Saturday, February 15, 2014

Lemon Marmalade // A Winter Valentine (Weeks 25 & 26)


As a shop owner, the thought of a snow day just doesn’t have the same appeal it does when you are a kid. I guess that, with age, thoughts of delivery drivers dangerously skidding their bicycles down 2nd Avenue and liability horror stories begin to trump your daydreams of snow angels and round plastic sleds. However, as snowstorms continue to slam the northeast, one after the next (after the next…), you begin to learn you have two options: you either embrace mother nature’s fury or you embrace the fact that you have become the crazy lady who inexplicitly curses at puddles while wearing too many mismatched layers and rubber rain boots. This week, we opted for the first option. After much deliberation, Mayhem & Stout embraced its first (and hopefully only…ever…) snow day.




When you own a business, and every waking day has an imaginary dollar sign hovering above it, the thought of closing down your shop is not exactly a thrill. However, it was out of our hands. The snow and ice just kept coming, an inch or more per hour, covering the roadways, delaying deliveries, messing with power and creating terrifyingly large icicles that I’m certain will be the death of one of us. It was the worst snowstorm either of us had seen since we were kids. The entire city was an utter mess. Against our best defenses, closing up shop was a no-brainer.



So we made the best of it. The truth is that, with so much of our attention on our business, the days of dates and wild nights out together have faded in the shadow of our shop awning. (Unless we are counting a late night recently spent working a pop-up event at a makeshift roller skating rink where twenty-two year olds in belly shirts chugged beers and we sipped watered down coffees in between customers and tried desperately not to fall asleep.) Lately, our love for each other has come by way of small gestures. A cup of espresso waiting on the counter in the morning. A fresh set of sheets on the bed. The truth is that, when you’ve got a business on the brain, it is not that you no longer desire the types of spontaneous dates and all night dinners that you enjoyed in your late twenties; it is simply that you no longer have the time for them.



And yet the snow opened up our calendar and offered us a full, uninterrupted day together filled with just that: time. In the morning, we sat on our sofa, talking and sipping coffees. We cooked runny eggs and then took forever to eat them. We read silently beside one another. We napped. We watched bad TV. We peered through our window and watched our neighbor’s child build a snowman and then spritz him with blue food coloring. In the evening, we opened a bottle of half decent red wine. It wasn’t until after midnight, when the bottle was empty and we were back to the task of setting alarm clocks for the next day, that it occurred to me: it was the early hours of Valentine’s Day.



Despite the lingering gray clouds, life inside our apartment was decidedly radiant (in the most literal way). It seemed the little bit of sun shining through that dark winter sky created the most intense reflection off the accumulating snow, making everything look just a little bit more alive. The few on-their-way-out flowers I had scattered around our living room suddenly seemed fresh and vibrant, their jewel tones much brighter than they seemed the night before. The jars of marmalade I had just sealed earlier in the week cast a beautiful amber reflection across our countertops. It was a simple thing, but on a bitter winter day, it turns out that just a bit of color has the ability to go a long way.




Although a simple pleasure, this Lemon Marmalade requires some attention (three days worth, to be exact). However, don’t let that deter you. Each daily step is very easy to manage, and really only requires a few minutes per day. The final marmalade is a bright golden color and is packed with a bold citrus flavor that is the ideal antidote for a cold, gray winter day. Like most good things in life, all this citrusy marmalade requires is a bit of time.  

p.s. -- this week was our six month anniversary on 2nd Avenue. 


Lemon Marmalade

- 4 pounds lemons
- 8 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Day 1: Thoroughly wash the lemons and slice them into 8 wedges each, being sure to remove any seeds. Store half the lemon wedges in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator until Day 2. In a large, nonreactive saucepan, cover the other half of the lemon wedges with 8 cups of water; let stand at room temperature overnight.

Day 2:  Bring the lemon wedges to a boil. Simmer them over medium heat, stirring every 30 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half, about 2 and 1/2 hours. Pour the lemon wedges into a fine mesh sieve set over a large heatproof bowl. Let cool completely. Wrap both the sieve and the bowl in plastic wrap and let drain overnight at room temperature. Also on day 2, slice the remaining half of lemon wedges very thin crosswise. In a large nonreactive saucepan, cover the lemon slices with about 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the lemon slices in a fine strainer; discard the cooking liquid. Return the lemon slices to the saucepan and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is slightly reduced and the lemon slices are tender, about 45 minutes. Let stand at room temperature overnight.

Day 3: Add the strained lemon-wedge liquid to the slices in the saucepan. Stir in the sugar and the fresh lemon juice and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the marmalade darkens (do not stir), about 30 minutes. Skim off any foam as needed. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the marmalade onto a chilled plate and refrigerate until room temperature, about 3 minutes. The marmalade is ready when it thickens like jelly and a spoon leaves a trail when dragged through it. If the marmalade is not yet complete, continue simmering and testing every 10 minutes until it passes the test. Spoon the marmalade into sterilized canning jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of space at the top of each jar. Tightly screw on the lids. Using canning tongs, lower the jars into a large pot of boiling water and boil for 15 minutes. Remove the jars using the tongs and let stand until the lids seal. Store the jars in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.       

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