I’ve always found the flavor of lemon verbena to be a bit bitter. That’s not a bad thing. That’s something that you can use to your advantage. That bitter flavor means that this marmalade would be great for savory purposes. It would make a great marinade for fish or shrimp, just thin it in some vegetable broth. Try a spoonful or two mixed into rice for a lemon rice pilaf. Try it on tofu or chicken. I’d like to mix some into Avgolemono (Greek Lemon Soup) to kick up the flavor a bit.
The fragrance of this jam is wonderful. First, you smell the lemon verbena with all its fruity lemony freshness. Then the vanilla beans (which make lovely little specks in the jam) add their heady scent. I also think this jam would be fantastic with the addition of some lemon balm, and then you could call it the triple lemon threat marmalade! Maybe my next project with the lemon verbena is to use it instead of the violets in something like this violet jelly.
Though, I also think this marmalade is great on English muffins where the strong flavor stands for itself. Or for topping vanilla ice cream, there the sweetness of the ice cream balances the tartness of the marmalade. You can make lemon tarts using some of the marmalade and a nice shortbread crust, maybe mix some finely chopped lemon verbena into the crust as well.
There’s no added pectin in this marmalade. Adding pectin helps the jam set up, but necessitates more sugar, which dilutes the natural flavor of the fruit. Making jam without added pectin requires more careful cooking, but the extra effort pays off in a deliciously old-fashioned, fruity jam. There’s actually a lot of pectin naturally found in the lemon seeds, piths, and peels. There are two steps in this recipe that you’ll be developing that pectin: in the initial 24 hour waiting period, and in the 1 hour resting period after the cooking has started.
It’s a pretty simple recipe, but a pretty long process, so make sure you have a bit of time to do this one. That being said, the quality of this marmalade is excellent. And, without the added pectin, the marmalade has a deeper richer flavor.
Vanilla Scented Lemon Verbena Marmalade
6 large or 12 small lemons
2 – 3 cups granulated sugar
40 lemon verbena leaves, thinly sliced, divided use
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean
Trim the stem end off of the lemon. Quarter the lemons lengthwise and remove the seeds. slice the lemons as thinly as possible. Place the lemon slices in a non-reactive large pot.
Finely chop the seeds and stem ends (this can be done by hand or in the food processor). Place the chopped bits in cheesecloth or a coffee filter and tie up with a small bit of kitchen twine. Place the seed pouch in the pot with the chopped lemons. Add 2-3 cups of water, the water will not cover the lemons, but will make them look like a moist soup. Allow this lemon water to sit covered, overnight.
The next day, place the pot on the stove top, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 10-20 minutes or until the peels are soft. Turn off the heat, and set the cooked lemon mixture aside for an hour to cool and let the pectin develop.
Meanwhile, prepare (get out and make sure they are squeaky clean) the jars you’ll use to store and/or give away the marmalade.
Take the bag of seeds out of the pot. Using a large measuring cup, see how much lemon mixture you have, and combine equal parts lemons and sugar (for a sweet marmalade) or ½ as much sugar to lemons (for a tart marmalade – I made a tart version). Add 1/2 of the lemon verbena and the vanilla or vanilla bean (halved lengthwise and pulp scraped out).
Let the mixture simmer again on medium high, stirring fairly often, until it reaches 220 degrees on your candy thermometer, about 50-60 minutes. Add the remaining lemon verbena in the final 5 minutes of cooking. Remove the vanilla bean pod, if used.
To test for doneness, dip a cool metal spoon into the hot fruit. Immediately lift it out and away from the steam and turn it horizontally. At the beginning of the cooking process, the liquid will drip off in light, syrupy drops. Try again a minute or two later, and the drops will be heavier. The jam is done when the drops are very thick and two run together before falling off the spoon. Another test for doneness is when the marmalade drips off a wooden spoon in one big sheet instead of single drops.
Transfer cooked marmalade to clean ready jars. I don’t actually go through the canning process, but if you would like to do so, please follow the instructions from the USDA’s National Center for Home Food Preservation or the official site from the makers of Ball jars.
Enjoy your marmalade!