons, a glass bottle and other equipment to make lemon marmalade

In 1908, Frank Nicholas Meyer, a professional food explorer, brought a decorative Chinese hybrid of mandarin and lemon to the U.S. For the next seven decades, Meyer lemon trees continued to be thought of as mostly ornamental plants. Productive trees grew almost exclusively within California, and it wasn’t until Alice Waters started using them did Meyer lemons begin its slow, but steady courtship with the broader culinary world.

Meyer lemons are less acidic than the standard lemon, and have bright, thin skins with an aromatic, almost herbal scent. The description hardly does it justice. Meyer lemons are delightful. As their season wanes, save a dozen or two to preserve.

Sugar preserves the lemons, and pectin is what makes it into marmalade, instead of just a glass of sugary juice full of peels. Pectin occurs naturally in the rind and seeds of citrus fruits, and there’s enough in the lemons of this recipe to keep you from having to supplement it with a store-bought thickener. The trick with marmalade is giving pectin enough time to develop and boiling the juice and sugar to 220° F so the mixture gels together as it cools. Unless you plan on immediately eating the whole batch, the jars must be sterilized and processed to keep bacteria from forming in the damp, dark recesses of the stored container.

This recipe has always worked for me, but don’t double it. Volume and proportion relative to heat is important for getting the marmalade right. Besides normal marmalade uses, you can also stir this into some bubbly water for an off-season lemonade or use it to sweeten cocktails.

Botanical drawing of a lemon. (Image courtesy of Botanical)

Drawing of a lemon fruit and leaves. (Image courtesy of Botanical)


Put two glass plates in the freezer. Make sure you have a 5-quart non-reactive pot, 6 ½-pint sealing jars, cheesecloth or a coffee filter, and kitchen string.

Ingredients: 6 Meyer lemons (1 ½ lbs.); 4 cups of water; 4 cups of sugar

1.     Quarter each lemon lengthwise. Remove the seeds and collect them in the cheesecloth. Tie the little bag of seeds with kitchen string and place it in the pot.

2.     Thinly slice the lemons and scoop them into the pot. Cover the pot and let the lemons soak with the seeds on the kitchen counter for 24 hours.

3.     With the seeds still in the pot, bring the lemon mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. Stir in the sugar and boil over moderate heat for 15 to 30 minutes. At this stage, the sugar thickens and will not gel when cool until it reaches the right temperature. You can test this with a candy thermometer, or by putting a few drops onto the frozen plate. If the drops turn to jelly on the plate, the marmalade is good to go. The longer you cook it, the more caramel-y and solid it gets. I think the marmalade tastes best erring on the lighter side.

An oil painting titled, "Fragrance of the Lemon Peel" by Ilya Zomba, 1997. (Image courtesy of Zombart)

“Fragrance of the Lemon Peel” by Ilya Zomba. Oil on Canvas, 1997. (Image courtesy of Zombart)

4.     While the marmalade simmers, sterilize the jars. The method differs depending on the jars you use, but the point is to boil off absolutely all the bacteria in the jars and lids before filling.

5.     Ladle the hot marmalade into the jars until they are ¼ inch from the top. Wipe the rims with a damp cloth and place the lids.

6.     Jars need to be processed in a water-bath canner to activate the rubber seal. This is essentially a large pot with a wire rack set at the bottom to keep the jars from making direct contact with the heat source. Water should be filled at least an inch above the top of the jars. Bring the water to a boil, and boil the jars for 5 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool completely on a rack. The marmalade should gel as it cools, and opened jars should be stored in the refrigerator.

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  1. tati
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 3:47 AM | Permalink


    Thank you, I can't wait to try this!

    And thanks for the bit about not doubling the recipe, good to know.

    Mmm, marmalade cocktails, just what this hot August night needs!

  2. Veronica
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 3:24 PM | Permalink

    I'm thinking Meyer lemon ice cream all year long!

  3. Posted January 10, 2012 at 1:31 AM | Permalink

    Great idea! I'm trying that.

  4. Elsie Potts
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 12:21 PM | Permalink

    This recipe does not tell you when to add the water.

    1) With the sliced lemons and seeds – or

    2) With the sugar the next day?

    I would love to make this marmalade; please advise.

  5. Aurora Almendral
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 12:42 PM | Permalink

    Sorry about that, Elsie! Add the water with the lemons and seeds at the beginning of the 24-hour soak. You'll love this marmalade — very good.

  6. Peggy Droesch
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 3:25 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for publishing this! I am fortunate enough to have a wildly prolific Meyer in my front yard & I'm always on the lookout for different ways to use the fruit. I'd never made a preserve using natural (as opposed to commercial) pectin so I was a little dubious, but it worked beautifully, & the jars are sealing as I write. Sounds like Christmas gifts to me!

  7. Marta Bogdanic
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 2:00 AM | Permalink

    When do you remove the seeds from the mixture? Should they be removed before sugar is added? Please let me know. I already sliced my unwaxed organic lemons from Dubrovnik in Croatia and have 24 hours to start boiling. Thanks.

  8. Posted February 26, 2013 at 8:15 PM | Permalink

    Hello Marta! Apologies for the delay. Remove the seeds right after slicing, before adding sugar.

  9. Armand Russo
    Posted April 23, 2013 at 6:44 PM | Permalink

    The marmalade did not gel. Do you have any suggestions for this??? Was it supposed to boil vigorously or just simmer. What temperature should the thermometer show??? Should I add pectin now?? Thanks

  10. Aurora
    Posted April 24, 2013 at 2:14 PM | Permalink

    Armando — Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer it for 45 minutes, then bring it back up to a boil to let the sugar melt (see step 3 for more details). If you have a candy thermometer, it should go up to 220° F. If you don't have one, put 2 plates in the freezer. To check if the mix will gel, put a drop onto a frozen plate — if the drop gels on the plate, you're good. You don't have to add pectin, because you're using the natural pectin in the seeds and peels. Also keep in mind that the stuff won't look gelled until it is completely cool and in the jars, which will take hours. But as long as you boiled the marmalade up to 220° F, it will gel. Good luck!

  11. carol
    Posted June 20, 2013 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

    do i have to use the seeds? will it still gel without them?

  12. Cate
    Posted March 22, 2014 at 12:06 AM | Permalink

    Mine gels just fine without the seeds and is a little less bitter. Cook to 220 degrees Fairenheit to make sure it gels.

  13. hjthal1
    Posted January 18, 2015 at 7:41 AM | Permalink

    I made it. We are eating it now. It's incredible. My next batch will include a sprig of fresh rosemary in the last two hours of the soak. Lemon and rosemary flavors were meant to go together.

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  15. kaufmannmerc
    Posted June 2, 2015 at 1:55 PM | Permalink

    So glad to hear! Send us a pic of your next batch and we'll share on our social platforms.

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