This is a riff on another of April Bloomfield’s recipes. She calls for fennel pollen, which can be very expensive unless you grow it yourself. Unfortunately, I only had a couple of fennel plants this year, and had I let them go to seed, the fronds and bulbs wouldn’t have been as good. The fronds are much milder tasting than the pollen, so I added a good bit more.
Remember that this is a marmalade, not a sweet jam or jelly, and has a wonderful, almost bitter taste to it which is great on toast or even fish or chicken. I used some on a piece of cod, then canned the rest, since this recipe makes 4 or 5 cups. This is very simple to make, if a bit time-consuming, but totally worth it.
7 large lemons, scrubbed clean
5 1/2 cups sugar
About 1 cup of fennel fronds, chopped fine
Put the lemons in a large pot and add enough water so that they would be covered if they weren’t floating around. Put a plate on the lemons to weigh them down if you have to.
Bring the water to a boil over high heat and boil the lemons, turning them over occasionally until you can very easily pierce the skins with a butter knife, but they’re not so soft at their bursting, about an hour.
Take a look at the water now and then just to be sure there’s plenty of water left, and add a little more hot water if there isn’t enough.
Cover the pot and let it sit off the heat until the lemons are completely cool. Take the lemons out of the pot and reserve 1 1/4 cups of the cooking water and discard the rest.
Cut the lemons crosswise in half and use a spoon to scoop the juicy pulp into a big bowl, but not the pith, so don’t scoop too hard.
Then break the rinds into pieces if necessary so they lie flat. Use the spoon to scrape out most of the soft pith from the rinds and discard that.
Finally, slice the rinds about a 1/4 inch thick and put them in the pot in which you boiled the lemons.
Strain the pulp mixture through a sieve smashing it with a spoon to help it through.
Discard the seeds and other fibrous bits left behind.
Stir in the sugar and the reserved cooking liquid and put the pot over high heat.
When it begins to simmer, tweak the heat so it simmers gently and cook for about an hour and a half. It should be very syrupy and almost orange-ish by now.
To test whether the marmalade is ready, add a spoonful to a small plate and let it cool: if it is sticky and gel-like, not loose or runny, then it’s ready. If not, continue simmering until it is.
Stir in the fennel fronds and let it cool completely.
If you don’t want to do the whole canning with a water bath treatment to make this shelf stable, it will stay in your fridge for several weeks.